2020-21 SEC Basketball Preview

LWOS continues its conference previews with the 2020-21 Conference SEC Basketball Preview. The SEC is consistently one of the best basketball conferences every year, and it will not be any different this year. Kentucky finished at the top of the SEC and took home the regular-season title in 2019-20. While they are one of the favorites to finish at the top of the SEC Conference again this year, however, schools like Tennessee, LSU, and Florida will give them a run for their money. 

2020-21 SEC Basketball Preview

14. Vanderbilt Commodores

Key Returners: Maxwell Evans, Scotty Pippen Jr.

Key Losses:  Aaron Nesmith, Saben Lee

Key Newcomers: D.J. Harvey (Notre Dame)

Vanderbilt found themselves at the bottom of the SEC last year, and they have had a losing season for three consecutive years. While a part of their struggles last year was due to injuries, they just were not a great basketball team to begin with. The Commodores will enter this season having lost two of their top scorers in Nesmith and Lee. They will be relying on Pippen Jr., Evans, and the Notre Dame transfer Harvey to keep them afloat in games. As it stands, a finish at the bottom of the SEC is likely for the Commodores.

13. Georgia Bulldogs

Key Returners: Sahvir Wheeler, Toumani Camara

Key Losses:  Anthony Edwards, Rayshaun Hammonds

Key Newcomers: Justin Kier (George Mason), Andrew Garcia (Stony Brook), P.J. Horne (Virginia Tech), KD Johnson

Georgia finished as a .500 team last year, but they have struggled to win conference games. They will enter this season having lost two of their best players from last year in Edwards and Hammond. The Bulldogs were able to add three graduate transfers and a four-star recruit this offseason. With defense still being an issue for this team, they will likely finish somewhere in the bottom half of the SEC.

12. Ole Miss Rebels

Key Returners: Devontae Shuler, KJ Buffen

Key Losses: Breein Tyree

Key Newcomers: Romello White (Arizona State), Matthew Murrell

Ole Miss had a disappointing season last year where they finished 15-17 overall. They are in for a difficult season with the departure of Tyree. Ole Miss will miss his presence on the offensive end, especially during late-game situations. Shuler will be the go-to guy for the Rebels this season. Due to their lack of firepower on offense, they will likely finish in the bottom half of the SEC Conference.

11. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Key Returners: D.J. Stewart, Iverson Molinar, Abdul Ado

Key Losses: Reggie Perry, Tyson Carter, Nick Weatherspoon, Robert Woodard

Key Newcomers: Jalen Johnson (Louisiana)

The Mississippi State Bulldogs had an excellent season last year and finished in the top half of the SEC. However, they will lose four of their top players in Perry, Carter, Weatherspoon, and Woodard entering this season. This upcoming season will be difficult for the Bulldogs, but it will give Stewart, Molinar, and Ado a chance to showcase their talents. 

10. Texas A&M Aggies

Key Returners: Savion Flagg, Emanuel Miller, Quenton Jackson

Key Losses: Josh Nebo, Wendell Mitchell

Key Newcomers: Kevin Marfo (Quinnipiac), Hassan Diarra, Jaxson Robinson

Texas A&M finished with a 16-14 record last season, and they were solid during conference games. The Aggies will lose Nebo and Mitchell entering this season, but this team is very capable of playing great basketball without them. They will get key rotation players like Flagg, Miller, and Johnson back for another season. Furthermore, the Aggies were able to recruit two four-star Freshman players during this offseason. A finish in the middle of the pack in the SEC is likely for the Aggies.

9. Missouri Tigers

Key Returners: Dru Smith, Xavier Pinson, Mark Smith, Jeremiah Tilmon

Key Losses: None

Key Newcomers: Drew Buggs (Hawaii), Ed Chang (Junior College)

Missouri struggled last year due to injuries to their key players, and their bad luck with injuries has clouded them for years. The good news is that they will get their key players back for this season. Dru Smith, Pinson, and Mark Smith will be heavily relied upon on offense for the Tigers. This team has the potential to finish in the top half of the SEC if their players can stay healthy.

8. Alabama Crimson Tide

Key Returners: John Petty, Jaden Shackelford, Alex Reese, Herbert Jones

Key Losses: Kira Lewis Jr.

Key Newcomers: Josh Primo, Keon Ambrose-Hylton, Alex Tchikou

Alabama finished with a solid 16-15 record during the regular season last year. However, they struggled during their conference games. The thing that stood out the most about them was how explosive their offense was. However, with the departure of Lewis, Petty and Shackelford will be asked to do more on offense for the Crimson Tide. Furthermore, the Crimson Tide added three 4-star recruits during this offseason. They certainly have the talent and upside to finish in the top half of the SEC. 

7. Auburn Tigers

Key Returners:  Devan Cambridge, Jamal Johnson, Allen Flanigan

Key Losses: Samir Doughty, Isaac Okoro, J’Von McCormick, Austin Wiley, Danjel Purifoy

Key Newcomers: Sharife Cooper, JT Thor

Auburn was one of the best teams in the SEC last season. They tied with Kentucky for having the best record in the conference during the regular season. However, they will lose their top five players from last year going into this season. Despite that, head coach Bruce Pearl will find a way to make this a competitive team with a bunch of Freshmen and Sophomore players. It certainly helps when they have capable Freshmen players such as Cooper and Thor.

