2020-21 SEC basketball preview

The SEC basketball preview is always one of the most exciting. Kentucky fans think they have the best team every year. It doesn’t matter how many guys they lose, the Wildcats have good talent coming in. Not only do they have a crop of five-star athletes every year, but the last couple have featured some nice transfers. First it was Reid Travis and then it was Nate Sestina. By no surprise, the prize transfer from Wake Forest Olivier Starr received a waiver for this season along with a solid transfer from Rhode Island in Jacob Toppin. Is that still going to be enough? Because the SEC is returning a ton of talent.

Five out of the last six years have featured Kentucky either winning the SEC regular season title and/or conference tournament. It’s been since 1990 where the regular season champion and/or the conference tournament champion hasn’t been Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee or LSU. That shouldn’t change this year because all four teams will be in position to win the SEC.

Keion Brooks Jr. is the returning leading scorer for Kentucky who averaged 4.5 points per game, but the former top-25 recruit should see his dues pay off. Dontaie Allen was a top-100 recruit last season, and he redshirted. Davion Mintz transferred from Creighton and should help out in the assists department. BJ Boston and Terrence Clarke are the five-star recruits coming to Lexington this year and will be starters right off the bat. Starr will be a starter, but don’t expect Toppin to be right away.

LSU has three returning starters who could all be All-SEC players if they wanted. Trendon Watford was a top-20 recruit last year and could be a lottery pick in 2021. Ja’Vonte Smart and Darius Days are still around from the great recruiting class of 2018. Josh LeBlanc is transferring from Georgetown and will be eligible in the second semester, while Cameron Thomas headlines another good recruiting class from Will Wade. How long Wade keeps his job and LSU being eligible for anything remains unknown, but at this point they are still stable.

Rick Barnes was doing a great job at Tennessee until last season, but the Vols will be back with four returning starters including a dominate big man that a lot of NBA scouts like in Yves Pons. Florida looks more exciting this year than last. Keyontae Johnson is back for his 10th season. Noah Locke, Scottie Lewis, Tre Mann and Omar Payne are very talented basketball players. Tyree Appleby from Cleveland State will solve its vacant point guard position.

Alabama will have one of its best college basketball teams in years. Jaden Shackelford, John Petty, Alex Reese and Herb Jones are all returning starters that could be playing basketball after college. Not to mention their transfer from Yale, Jordan Bruner averaged almost 10 points and eight boards while with the Bulldogs. Mississippi State lost two great players to the draft, but DJ Stewart and Abdul Ado will make the most in their increase in attention. Jalen Johnson is transferring from Louisiana where he averaged over 15 points per game with a top-100 recruit coming in.

Oh, we can’t forget about Auburn. Bruce Pearl has done a really good job with the Tigers, but this will be the most difficult season he has seen since coming to Auburn. The Tigers have zero returning starters, and none of their returning players averaged over five points per game. Sharife Cooper is a top-30 recruit who could make a big impact as the starting point guard. Buzz Williams should have Texas A&M right in the mix to make the NCAA Tournament this year. Frank Martin always makes things interesting with South Carolina, and AJ Lawson is a terrific player. I’m not a fan of any other team no matter what others may say about Arkansas and Ole Miss.

Preseason predictions

1 Florida
2 Tennessee
4 Kentucky
5 Alabama
6 Mississippi State
7 Auburn
8 Texas A&M
9 South Carolina
10 Arkansas
11 Ole Miss
12 Missouri
13 Georgia
14 Vanderbilt

First Team

G Ja’Vonte Smart, LSU
G John Petty, Alabama
G BJ Boston, Kentucky
F Keyontae Johnson, Florida
F Trendon Watford, LSU

Second Team

G AJ Lawson, South Carolina
G Tyree Appleby, Florida
F John Fulkerson, Tennessee
F Yves Pons, Tennessee
F KJ Buffen, Ole Miss

Third Team

G Terrence Clarke, Kentucky
G Sharife Cooper, Auburn
F Romello White, Ole Miss
F Darius Days, LSU
F Alex Reese, Alabama

Player of the Year

Trendon Watford, F, LSU

Photo courtesy of FloridaGators.com

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