Conference Preview: SEC

Conference Preview: SEC

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

It was an exciting race to the finish line for three SEC schools for the conference title last season, with LSU ultimately capturing the crown. But neither LSU, Tennessee, nor Kentucky represented the SEC in the Final Four last season. Auburn, headlined by a strong backcourt and talented frontcourt, had the final laugh of every SEC school.

The 2019-20 season figures to be just as exciting. The conference is brimming with veteran players, such as incoming transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr., along with many intriguing freshman including Anthony Edwards and Scottie Lewis

Looking at the talent on the rosters, there appears to be two teams that jump out the most: Kentucky and Florida. Kentucky will look to recapture the conference title with what may be Coach John Calipari's best incoming freshman class ever, headlined by Tyrese Maxey and Kahlil Whitney. Paired with one of the finest point-guards in the country, Ashton Hagans, Kentucky looks more dangerous then ever before. 

Coach Mike White and Florida, on the other hand, looks just as good. Florida landed arguably the top graduate transfer in Blackshear Jr., who will likely make an instant impact and compete for the SEC Player of the Year, along with a top-10 freshman class, topped by versatile small-forward, Scottie Lewis. Elsewhere in the league, it appears as though LSU, Auburn (again), Alabama and Tennessee all have the capability of what Auburn did last year – a Final Four run despite not finishing close for the conference

It was an exciting race to the finish line for three SEC schools for the conference title last season, with LSU ultimately capturing the crown. But neither LSU, Tennessee, nor Kentucky represented the SEC in the Final Four last season. Auburn, headlined by a strong backcourt and talented frontcourt, had the final laugh of every SEC school.

The 2019-20 season figures to be just as exciting. The conference is brimming with veteran players, such as incoming transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr., along with many intriguing freshman including Anthony Edwards and Scottie Lewis

Looking at the talent on the rosters, there appears to be two teams that jump out the most: Kentucky and Florida. Kentucky will look to recapture the conference title with what may be Coach John Calipari's best incoming freshman class ever, headlined by Tyrese Maxey and Kahlil Whitney. Paired with one of the finest point-guards in the country, Ashton Hagans, Kentucky looks more dangerous then ever before. 

Coach Mike White and Florida, on the other hand, looks just as good. Florida landed arguably the top graduate transfer in Blackshear Jr., who will likely make an instant impact and compete for the SEC Player of the Year, along with a top-10 freshman class, topped by versatile small-forward, Scottie Lewis. Elsewhere in the league, it appears as though LSU, Auburn (again), Alabama and Tennessee all have the capability of what Auburn did last year – a Final Four run despite not finishing close for the conference title. 

Key Players

Center: Austin Wiley, PF/C, Sr, Auburn

In a conference dominated with alluring forwards and guards, Wiley headlines a small group of returning centers. Though hampered with injuries throughout the 2018-19 season, the 6-11 senior showed flashes of being a dominate presence in the paint for the Tigers in his senior season. Through the first 15 games last season, Wiley was averaging a superb 10.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks before coming down with a leg injury. Wiley's offseason thumb surgery is a little concerning for at least the beginning of the season however, as it could slow down the senior for a bit. With Auburn searching for scoring and rebounding following the departure of Chuma Okeke, though, the center will likely be counted on right away in 2019-20. 

Also considered: Reggie Perry, PF/C, So, Mississippi State; Jeremiah Tilmon, PF/C, Jr, Missouri; Omar Payne, C, Fr, Florida

Freshman: Scottie Lewis, SF, Fr, Florida

What might be the best overall incoming freshman class for the SEC in recent memory, Lewis co-headlines the top of the class with Anthony Edwards (see below). The explosive small forward, who chose Florida over the likes of Duke, Kentucky and Villanova, among others, appears destined for a long pro career. Lewis can do everything, whether it's finishing over contesting defenders at the rim or stepping back and shooting the three. In addition, he's also an above-average defender. Joining a loaded roster already, Lewis probably wouldn't be Florida's first option offensively early on, but that could likely change later in the season when he gains more experience. 

Also considered: Anthony Edwards, SG, Fr, Georgia; Tyrese Maxey, SG, Fr, Kentucky; Kahlil Whitney, SF, Fr, Kentucky; Tre Mann, PG, Fr, Florida; Trendon Watford, PF, Fr, LSU; Josiah James, PG, Fr, Tennessee

Scoring: Anthony Edwards, SG, Fr, Georgia

The five-star combo guard, who is the highest-ranked prospect to ever sign with the Bulldogs, is the type of talent that Georgia basketball fans haven't been able to brag about in a long time. Edwards is a dynamic and electric offensive guard who has the ability to take over a game with his elite skill set. The freshman possesses a unique array of strength and speed while controlling his body to give him significant upside. Many scouts compare Edwards to James Harden due to his ability to create open looks with the ball in his hand and the defense focused primarily on him. With relatively no answers behind Edwards, look for the extremely gifted guard to highlight the team's offensive attack in 2019-20. Georgia fans, enjoy him while you can. 

