Bama Hoops Hype

DiSECting the SEC (Part 3) – Rebels, ‘Backs, Gamecocks, Gators, and ‘Cats

Joe Habshey - Bama Hoops Hype

Ole Miss Rebels [22-14] (10-8)

While not a terrible season on paper, Head Coach Andy Kennedy surely expected more from his squad than a loss in the NIT Quarterfinals. In his 11th season, his Rebels went 22-14 but failed to ever gain traction as a team. For a coach that has an impressive winning percentage of 62.5% it should be NCAA Tournament or bust at this point. The Rebels have made it to the tournament just twice under Kennedy, however, managing two wins in 2013 during the Marshall Henderson show. The fact that the Rebels appear content with just slightly above average seasons is alarming. That could change in a big way in the ’17-18’ season though.

At the rate SEC basketball is growing, nearly every team in the conference could be knocking on the door of a conference title within a few short years. If the Rebels can’t go from above average to great soon, they’ll get lost in the weeds and bushes that will have grown up around them. I fully expect Andy Kennedy to see that as well.

Hotty Toddy will lose a huge part of their team from this season to graduation in Sebastian Saiz, who averaged a double-double on the year. However, they will return guard duo Deandre Burnett (16.5 ppg) and Terrance Davis (15 ppg) in 2017-18 to pair up with their 44th-rated recruiting class. 4-star shooting guard Devontae Shuler will be expected to contribute immediately in a scoring capacity as a sixth-man.  6-7 small forward Jamarko Pickett could also see a role as a wing player if he is able to add weight to his slender frame.

Ole Miss basketball has been good under Andy Kennedy, but never great. As one of the SEC’s longest tenured coaches, fans will begin to expect more from the Rebels as the rest of the SEC continues to grow and advance in the tournament. As good a coach as Kennedy is, he has a handful of tools at his disposal and could take another step forward if the returning players grow and the recruits carve out a niche.

 

South Carolina Gamecocks [26-11] (12-6)

Who does Head Coach Frank Martin think he is taking a team from the SEC that’s neither Florida or Kentucky to the Final Four? Does he not know that’s against the unspoken rules of the Southeastern Conference?

Well, he did it anyway, and showed the rest of the conference that they, too, can do it too with a little magic and a glass slipper. The Gamecocks looked down and out after a second loss to Alabama in the SEC Tournament. Then, Sindarious Thornwell happened. The guard-forward hybrid paced the Gamecocks all season with averages of 21.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists and he shouldered the load all the way to Phoenix. He averaged 23.6 points, 7 rebounds, and nearly 2 steals in the Gamecocks’ five game tournament stretch.

He won’t be back next season. As a senior, he was set to graduate anyways, but with his play all season he’s now listed in nearly every mock draft as a 2nd round selection. While losing Thornwell and guard PJ Dozier – who averaged 15.6 points and 5 rebounds on 51% shooting in the tourney – to the NBA is a crushing blow for Martin’s squad, losing Duane Notice to graduation just adds fuel to the fire. The 6-2 Toronto native helped the Gamecocks’ postseason surge with his ability to drive to the rim at a moment’s notice.

The news isn’t all bad for South Carolina next season, though. Power forward Chris Silva is set to return to Coloinial Life Arena after putting up 13 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game in this year’s March Madness tournament. Combined with scrappy Brooklyn native Rakym Felder, the Gamecocks could yet again be a dangerous team, even with the loss of perhaps their best player in school history.

Their Final Four appearance will also undoubtedly give them a bump in recruiting as they are currently only ranked as 51st in the country. Their class, however, consists of four players that could come in and fight for minutes. David Beatty – a 4-star combo guard – could come in and help fill the holes left by Notice and Thornwell in the starting lineup. The rest of SC’s class is composed of bigs – including 7-0 center Jason Cudd – who hope to give South Carolina added depth behind Silva in the frontcourt.

It truly was a magical season for South Carolina, and while returning to the Final Four without the player that got you there is unlikely, the Gamecocks should be a dangerous and experienced team come next March. Watch out for Cinderella.

