College basketball has been filled with wildly talented freshmen over the past decade. Each season, a new crop of youngsters join the NCAA and have an immediate impact on their teams and the nation. Despite all the hoopla that surrounds these freshmen, there is still little substitute for experienced leaders on the court. Seniors in college hoops often get overlooked in favor of the younger talent on the court, but there are still plenty of upperclassmen making huge impacts. SEC basketball, in particular, has a talented freshman class this season but also has plenty of seniors across the conference who are leading the way for their teams. Let’s take a look at which elder statesmen are likely to have the biggest impact in the 2017-18 season.
SEC Basketball Report: Seniors Leading The Way
Yante Maten – Forward – Georgia Bulldogs
The 6’8” senior has expanded his game during each of his seasons in Athens. After averaging 16.5 points per game as a sophomore playing primarily in the post, he added range. Last season, he shot 21-43 (48 percent) on threes and upped his scoring to 18.2 per contest. Yante Maten has 1778 career points and 690 career rebounds. He leads all active SEC players in both categories. The senior from Michigan can score in the post or on the perimeter now, and he has a wide array of moves to get his shot off. He may not be well known nationally, but you can bet he is at the top of every SEC team’s scouting report on the Bulldogs.
Chris Chiozza – Guard – Florida Gators
Chris Chiozza will be most remembered by Gator fans for his game-winning three-point runner to beat Wisconsin in last year’s Sweet Sixteen. He has been a steady backcourt presence the last few seasons and has raised his level of play in his final campaign. The 6’0″ Memphis native is averaging 12 points and six assists per through 10 games. The Gators have a plethora of scoring talent, but Chiozza runs this team. Guard play is so important in college hoops, and Florida has one of the best floor generals in the country.
Duop Reath – Center – LSU Tigers
The 6’11″ big man has been solid in his year and a half at LSU. He has averaged 12 points per game in his time with the school. His rebound and block numbers are down to start the season, but he has increased his field goal and free throw percentages. Reath poured in a career-high 30 points in a win over UNC-Wilmington earlier this season.
Riley Norris – Forward – Alabama Crimson Tide
Riley Norris is a glue guy for Avery Johnson’s squad. He doesn’t put up big numbers, but he seems to be in a position to make big plays quite often. Norris is the lone senior on a young and talented Alabama team. He will not be the opposing team’s focus on any night, but he can step up when needed.
Jordan Barnett & Kassius Robertson – Missouri Tigers
All the off-season talk was of the incoming freshman at Missouri, namely Michael Porter Jr. However, two seniors have led this team thus far. Robertson is a graduate transfer from Canisius averaging 13.7 points per game. Jordan Barnett suffered through last year’s dreadful campaign after transferring from Texas. He is also scoring 13.7 per contest and has scored 15 or more points in each of the last six games. Barnett brings a physical presence to the court but can also score from the outside.
Markel Crawford & Deandre Burnett – Ole Miss Rebels
The Rebels are led by their backcourt players, as five of their top six scorers are guards. Deandre Burnett is second on the team in points, averaging 15, and he leads them in assists with just under six per game. He set a career high with 41 points in a game last season, and Burnett has 11 games with 20 or more points in his time in Oxford. Markel Crawford transferred from Memphis and is scoring 10.5 points nightly this season.
Jaylen Barford, Daryl Macon, and Anton Beard – Arkansas Razorbacks
The Hogs have a trio of senior guards leading them this season. All three average double figures, and they combine for 11 assists and three steals per game. Barford leads the team with an average of 18.6 points, while Macon is just behind him at over 15. The two are a combined 46-107 (43 percent) from three. Beard has struggled shooting this year but provides solid minutes in relief of the other two. The Razorbacks are off to a flying start this year and will go as far as their high scoring backcourt can take them.
Riley LaChance, Matthew Fisher-Davis, and Jeff Roberson – Vanderbilt Commodores
Vandy is not off to a great start this season. The Commodores are led by their three seniors, but they do not have a lot backing them up. The trio accounts for 36 of Vanderbilt’s 68 points per game. All three have been successful during their time in Nashville, including NCAA tournament trips in the past two seasons. The trio has combined to make 547 threes over their careers, with Matthew Fisher-Davis making 251 of them. If Vanderbilt can turn around its season, it will be through the long-range shooting by its three seniors.
SEC basketball has raised its profile over the last few years. Multiple new coaches and an influx of young talent have led the way. However, experience can be a big key to success, so these seniors will have major roles as we head into conference play at the end of the month. Maten, Chiozza, and Barford should each compete for All-SEC honors by the end of the season. The rest will be looked at for leadership and consistency as the more seasoned members of their respective teams. This will be the last ride for all of these players, and they will need to be at their best if they want their programs to go dancing in March.
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