Also considered: Kerry Blackshear, PF, Sr, Florida, Breein Tyree, SG, Sr, Ole Miss; Savion Flagg, SF, Jr, Texas A&M; Isaiah Joe, SG, So, Arkansas; Skylar Mays, SG, Sr, LSU

Rebounding: Savion Flagg, SF, Jr, Texas A&M

Flagg was one of the most improved sophomores in the conference last season, as he tallied career-highs in just about every major statistical category including, and probably most notably, his points per game increasing from 4.1 points in 2017-18 to a team-leading 13.9 points in 2018-19. Aside from his superb offensive play though, Flagg was also a revised and revitalized rebounder who finished in the top-four in the SEC with 7.7 rebounds per contest. In addition, the junior is the top returning rebounder in the conference for the 2019-20 campaign. With the graduation of former teammate Christian Mekowulu last spring, expect Flagg to provided an even greater presence on the boards this season. 

Also considered: Reggie Perry, PF, So, Mississippi State; Kerry Blackshear Jr., PF, Sr, Florida; Keyontae Johnson, SF, So, Florida; Jeremiah Tilmon, PF, Jr, Missouri; Rayshaun Hammonds, PF, Jr, Georgia

Assists: Ashton Hagans, PG, So, Kentucky

Hagans showed much promise and upside during his freshman season at Kentucky last year, accounting for five games with at least 14 points and seven other outings with seven or more assists. With a dangerous incoming freshman class filled with offensive capability, Hagans will likely be counted on more this season to set the pace offensively while distributing the ball often. The sophomore finished seventh in the conference in 2018-19 with 4.5 assists per contest; no other returning Wildcat dished out more than 1.5 assists per outing. With one season of experience under his belt, expect Hagans to provide offensively stability to a roster flooded with incoming freshman. 

Also considered: Andrew Nembhard, PG, So, Florida; Jalen Harris, PG, Jr, Arkansas; Saben Lee, PG, Jr, Vanderbilt; Lamonte Turner, PG, Sr, Tennessee; Tre Mann, PG, Fr, Florida

Sleepers

Javonte Smart, PG, So, LSU

It was a whirlwind of a season for Smart in 2018-19, as one contest he'll erupt for 29 points while the next game, lay an egg. With three of the top-five scorers on LSU having left for the NBA or graduated, Smart's sophomore campaign entails a huge opportunity for the guard offensively. Smart showed flashes of offensive brilliance during his freshman season, as he scored in double figures in 19 contests while reaching at least the 15-point mark 11 different times. Smart definitely has the capability and opportunities to score more consistently for the Tigers this season (unlike last year) and if so, could possibly finish the year in the midst of the best scorers of the conference.

A.J. Lawson, SG, So, South Carolina

With his team out of contention early, Lawson quietly finished as one of the conference's best offensive players last season at 13.4 points per contest. With the graduation of former teammate and leading scorer Chris Silva, the Gamecocks will likely give the reigns of the offensive to Lawson. The 6-6 guard has the ability to breakout offensively on any given day, as he reached at least the 22-point plateau six different times while shooting a decent 36 percent from three-point range during his freshman season. If Lawson could improve his poor 67 percent free-throw shooting percentage this year, the sophomore could likely compete for a conference scoring title. 

Also considered: Isaac Okoro, SF, Fr, Auburn; Mason Jones, SG, So, Arkansas; Nate Sestina, PF, Sr, Kentucky; Trendon Watford, PF, Fr, LSU
 

Top-10*

  1. Anthony Edwards, G, Georgia
  2. Kerry Blackshear Jr., F, Florida
  3. Ashton Hagans, G, Kentucky
  4. Breein Tyree, G, Ole Miss
  5. Andrew Nembhard, G, Florida
  6. Scottie Lewis, F, Florida
  7. Savion Flagg, F, Texas A&M
  8. Skylar Mays, F, LSU
  9. A.J. Lawson, G, South Carolina
  10. Austin Wiley, F/C, Auburn


*Note: These rankings are at the discretion of the article author and may not necessarily correspond with Rotowire's official 2019-20 player rankings.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Markus Tobias
Markus started covering fantasy sports in 2017, the same year he joined RotoWire. He currently covers college basketball, the NBA and the WNBA for RotoWire. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 2019 with a degree in Marketing and Supply Chain Management.
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