64 Thoughts on the 2016-17 SEC Season: Part I

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 26th, 2016

The beginning of another college basketball season is already in progress, and with it an opportunity to start talking about SEC hoops again. The SEC last season managed just three bids to the NCAA Tournament, but with a new year brings optimism that more teams can break into the First Round field of 64. To tip off the SEC microsite, here are 64 musings, opinions, thoughts, predictions, questions, and observations about the 2016-17 season [Ed. Note: Technically, 32 since this is part one of two with the second part coming tomorrow]:

John Calipari is confident once again as Kentucky shapes up to be the head of the SEC in 2016-17 (AP).

John Calipari is confident once again as Kentucky shapes up to be the head of the SEC in 2016-17. (AP)

  1. Kentucky is the clear favorite to win the SEC this year, but the big question mark about the Wildcats in the preseason revolves around their three-point accuracy. It says here that this will be the best perimeter shooting squad John Calipari has put on the court in Lexington since his 2011 Final Four team.
  2. Wildcat sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe shot just 13.5 percent from beyond the arc last year, allowing opposing defenses to sag to the middle on him. But the limited sample of shooting we have seen so far suggests that he will no longer be an offensive liability shooting the ball this season.
  3. Briscoe was also 9-of-12 from the free throw line in Friday night’s Blue-White game, indicating that his 46 percent accuracy from the stripe last season could also be a thing of the past.
  4. Dominique Hawkins is not the first name many people think ofwhen they think of Kentucky’s backcourt, but the senior looked very comfortable in a three-guard lineup alongside freshmen De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk in the Blue-White scrimmage. Hawkins shot 7-of-9 from the field (2-of-3 coming from long range) for 22 points.
  5. Speaking of Fox, this kid is fast. Kentucky’s average offensive length of possession has been over 17 seconds in every season except Calipari’s first year in Lexington. I think we will see the Wildcats push the pace at every opportunity this year, resulting in an average length of possession more similar to when John Wall was leading the attack.
  6. Another interesting stat line from Friday’s intra-squad scrimmage came from senior guard Mychal Mulder, who hit four of his five outside shots. It will be interesting to see if Mulder can find a way into the Wildcats’ rotation given his long-range accuracy.
  7. Kentucky wasn’t the best rebounding team last year, but expect to see the Wildcats bounce back on that front with freshmen forwards Bam Adebayo and Wenyen Gabriel cleaning the glass. Returnees Derek Willis and Isaac Humphries also both boasted surprisingly high defensive rebounding percentages last season.
  8. Willis shot 43.6 percent from three-point range last season, and Calipari is sure to use the stretch four as a pick-and-pop option given the strong trio of penetrating guards that he has at his disposal.
  9. Humphries appears to have worked on his mid-range game during the offseason, giving Calipari some quality low post depth that the team lacked a season ago.
  10. How crazy is Rupp Arena going to be when coach’s son Brad Calipari knocks down his first three-point shot of the season?
  11. Kentucky freshmen are accustomed to racking up awards during the Calipari era, but they may fetch an unexpected honor on the list this season. The SEC has quite the all-name team with Kentucky freshman Bam Adebayo and Sacha Killeya-Jones, Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield, Mississippi State’s Quinndary Weatherspoon, and Arkansas’ Moses Kingsley.

    DJ Hogg makes the All-SEC "name" team. He also happens to be a pretty good basketball player too. (Gwinnett Daily Post)

    DJ Hogg makes the All-SEC “name” team. He also happens to be a pretty good basketball player too. (Gwinnett Daily Post)

