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SEC Schedule Preview/Season Predictions

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Take a look at my preseason thoughts on the league and how Auburn’s SEC schedule looks for the upcoming season.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional-Auburn vs North Carolina Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Happy GAMEDAY everyone! Now that we’ve gone through the rosters, the non-conference schedule and other basketball nuggets, it’s time to look at the SEC Schedule and offer some predictions for this year. I can’t wait to look back on these predictions in March and see how wrong I was about this season. I went game by game picking all the games and this is how I “think” it will turn out this season. I’ve listed everyone’s KenPom rankings as well and Auburn will begin at #22 in the KenPom rankings.

  1. Florida 15-3
  2. Kentucky 15-3
  3. LSU 13-5
  4. Auburn 12-6
  5. Tennessee 10-8
  6. Mississippi State 10-8
  7. Alabama 9-9
  8. Missouri 9-9
  9. Arkansas 8-10
  10. Ole Miss 8-10
  11. Georgia 7-11
  12. Texas A&M 4-14
  13. South Carolina 3-15
  14. Vanderbilt 3-15

Saturday January 4th

3:30PM, SEC Network

at Mississippi State Bulldogs

Last Year’s Record: 23-11 (10-8)

KenPom Ranking: 53

Preseason Media Prediction: 7th

My Projection: 6th

Leading Returning Scorers: Tyson Carter (10.4 PPG), Reggie Perry (9.7 PPG), Nick Weatherspoon (9.6 PPG)

The Bulldogs lost their top 2 scorers in Quinndary Weatherspoon and Lamar Peters and will play without Nick Weatherspoon for the first 10 games of the season. This is now Reggie Perry’s team as he was named Preseason 1st Team All-SEC a few weeks ago. They have great size at every position on the floor and in the game in Starkville last season, they took advantage of it. This will be a good challenge for Auburn getting out of the gate in SEC play.

Wednesday January 8th

8PM, SEC Network

Vanderbilt Commodores

Last Year’s Record: 9-23 (0-18)

KenPom Ranking: 148

Preseason Media Prediction: 14th

My Projection: 14th

Leading Returning Scorers: Saben Lee (12.7 PPG), Aaron Nesmith (11 PPG)

It’s a whole new era on the West End of Nashville. Jerry Stackhouse will make his SEC Coaching Debut in the Jungle. There’s nowhere to go but up for the Commodores after the team posted the first winless season by a team in the SEC in over 60 years. Darius Garland played just 5 games before an injury sidelined him and he went on to become the 5th pick in the NBA Draft. The Dores never recovered from losing their starting PG last year.

I think you'll see improvement from Vandy this year as the team had a solid recruiting class including the son of NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, Scotty Pippen Jr. Nesmith was named to the 2nd Team All-SEC squad.

Saturday January 11th

5PM ESPN/ESPN2

Georgia Bulldogs

Last Year’s Record: 11-21 (2-16)

KenPom Ranking: 55

Preseason Media Prediction: 9th

My Projection: 11th

Leading Returning Scorers: Rayshaun Hammonds (12.1 PPG), Tyree Crump (9.1 PPG), Jordan Harris (7.8 PPG)

Nicolas Claxton went to the NBA or else I think this team would be a Top 4 or 5 preseason pick. The player to watch for Georgia though is Anthony Edwards, and this will be your only chance to see him play in Auburn. Ranked #3 in Rivals Top 150, Edwards, an Atlanta native, elected to stay home for at least a year as he looks likely to jump to the NBA after the season. Fellow freshmen Sahvir Wheeler and Jaywkon Walton also look to make a big impact in their 1st year in Athens. Tom Crean’s squad looks likely to take a step forward after a 13th place finish in the league last season.

Wednesday January 15th

8PM, ESPN2/ESPNU

at Alabama Crimson Tide

Last Year’s Record: 18-16 (8-10)

KenPom Ranking: 70

Preseason Media Prediction: 6th

My Projection: 7th

Leading Returning Scorers: Kira Lewis Jr. (13.5 PPG), John Petty (10.2 PPG), Herb Jones (6.4 PPG)

Whether you want to believe it or not, Alabama made an outstanding hire getting Nate Oats from Buffalo. Oats has won everywhere he’s gone and quite frankly, the recruiting battles between Oats and Bruce Pearl will be ones to watch. The biggest wins for Oats was convincing Kira Lewis, John Petty and others to remain in Tuscaloosa. In addition to Lewis at the point, they added James “Beetle” Bolden, a grad transfer from West Virginia to the backcourt who has shot 40% from 3-point range in his career.

Last year, Auburn swept Alabama. The 2nd loss was a crippling blow to the Tide’s NCAA Tournament hopes. I’ve seen Alabama predicted to finish higher than Auburn by several people and this team, on paper, looks like a NCAA Tournament team. It’s gonna be difficult to sweep Alabama this year but at this point, we’ll have a good idea of where each team stands.

