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SEC Basketball Preview

Now that non-conference play has wrapped up, it’s time to re-evaluate the SEC.

NCAA Basketball: Lipscomb at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 Football Season and year are in the rear-view mirror. Now, it’s time to turn our full attention to Auburn Basketball and if you’re just tuning in, well, you’ve missed out on a lot of fun so far. Auburn is 12-0 and in the Top 10 of almost every poll out there. Auburn is 1 of just 2 teams left undefeated, alongside San Diego State. I thought now would be a good time to re-assess what we saw in non-conference play and re-rank the teams going into league play.

#1 Auburn (12-0)

Right now, the best team in the league is clearly Auburn. The Tigers are 12-0, they sit in the Top 10 of most polls and rankings, and have some solid wins both in and outside of Auburn. The Tigers will lose at some point and when it happens, fans don’t need to panic. This team has exceeded everyone’s expectations so far this year and with the SEC seemingly a little down after the last 2 years, the Tigers have an opportunity to make even more history this season. Samir Doughty is the leading scorer at 16.4 PPG but Auburn has 4 guys averaging at least 10.5 PPG so far this season. Add in great overall team defense, and this Tigers team can go far this year, if it improves on the offensive side of the ball. The scary thing is while this team is 12-0, Bruce has said that they still aren’t very good. I would love to see what a very good Auburn team looks like.

#2 Kentucky (9-3)

Kentucky’s Overtime win over Louisville is exactly what Coach Cal’s team needed and perhaps it is the sparkplug to get this young group of Cats off and running. Kentucky has an inexplicable loss to Evansville on the resume but let’s face it: we go through this every year with the Cats. This team will be at it’s best once we get into SEC play and March, not November and December and we should judge them as such. Tyrese Maxey leads this crop of Kentucky freshmen with 14.3 PPG while Ashton Hagans has played well in his 2nd year in Lexington averaging 13.4 PPG, 7.3 assists per game and 2.1 steals per game.

#3 Florida (8-4)

The Gators are another team that disappointed during the non-conference season but I still think this Gators team will be one of the best teams the SEC has to offer this year. Kerry Blackshear was many people’s pick for SEC player of the year and he’s done well averaging 14.2 PPG along with 8.4 RPG. They’ve looked better recently and we’ll know really quick what to expect from this year as Alabama comes to town on Saturday.

#4 LSU (8-4)

LSU was another team ranked ahead of Auburn in the preseason and the Bayou Bengals have taken a few losses as well so far this year. They lost on neutral courts to both Utah State and USC, at VCU, and lost at home to East Tennessee State, a team I don’t want to see on Auburn’s bracket in March. Skylar Mays leads LSU with 15.8 PPG and Emmitt Williams has stepped up averaging 13.9 PPG this season.

#5 Alabama (7-5)

Yes, the Tide lost 5 games in November and December, but this is a team that’s playing their best ball of the year, scoring over 90 points in their final 3 non-conference games. The emergence of freshman Jaden Shackelford has played a big part in Alabama’s turnaround. Throw in John Petty’s terrific start to the season (shooting 51.2% from 3-point range) and this team is worlds ahead of where they were on November 5th. Petty and Kira Lewis Jr. combine to average 33 points per game. Auburn’s game in Tuscaloosa on January 15th will be one of the most anticipated in the series in quite some time with both teams seemingly on the rise.

#6 Arkansas (11-1)

The Razorbacks were picked to finish 11th in the SEC this season. I feel pretty good saying they’ll finish better than that. An 11-1 non-conference run with their only loss, an overtime loss at Western Kentucky, has caused expectations in Fayetteville to rise quicker than expected. The Hogs also are coming off a win at Indiana on Sunday. Mason Jones is a big reason why. Jones is averaging 19.7 PPG, 2nd in the league, and is a 93.1% free-throw shooter. Isaiah Joe is averaging 17.4 PPG, 4th in the conference. The guard play has been terrific this year and this is a team that will look to surprise more people in conference play.

#7 Mississippi State (9-3)

The Bulldogs are 9-3 to start the year losing to Villanova, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State. Auburn fans know first hand how tough New Mexico State is. Villanova continues to be one of the best teams in the Big East and Louisiana Tech should be a factor in Conference USA this year. Nick Weatherspoon has returned to the lineup after a 10 game suspension to start the year and you can’t forget the big guys inside Abdul Ado and Reggie Perry. Perry leads the SEC in RPG with 9.8, just ahead of Austin Wiley’s 9.5 RPG.

#8 Ole Miss (9-3)

Kermit Davis lost Terence Davis who is making quite a name for himself with the Toronto Raptors, but still has Breein Tyree, who leads the Rebels averaging 17.1 PPG. They lost by 41 to Oklahoma State in a dreadful performance but their other 2 losses are to Memphis and Butler, teams currently ranked in the Top 11. And we all remember last year that Ole Miss executed the perfect game plan not once, but twice against Auburn.

#9 Georgia (9-3)

Anthony Edwards is as good as advertised, averaging 18.8 PPG, good for 3rd in the SEC. You’ll get to see him in Auburn next weekend for the only time as he has Top 5 pick in next year’s NBA Draft written all over him. Rayshaun Hammonds has also had a nice season for the Bulldogs averaging 14 PPG. Like the two teams above, they sit at 9-3 but their next 3 games are fun: at Memphis Saturday, hosting Kentucky Tuesday and at Auburn next Saturday.

#10 Tennessee (8-4)

Oh Tennessee.... the Vols were going to struggle to score before losing Lamonte Turner and now that Turner’s season is over due to a shoulder injury, it’s even more of a question mark. They lost at home by 20 to a Wisconsin team that has struggled mightily this year and they need guys to step up in a bad way.

#11 Missouri (8-4)

I don’t have a good read on Missouri yet, Their best win is probably at Temple but they lost at home to Charleston Southern. They have scored over 80 points on just 2 occasions so this a team you’ll see play most of their games in the 60s this year. They play at Kentucky Saturday so they’ll be tested right out of the gate in SEC play.

#12 Vanderbilt (8-4)

I’ve seen Vandy play a few times in person this year and they’ve made some progress from last year. They won’t go winless in the league this year, I’ll guarantee that. Aaron Nesmith looks like a 1st Team All-SEC player, leading the SEC in scoring at 22.9 PPG. He’s also shooting 50% from 3-point range, averaging 4 3-pointers a game. Saben Lee averages 16.5 PPG but one thing I’ve noticed about this Vandy team is they sometimes go into long droughts without scoring. We’ll get to see this Vandy team play Auburn on Wednesday and I’m excited to see how Auburn’s defense matches up with Nesmith.

#13 South Carolina (8-5)

The Roosters have lost at home to Stetson and Boston University. But they’re 2-0 on the road against ACC teams knocking off both Virginia and Clemson.

I saw a stat the other day that in Frank Martin’s 8 years in Columbia, they have 1 Final 4 appearance, an NIT appearance and the other 6 years with no postseason at all.

While Chris Silva is no longer around to dominate against Auburn, A.J. Lawson has emerged as South Carolina’s leader in his sophomore season averaging 15.5 PPG.

#14 Texas A&M (6-5)

Buzz Williams inherited a massive rebuilding project in College Station. T.J. Starks left the program after a few games and like Tennessee, they don’t have a lot of scoring threats. They’ll play a lot of low scoring games in league play as they average just 57.7 PPG while giving up 60.8 PPG. Auburn won’t see these guys until March.