6. Arkansas Razorbacks

Key Returners: Desi Sills

Key Losses: Mason Jones, Isaiah Joe, Jimmy Whitt

Key Newcomers: Justin Smith (Indiana), Vance Jackson (New Mexico), Jalen Tate (Northern Kentucky)

Arkansas finished with a solid 20-12 record during the regular season. However, they struggled to win conference games. The Razorbacks will enter this season having lost most of their starters from last year. With Jones out of the picture, the lone returning starter Sills will be the alpha dog on offense. The Razorbacks also gained some transfer players that can steer this team towards a successful season this year. A finish in the top half of the SEC is likely for Arkansas.

5. South Carolina Gamecocks

Key Returners: A.J. Lawson, Jermaine Cousinard, Keyshawn Bryant, Justin Minaya

Key Losses: Maik Kotsar

Key Newcomers: Seventh Woods (North Carolina)

South Carolina came off a solid season last year, where they finished seventh in the SEC. The Gamecocks will get all of their starters back entering this season with the exception of Kotsar. While they are not a potent offensive team, they play some gritty basketball. A finish in the top half of the SEC is likely for the Gamecocks.

4. Florida Gators

Key Returners: Keyontae Johnson, Noah Locke, Scott Lewis

Key Losses: Kerry Blackshear Jr. Andrew Nembhard

Key Newcomers: Tyree Appleby (Cleveland State), Anthony Duruji (Louisiana Tech)

Florida came into last year with very high expectations, but they fell short of that with a sixth-place finish in the SEC. The good news for the Gators is that they will get their best player Johnson back for another season. Both Johnson and Locke will be vital to the team’s success this season. The Gators certainly have the potential to be one of the best teams in the SEC in 2020-21 under Mike White.

3. LSU Tigers

Key Returners: Trendon Watford, Ja’vonte Smart, Darius Days

Key Losses: Skylar Mays, Emmitt Williams

Key Newcomers: Cameron Thomas, Mwani Wilkinson, Eric Gaines

After winning the SEC title two seasons ago, LSU took a step back last season with a third-place finish in the SEC. The Tigers will enter this season with a loaded team despite losing Mays and Williams. This team has several high-end talents like Watford, Smart, and Days along with some top recruits. Most notably, their Freshman recruit in Thomas. This team certainly has what it takes to win another SEC title this season.

2. Kentucky Wildcats

Key Returners: Keion Brooks Jr.

Key Losses: Immanuel Quickley, Nick Richards, Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans, EJ Montgomery

Key Newcomers: B.J. Boston, Terrence Clarke, Devin Askew, Cam’Ron Fletcher, Olivier Sarr (Wake Forest)

Kentucky came off of an SEC title last year, and they are looking to repeat that this season. A good chunk of their team will depart entering this season since most of those players declared for the NBA draft. Historically, the Wildcats never had good continuity with their players as many of them are one and done players. Brooks is the lone returning impact player, and he will join the new Freshmen recruits in the starting lineup. Of the Freshmen recruits, Boston will be the player to watch. While this is a young Wildcats team, it is unwise to count out a team led by coach John Calipari.

1.  Tennessee Volunteers

Key Returners: John Fulkerson, Yves Pons, Santiago Vescovi, Josiah-Jordan James

Key Losses: Jordan Bowden, Lamonte Turner

Key Newcomers: Keon Johnson, Jaden Springer, Corey Walker

After an incredible season in 2018-19, Tennessee had a setback last year as they finished with a 17-14 record. While they will enter this season without Bowden and Turner, this team is not short on talented players. The Volunteers has a nice balance of recruits and returning players from last year. They added two five-star recruits as well as a four-star recruit this offseason. Tennessee certainly has the potential to be the best team in the SEC.

2021 SEC Basketball Awards

Player of the Year: Keyontae Johnson

While many expected Blackshear to be the alpha dog for Florida last year, Johnson played like the best player on Florida last season. As a result, his performance last year allowed him to earn a spot on the All-SEC First Team. Heading into his junior year, Johnson is a likely candidate to take a step forward and be the SEC Player of the Year. He is a well-rounded basketball player in all facets since he does a bit of everything for his team outside of just scoring the ball.

Freshman of the Year: B.J. Boston 

Boston is one of the top Freshman recruits in the country and will play a big part in the Wildcat’s offense. He is their most lethal offensive player who can score from anywhere on the floor. The upside for Boston is super high as he has the potential to be a top 10 player in all of college basketball. 

Coach of the Year: Rick Barnes

Tennessee is a strong bounce-back candidate this season, and head coach Rick Barnes’ footprints will be all over this team’s success. He is only two seasons removed from winning SEC Coach of the Year. Barnes is one of the favorites to win this award should Tennessee finds themselves at the top of the SEC this season.

First Team All-SEC: Keyontae Johnson (Florida), Trendon Watford (LSU), B.J. Boston (Kentucky), John Fulkerson (Tennessee), John Petty (Alabama)

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