Saturday January 18th

12:30PM, CBS

at Florida Gators

Last Year’s Record: 20-16 (9-9)

KenPom Ranking: 12

Preseason Media Prediction: 2nd

My Projection: 1st

Leading Returning Scorers: Noah Locke (9.4 PPG), Keyontae Johnson (8.1 PPG), Andrew Nembhard (8 PPG)

I think Florida will win the SEC this year and the addition of grad transfer Kerry Blackshear from Virginia Tech is a big reason why. Combine that with the additions of highly rated freshmen guards Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann, along with Andrew Nembhard and several others returning to Gainesville and you’ve got the makings of a potential Final Four squad this year.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Virginia Tech vs Duke
Kerry Blackshear
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn hasn’t won in Gainesville since 1996 and until beating the Gators twice last season, hadn’t won against Florida since 2009. This will be one of the most difficult games of the year for Auburn.

Wednesday January 22th

6PM, ESPN2/ESPNU

South Carolina Gamecocks

Last Year’s Record: 16-16 (11-7)

KenPom Ranking: 69

Preseason Media Prediction: 10th

My Projection: 13th

Leading Returning Scorers: AJ Lawson (13.4 PPG), Keyshawn Bryant (9 PPG), Maik Kotsar (6.7 PPG)

Remarkably, South Carolina was 16-16 overall last year and finished tied with Auburn for 4th in the SEC. The non-conference schedule was brutal last season for them is a big reason why but they surprised some folks in league play, as is typical of Frank Martin teams. Chris Silva is now playing for the Miami Heat which means he won’t be able to torment Auburn this season. Last season in 2 games against the Tigers, Silva scored 59 points and grabbed 25 rebounds.

This game is also not in Columbia which has been a house of horrors for Auburn the past 2 years. This team will e primarily led by a group of sophomores this year led by Lawson who elected to stay in Columbia for at least another season. With Silva gone, all eyes will be on Lawson if the Gamecocks hope to finish better than 16-16 this year.

Tuesday January 28th

8PM, ESPN/ESPNU

at Ole Miss Rebels

Last Year’s Record: 20-13 (10-8)

KenPom Ranking: 60

Preseason Media Prediction: 8th

My Projection: 10th

Leading Returning Scorers: Breein Tyree (17.9 PPG), Devontae Shuler (10.3 PPG), Blake HInson (8.3 PPG)

Terence Davis is gone but Breein Tyree and Devontae Shuler return to Kermit Davis’s 2nd Ole Miss squad that made a surprising run to the NCAA Tournament last season. A team that was picked to finish last in the league last year, finished 7th in the league but were blown out by Oklahoma in the Round of 64.

Kermit also had Auburn’s number last year sweeping the season series and executing a game plan of slowing the game down, and making tough shots late in the shot clock in both meetings.

Saturday February 1st

5 OR 7PM, ESPN

Kentucky Wildcats

Last Year’s Record: 30-7 (15-3)

KenPom Ranking: 2

Preseason Media Prediction: 1st

My Projection: 2nd

Leading Returning Scorers: Ashton Hagans (7.7 PPG), Immanuel Quickley (5.2 PPG), Nick Richards (4 PPG)

P.J. Washington, Tyler Herro, Reid Travis, Keldon Johnson and others are gone but Ashton Hagans and E.J. Montgomery are back for Year 2 in Lexington. After admitting that they didn’t take Auburn seriously in the Elite 8, Coach Cal will have his kids ready for this one.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional
Ashton Hagans
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

This year’s talented freshmen crew is led by Tyrese Maxey, the 10th ranked recruit in America. Kahlil Whitney (14th), Keion Brooks (29th), Johnny Juzang (34th), and Dontaie Allen (68th) make up the talented group of freshmen Coach Cal put together this year. Like last year, they also added a grad transfer, Nate Sestina, from Bucknell. He averaged 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds a game for the Bisons.

Depending on how things are progressing in the season, this game has a primetime television slot and could very well be Auburn’s 1st Basketball College Gameday appearance.

Tuesday February 4th

6PM, SEC Network

at Arkansas Razorbacks

Last Year’s Record: 18-16 (8-10)

KenPom Ranking: 44

Preseason Media Prediction: 11th

My Projection: 9th

Leading Returning Scorers: Isaiah Joe (13.9 PPG), Mason Jones (13.6 PPG), Jalen Harris (7.6 PPG)

I think the Razorbacks are better than 11th and Eric Musselman is a big reason why. He is doing phenomenal work with the fanbase and is building a heckuva recruiting class for next season. In fact, Musselman and Pearl are battling for several guys in next year’s class inclduing Chris Moore and Jaylin Williams who spent their weekend on the Plains.

But as for this year’s team, they have to first and foremost replace Daniel Gafford. That won’t be an easy task but Isaiah Joe appears ready to be the next star in Fayetteville. Joe had a great freshmen season knocking down 113 3-pointers last season, 2nd in the SEC to Bryce Brown (of course).

