SEC Team Capsules: The Top Tier (#4-#1)

Posted by David Changas on November 11th, 2016

Per usual in the SEC, there is very little question that Kentucky is once again the prohibitive favorite to win the league. While there is always some early-season speculation about how things will turn out, there is often little doubt that the Wildcats will roll into Nashville as the #1 seed at the SEC Tournament. We finish our capsule-sized preview of the league with a look at of course Kentucky, but also the three teams with the best shot of dethroning the SEC giant. Within the last week we published capsules on the SEC’s bottom tier of teams (#14-#10) as well as the middle tier (#9-#5). Today we tackle the top tier.

No. 4 Texas A&M Aggies

Billy Kennedy Looks to Build Off a Sweet Sixteen Appearance (USA Today Images)

Billy Kennedy Looks to Build Off a Sweet Sixteen Appearance (USA Today Images)

  • 2015-16 overall record (SEC) – 28-9 (13-5)
  • Key returnee – Tyler Davis, 11.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG
  • Key newcomer – J.C. Hampton, graduate transfer from Lipscomb
  • Team Analysis: The Aggies lost quite a bit from last year’s Sweet Sixteen team, including their two leading scorers, Danuel House and Jalen Jones. But along with Davis, a preseason all-SEC selection who has a great chance to break out, and guard D.J. Hogg, expectations remain high in Aggie-land. Anything short of a return to the Big Dance this season will be a disappointment.
  • Burning QuestionCan Davis make the jump? Texas A&M had the luxury of two great scorers in House and Jones last season, but the 6’10” center Davis benefited most from an experienced point guard (Alex Caruso) who could deliver the ball to him in positions that allowed him to be effective. Much more will be expected from the sophomore this year, and for Texas A&M to come through on expectations, Davis will have to become one of the elite players in the SEC.

No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs

  • 2015-16 overall record (SEC) – 20-14 (10-8)
  • Key returnee – J.J. Frazier, 16.9 PPG, 4.4 APG
  • Key newcomer – Tyree Crump
  • Team Analysis: Georgia has hovered just below the upper tier of the SEC during most of Mark’s Fox’s tenure, but the Dawgs have pushed over .500 in league play in the past three seasons. With Frazier, a preseason all-SEC selection and one of the most underrated guards in the league, as well as junior forward Yante Maten, leading the way, the Bulldogs are well-positioned to make an NCAA Tournament run.
  • Burning QuestionCan the Bulldogs become a perennial top-tier SEC club? Fox is certainly regarded as a very good coach who has done a solid job at a school that regards basketball as an afterthought. But as he enters his eighth season in Athens, it is time for his team to become a consistent NCAA Tournament contender. With Thursday’s addition of 2017 top-40 recruit Rayshaun Hammonds and with Frazier and Maten leading this team, Fox may finally be able to build to that level.

No. 2 Florida

Mike White Begins Year Two on the Sideline in Gainesville (USA Today Images)

Mike White Begins Year Two on the Sideline in Gainesville (USA Today Images)

  • 2015-16 overall record (SEC) – 21-15 (9-9)
  • Key returnee – KeVaughn Allen, 11.6 PPG, 2.1 RPG
  • Key newcomer – Canyon Berry, graduate transfer from College of Charleston (19.7 PPG)
  • Team Analysis: Taking over for a legend is never easy and that was certainly the case in Mike White‘s first season replacing Billy Donovan. Plenty went wrong for the Gators, who missed the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. Things appear to have now stabilized, however, and it would be a surprise if the two-year NCAA drought were to continue.
  • Burning QuestionCan the Gators challenge Kentucky for the SEC championship? This may seem like an absurd question given how much Florida struggled last year. But with Allen, Berry and senior point guard Kasey Hill leading the way, the Gators should have a savvy group that wins a lot of games. While it may be a stretch to think they can win more than the Wildcats, they should be Kentucky’s closest challenger this season.

No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats

  • 2015-16 overall record (SEC) – 27-9 (13-5)
  • Key returnee – Isaiah Briscoe, 9.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG
  • Key newcomer – De’Aaron Fox
  • Team Analysis: Surprise, surprise. The Wildcats are very young and talented. Like most years in Lexington, last year’s wave of stars left after spending one or two years there, and head coach John Calipari has reloaded with a whopping five of the top 25 top freshmen in the nation. Fox, Malik Monk, and Bam Adebayo lead the way, and how this year’s sensational freshmen class meshes with the returning veterans will determine how far Kentucky plays into March.
  • Burning Question: Who is the Wildcats’ X-factor? While the freshmen always get the most attention at Kentucky, Calipari’s success has often depended upon how the veteran role players fare in his system. Senior forward Derek Willis, who shot a robust 44.2 percent from three-point range last season, will be a key to the Wildcats’ success. If he can stretch defenses with his shooting ability and continue to be effective on the glass, Kentucky will have a chance to make a much deeper run than last year’s disappointing Second Round exit.
David Changas (166 Posts)

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One response to “SEC Team Capsules: The Top Tier (#4-#1)”

  1. Tim says:

    Arkansas will finish in Top 4 100%

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