  12. Texas A&M’s DJ Hogg, Arkansas’ Dusty Hannahs, and South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell make the honorable mention all-name team.
  13. South Carolina’s Thornwell improved his shooting percentages in every category last season, but he will need another jump this year to expect to make an NBA roster.
  14. The biggest burning question for the SEC is which team projects to come in second in the league standings. Don’t rule out Georgia for that spot. Mark Fox has achieved a winning SEC record in each of the last three seasons, and it is reasonable to expect that again this year with J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten returning.
  15. Georgia lacked a quality win entering the NCAA Tournament selection process last March, but this year the Bulldogs have several opportunities at resume-enhancing wins with an away game at Clemson early and a date with George Washington and potentially Kansas at the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.
  16. It would also help if the Bulldogs win their home opener (November 14 vs. UNC-Asheville), a feat they were unable to accomplish last year against an eventual NCAA Tournament team in Chattanooga.
  17. Is this the year that Fox wins the SEC Coach of the Year award?
  18. Speaking of Coach of the Year, Billy Kennedy lost four starters from an NCAA Tournament team, and yet Texas A&M should still return to the Big Dance.
  19. The loss of Alex Caruso and Anthony Collins means that the ball will be in the hands of Admon Gilder, but that seems like a good thing for the Aggies.
  20. Tyler Davis averaged 22.8 MPG last season, but expect that number to increase along with his season averages of 11.3 PPG and 6.2 RPG.

    Andy Kennedy hasn’t had a losing record in conference play since 2011. (Ole Miss Athletics)

    Andy Kennedy hasn’t had a losing record in conference play since 2011. (Ole Miss Athletics)

  21. Expect a huge jump from DJ Hogg, as the 6’8” sophomore can play either forward position, and it just so happens that both the three and the four spot are available for he and Tonny Trocha-Morelos.
  22. Don’t forget about the other Kennedy. Andy Kennedy hasn’t had a losing record in conference play since 2011.
  23. That 2011 campaign was also tied for Ole Miss’ worst conference record under Kennedy, at 7-9. After everything is settled, don’t expect the Rebels to fall anywhere below a game under .500 in the conference.
  24. Deandre Burnett (transfer from Miami) and Cullen Neal (transfer from New Mexico) are a couple of new names to become familiar with before Ole Miss takes the court this season.
  25. The SEC ended last season with only three NCAA Tournament teams. While it is reasonable to think that 2017 will be equally as disappointing and mediocre, the SEC will manage more than three bids to the Big Dance this time around.
  26. South Carolina’s Frank Martin bravely surmised that all 14 SEC teams had a chance to make the NCAA Tournament this year. He clearly forgot about Missouri. And Auburn. And Tennessee. And that Johnny Jones still coaches in the SEC over at LSU.
  27. LSU struggled despite all of its NBA talent last season. We know Craig Victor and Antonio Blakeney are returning this year, but the biggest question for the Tigers is who steps up in the middle. LSU was not an effective defensive team last season, and Jones could certainly use a force down low to protect the rim, a spot where the Tigers were particularly vulnerable.
  28. Tiger fans thought they had a miserable year last year, but it will get far worse before it gets better. Just wait. The Tigers actually had excellent talent in Baton Rouge last season.
  29. The end of the 2016-17 season will also signal the end of the Jones era at LSU.
  30. To have any chance at improvement, LSU needs to shore up its woeful free throw shooting. The Tigers finished with a 66.5 percent team accuracy rate from the foul stripe, but Blakeney, who should see the bulk of possessions, was one of the team’s best at almost 75 percent.

    Year Two of Antonio Blackeney at the helm brings high(er) hopes for LSU. (John Korduner/Icon Sportswire)

    Year Two of Antonio Blackeney at the helm brings high(er) hopes for LSU. (John Korduner/Icon Sportswire)

  31. Another team that appears dreadful at the charity stripe is Florida. In its second intra-squad scrimmage, Florida shot just 15-of-24 (.625) from the foul line. The Gators have to improve on their freebies if they are going to reach their potential.
  32. Kasey Hill, one of Mike White’s senior leaders this season, provided a steady backcourt option for the Gators in dishing out eight assists with zero turnovers in the team’s latest scrimmage.

Check back tomorrow for Part II!

Brian Joyce (333 Posts)

Brian Joyce is an advanced metrics enthusiast, college hoops junkie, and writer for the SEC basketball microsite for Rush the Court.

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