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Texas Tech
Isaiah Joe
Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday February 8th

11AM, ESPN/ESPN2

LSU Tigers

Last Year’s Record: 28-7 (16-2)

KenPom Ranking: 38

Preseason Media Prediction: 3rd

My Projection: 3rd

Leading Returning Scorers: Skylar Mays (13.4 PPG), Javonte Smart (11.1 PPG), Emmitt Williams (7 PPG)

There was a lot of things going on in Baton Rouge towards the end of last season. Will Wade was suspended by the school the day before the regular season finale against Vanderbilt as part of the FBI Investigation and didn’t coach in the postseason. Wade was reinstated in the middle of April and remains on the Tigers sidelines. Wade has turned around the LSU program in short order since taking over in the Bayou and has a solid group returning this year.

However, last year’s SEC Regular Season Champs visit Auburn without Tremont Waters as he’ll now be Bryce Brown’s teammate on the Maine Red Claws in the G-League. LSU has however added Trendon Watford, a highly touted kid out of Birmingham who spurned Alabama to go to Baton Rouge.

Wednesday February 12th

6PM, ESPN2

Alabama Crimson Tide

Auburn has defeated the Tide by an average of 20 points over the past 3 meetings inside Auburn Arena.

Saturday February 15th

5PM, ESPN2

at Missouri Tigers

Last Year’s Record: 15-17 (5-13)

KenPom Ranking: 39

Preseason Media Prediction: 13th

My Projection: 8th

Leading Returning Scorers: Mark Smith (11.4 PPG), Jeremiah Tilmon (10.1 PPG), Javon Pickett (7.7 PPG)

No more Jordan Geist, no more Porters, it’s a new day in Columbia but here’s another team that I think will be better than their preseason prediction. Mark Smith and Jeremiah Tilmon return to bolster the Tigers frontcourt and they got several contributions from their freshmen last year.

Injuries really derailed Mizzou last year but as we’ve seen, there’s been one team picked very low by the media who ends being the surprise team. I think it could be Mizzou this year.

Wednesday February 19th

6PM, ESPN2/ESPNU

at Georgia Bulldogs

Auburn has won 4 straight against the Dawgs, the longest winning streak against Georgia since winning 12 in a row between 1976-1980.

Saturday February 22nd

11AM, CBS

Tennessee Volunteers

Last Year’s Record: 31-6 (15-3)

KenPom Ranking: 20

Preseason Media Prediction: 5th

My Projection: 5th

Leading Returning Scorers: Lamonte Turner (10.9 PPG), Jordan Bone (10.6 PPG), John Fulkerson (3.1 PPG)

Auburn plays 2 of their final 5 games against Tennessee this season with the first being in Auburn. There’s a lot of pieces off both teams that are no longer there and this will be a very interesting game from the sense of all the new pieces who look to make an impact.

Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield, and Jordan Bone have all departed Knoxville. This year, they will need Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner to take a step forward. They do bring in highly touted freshman Josiah James, the 14th ranked recruit who will be asked to be a big part of Rick Barnes team in his first season on Rocky Top. A lot of predictions have this team high but others have this team on the bubble. How these 3 develop will go a long way in determining if Tennessee will return to the Big Dance.

Tuesday February 25th

6PM, ESPN/ESPN2/SEC Network

Ole Miss Rebels

Breein Tyree is the SEC’s leading returning scorer from last season.

Saturday February 29th

2:45PM, CBS

at Kentucky Wildcats

Auburn has not won at Rupp Arena since 1988.

Wednesday March 4th

6PM, ESPN2/ESPNU

Texas A&M Aggies

Last Year’s Record: 14-18 (6-12)

KenPom Ranking: 58

Preseason Media Prediction: 12th

My Projection: 12th

Leading Returning Scorers: Savion Flagg (13.9 PPG), Wendell Mitchell (13 PPG), TJ Starks (12.3 PPG)

We’ve looked at every team except for the Aggies who will be the opponent for the final home game for Austin Wiley, Anfernee McLemore, Danjel Purifoy, Samir Doughty and J’Von McCormick. Buzz Williams takes over for Billy Kennedy in College Station and a change was sorely needed. Buzz was the primary target for the Aggies and they got their man. He did a terrific job at both Marquette and Virginia Tech, getting the Hokies a basket away from the Elite 8 last season, losing to Duke in heartbreaking fashion. This will be The Aggies will visit Auburn for the first time since handing the Tigers their only home loss of the 2017-2018 season.

The Aggies do return 5 of their top 6 scorers so perhaps this is another team that could surprise in Year 1 of the Buzz era.

Saturday March 7th

11AM, ESPN/ESPN2

at Tennessee Volunteers

These two schools meet in the season finale at 11AM, for the 2nd straight year, this time in Knoxville.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional-Purdue vs Tennessee
Jordan Bowden
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

To close, it’s been 213 days since Auburn has played a Basketball Game but we’ve made it! The wait is over as Auburn takes the court tonight at 8PM against Georgia Southern. I’ll have a preview of tonight’s game out later today.