Who Will Win This Year’s SEC Basketball Championship?
by Rick Bouch Scores & Statson
Last year, it was Auburn that wound up as the SEC representative in the Final Four. Head coach Bruce Pearl lost his best player, Bryce Young, to the NBA but returns enough talent to be a contender once again. Florida became the destination of a well-sought after 6-10 talent in Kerry Blackshear Jr. and will be in the mix. Of course, Kentucky and another crop of five-star freshmen including Tyrese Maxey and Kahlil Whitney will be one of the favorites to win this year’s SEC title.
There are new coaches at Texas A&M (Buzz Williams), Alabama (Nate Oats), and Arkansas (Eric Musselman). Each one of them could start a major turnaround in Year 1. Tennessee enjoyed a banner season a year ago but lost a ton of talent. It should be an exciting race to the finish in 2019-20.
The Favorites Most college basketball predictions are convinced this year’s SEC race will come down to Kentucky and Florida. Head coach John Calipari has another crop of talented freshmen to add to Ashton Hagans. The one problem the Wildcats might have is on the inside, but Calipari does a great job of inspiring players like E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards.
The Gators became a favorite the moment graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. announced he was headed to Florida. The 6-10 Blackshear was one of the best players in the ACC at Virginia Tech a year ago. Head coach Mike White had a banner recruiting year and brought in two freshmen that should contribute immediately - Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann.
The Almost Favorites Pearl has done an outstanding job of building a winner at Auburn. With Brown and Jared Harper are gone, it’s hard to believe the Tigers would earn a return trip to the Final Four. But, expect the Tigers to contend for the SEC title. This will likely be Pearl’s best defensive team and J’Von McCormick and Samir Doughty are talented enough to keep the Tigers in the fight.
The mess that included LSU head coach Will Wade appears to have been sorted out. Wade returns along with Javante Smart who both were mentioned in the NCAA-FBI investigation. With both returning, a cast of very good athletes, and freshman Trendon Watford upfront, the Tigers should be an upper-tier team in the SEC after winning the regular-season title a year ago.
The Surprise Not all that long ago, Nate Oats was a high school basketball coach just outside Detroit, Michigan. Now, he is the head coach at Alabama and he may very well turn the Tide around. He’s got sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. and 3-point shooter John Petty, but he’ll need to find a front line. Oats turned around the program at Buffalo and can do the same in Tuscaloosa.
The Flop Exactly one year after finishing second to LSU in the SEC, Tennessee could be headed for the bottom. Head coach Rick Barnes loses SEC Player of the Year Grant Grant Wiliams along with Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone. Barnes will have a pretty good freshman in Josiah-Jordan James, but his talent pool will be lacking in 2019-20. The 26-9 record from a year ago could be reversed this season.