 

Arkansas Razorbacks [26-10] (12-6)

A win over Seton Hall in the 1st Round and an impressive showing versus eventual-champion North Carolina should make Razorbacks’ fans scream ‘Pig Soiee’ for the ’17-’18 season.

While a return to the NCAA Tournament appears promising, Mike Anderson’s team will be without leading scorer Dusty Hannahs and NBA-hopeful Moses Kingsley next year. However, guards Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford – whom averaged 26 points a game combined – are coming back to Fayetteville along with the nation’s 30th-ranked recruiting class. Included in that class could be Kingsley’s replacement in 4-star power forward Daniel Gafford – considered to be the 33rd best player in the class.

In addition to Gafford, 4-star shooting guard Khalil Garland is also poised to earn playing time next year. At 6-6, Garland can also play on the wing leaving Barford and Macon in the backcourt.

Though Mike Anderson’s seat was warming up, it should now be cooled off drastically. Next season’s Razorbacks team has the potential to fight for the SEC and could still be alive late next March.

 

Florida Gators [27-9] (14-4)

Elite 8. #28 Recruiting Class. 2nd in the SEC behind Kentucky. Yep, it seems Billy Donovan’s Gators are right where they should be.

Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Head Coach Mike White’s Gators have hardly missed a step since Donovan left for the NBA two seasons ago, so it’s easy to confuse his success with what Donovan was doing. 2017-18 should be no different.

Despite losing Devin Robinson, Kasey Hill, Canyon Berry, and Justin Leon next season, the Gators will still look to contend for the national title with the likes of Tournament-star KeVaughn Allen and big-man John Egbnu – who should return form his season-ending injury next year.

In addition, the aforementioned recruiting class touts two 4-stars and two 3-stars, all of which can come in and vouch for playing time. Leading the pack will be DeAundrea Ballard, a 6-6 small forward from Atlanta who averaged over 27 points and 6 rebounds a game in his senior year. Hoping to replace Devin Robinson’s production will be the massive, 285-pound 4-star Isaiah Stokes from Memphis, Tennessee.

It’s business as usual in the Swamp, as Mike White has done a tremendous job in keeping the level of play consistently high. While the Gators were knocked out by SEC-comrade South Carolina in this year’s Elite Eight, it’s reasonable to expect them to have the opportunity to advance again next year.

 

Kentucky Wildcats [32-6] (16-2)

If I could get away with just typing a set of ellipses here I’d do it like so: …… However, the Big Blue Nation may have quite the season ahead of them next year so they will be the talk of the SEC.

As always, they should have at least three players taken in the upcoming draft. Malik Monk and DeAaron Fox are both projected top-10 picks while Bam Adebayo and Isaiah Briscoe are late first-round/early second-round prospects. So, the question is the same as it usually is for the ‘Cats: Who is coming in to replace them?

Simply put, Calipari’s Wildcats are the perfect example of the rich getting richer. With the #1 overall class, they should have yet another run at a title. In all, this class includes five – yes five – 5-star recruits, many of which are McDonald’s All-Americans. The only non-five-star player is actually listed as a 5-star on a handful of different recruiting services.

Early-enrollee Hamidou Diallo and Quade Green will make up what should be an explosive backcourt. 6-8 small forward Jarred Vanderbilt should be a tremendous player at the 3 or 4 spot as he has shown the ability to do both. Holstering the front court will be 6-11 center Nick Richards and 6-8 forward PJ Washington. These big-men will have their hands full as they will have to replace the production of not just Adebayo but also graduating forward Derek Willis. Should he choose to return, guard Isaiah Briscoe (12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) will have a very talented team to play with once again.

While Kentucky is used to it, next year could be an incredibly special year. They could have their entire starting lineup – and most of their bench – drafted in next year’s NBA draft. Should it all come together, Kentucky fans should pack their bags for a Final Four trip. If not, expect Calipari’s seat to become a little toasty.

Jake Weaver is a contributor to Bama Hoops Hype and Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Contact him via email [email protected], phone @ 205-612-5060, or Twitter @JAWeaver0.

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