College Basketball

SEC men’s basketball preview

Coach John Calipari’s Kentucky team is the SEC’s only serious NCAA title contender, but new coaches and improved recruiting (particularly at Auburn and Texas A&M) have the SEC on the way back after several substandard seasons.
Coach John Calipari’s Kentucky team is the SEC’s only serious NCAA title contender, but new coaches and improved recruiting (particularly at Auburn and Texas A&M) have the SEC on the way back after several substandard seasons. AP

Favorite

Kentucky: Seven players went to the NBA, including four lottery picks, but the Wildcats reloaded with the top-ranked recruiting class.

Contenders

Louisiana State: Kentucky has the best incoming class, but Ben Simmons could be the best player. Antonio Blakeney was also a top-20 recruit.

Vanderbilt: Commodores, who might have the best returning player (junior center Damian Jones) and a trio of sophomore shooters, could score lots.

Georgia: Reached second round of NCAAs last year and return deep collection of guards, but need a big man or two to develop.

Five to watch

SF Ben Simmons, LSU: Australian will be tasked with getting the Tigers back to the tournament and could end up the No. 1 pick in 2016.

G Jamal Murray, Kentucky: Big man Skal Labissiere has better draft potential, but this Canadian combo guard could be coach John Calipari’s most important player.

G Danuel House, Texas A&M: Big guard (6-foot-7) nearly scored 15 points per game last year, will be flanked by three top-50 recruits.

G Stefan Moody, Mississippi: Sub-6-footer is the leading returning scorer in the conference, could average more than 20 points per game.

G Matthew Fisher-Davis, Vanderbilt: Butler graduate is one of league’s best bombers; led SEC freshmen in 3-pointers per game (2.1) and made 40.1 percent.

Worth mentioning

▪ Billy Donovan left Florida to coachKevin Durant and the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, but three big-name coaches (Avery Johnson at Alabama, Ben Howland at Mississippi State, Rick Barnes at Tennessee) join the league.

▪ Simmons, Murray and Labissiere (Haiti) are at the forefront of a large contingentof SEC talent outside the United States.

▪ Texas A&M will be at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas with Charlotte (Nov. 25-27), while Kentucky will face Duke on Nov. 17 at the Champions Classic in Chicago.

Outlook

Kentucky remains king and the only serious NCAA title contender, but new coaches and improved recruiting (particularly at Auburn and Texas A&M) have the SEC on the way back after several substandard seasons.

NEXT: South Atlantic

Corey Masisak

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