The SEC has become one of the best basketball conferences in the country lately, consistently having several teams go to the Big Dance and rotate around the top 25.
This quality makes the conference fiercely competitive, and most teams can beat any other on their day. The teams that eventually come out on top are those that are the most consistent and better coaches.
In 2020-21, Alabama and Arkansas were those teams. But they can’t rest on their laurels for the 2021-22 campaign. Most SEC teams have bolstered their rosters and will be better tan they were last season.
I anticipate that 2021-22 will be a dogfight in the SEC, but which teams will end up on top? Let’s examine how the teams stack up for what looks to be one of the most exciting SEC men’s basketball season in years!
SEC MEN’S BASKETBALL PREVIEW 2021-22
Favorites: Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU
Head coach: Nate Oates (3rd season)
2020-2021 record: 26-7 (16-2 in SEC)
Conference finish: 1st
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Despite the fierce competition I expect in the SEC, I predict that the Crimson Tide will be among the top teams and have a genuine chance to repeat as conference champions. Star players Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly will return and are supported by incoming five-star recruit JD Davison and four-star big Charles Bediako.
The team will be covered on both ends of the floor; it will be among the top-scoring teams in the conference and will be solid on defense. Alabama has all the ingredients to continue the fast-paced game Nate Oats loves, scoring from anywhere on the court, and will be a handful for any team in the SEC to handle. The Crimson Tide are also poised for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Head coach: John Calipari (13th season)
2020-2021 record: 9-16 (8-9 in SEC)
Conference finish: 8th
The Wildcats have revamped their roster following their dismal 2020-21 season. They have added experienced scorers in Kellan Grady, Sahvir Wheeler, CJ Fredrick, Oscar Tshiebwe, and five-star recruit Ty Ty Washington. This experience is what the team lacked last season, which resulted in its worst-ever season under John Calipari.
Coach Calipari has done exceptionally well to recruit experienced players who can address the ineffective shooting of the team in 2020-21. These players will transform the shooting fortunes of the Wildcats and bring them back as top contenders in SEC men’s basketball like they usually are. The Wildcats will also be a force in the NCAA Tournament!
Head Coach: Eric Musselman (3rd season)
2020-2021 record: 25-7 (13-4 in SEC)
Conference finish: 2nd
Arkansas was one of the best teams in the SEC last season, and head coach Eric Musselman has bolstered his roster for this one – the king of transfers has brought in Stanley Umude from South Dakota, Au’Diese Tony from Pitt, and Chris Lykes from Miami (FL). These additions will add to the already-potent attack at his disposal, including KK Robinson, Davonte Davis, and JD Notae.
This strong roster that Musselman has assembled will make the Razorbacks not only contenders for the SEC crown, but they are a serious threat to go deep in the Big Dance. They reached the Elite Eight last season; a Final Four isn’t out of the question this time around.
Head coach: Rick Barnes (7th season)
2020-2021 record: 18-9 (10-7 in SEC)
Conference finish: 4th
The Volunteers have an incredibly stacked roster heading into the 2021-22 season. They have returning senior John Fulkerson, along with Victor Bailey Jr., Josiah-Jordan James, and Santiago Vescovi. These top players will be joined by the power-packed Justin Powell, who transferred from Auburn, five-star recruit Kennedy Chandler, reclassified five-star Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, and the talented four-star recruit Jonas Aidoo.
Tennessee has all of its bases covered with the depth of a truly championship-caliber team. It will undoubtedly be in the reckoning at the top of the SEC and should be one of the conference’s teams to mount a serious challenge in a national scale in March. Could this be the year Tennessee reaches its first-ever Final Four?
Head coach: Will Wade (5th season)
2020-2021 record: 19-10 (11-6 in SEC)
Conference finish: 3rd
The Tigers are another genuine challenger in this stacked SEC. They have one of the best forwards in the league in Darius Days, who will lead their offense. They have also added Tari Eason (Cincinnati) and Adam Miller (Illinois), who are expected to make an immediate impact. LSU has also acquired five-star recruit Afton Reid to go along with the great batch of young players it already has.
These additions will allow LSU to be competitive immediately and be even better next season when the team is more experienced.
Contenders: Ole Miss, Florida, Auburn, Mississippi State
Head coach: Kermit Davis (4th season)
2020-2021 record: 16-12 (10-8 in SEC)
Conference finish: 6th
Head coach Kermit Davis has improved his roster by adding notable transfers Jaemyn Brakefield (Duke) and Nysier Brooks (Miami (FL)). Jarkel Joiner will return, and four-star recruit Daeshun Ruffin will also join the Rebels. This roster will make Ole Miss and legitimate contender capable of winning 13 games in the SEC, which might be enough to earn a share of the conference title in a league with so many teams that can beat each other.
The Rebels are one of the dark horse teams that shouldn’t be surprising if they perform exceptionally well.
Head coach: Mike White (7th season)
2020-2021 record: 15-10 (9-7 in SEC)
Conference finish: 5th
The Florida Gators are perennial contenders in the SEC and will again be a force this upcoming season. They’ll have star player Colin Castleton returning, along with Keyontae Johnson and Tyree Appleby. In addition to this quality returning talent, Myreon Jones has transferred in from Penn State, and four-star recruit Kowacie Reeves will add to the talent pool, making Florida’s rosters one of the deepest in the SEC.
I anticipate that the Gators will be very competitive this season and should not be ruled out as contenders for the SEC men’s basketball crown.
Head coach: Bruce Pearl (8th season)
2020-2021 record: 13-14 (7-11 in SEC)
Conference finish: 11th
Auburn is yet another NCAA Tournament-caliber team in the SEC. They’ll definitely finish higher in the standings than last season if everyone stays healthy, plus should still be playing ball in March.
With the additions of five-star recruit Jabari Smith, North Carolina transfer Walker Kessler, and Georgia transfer K.D. Johnson to an already-potent roster, including Allen Flanigan and several other offensive pieces, the Tigers are well-positioned to be one the teams to watch in 2021-22.
Head coach: Ben Howland (7th season)
2020-2021 record: 18-15 (8-10 in SEC)
Conference finish: 9th
Mississippi State has some experienced players in Iverson Molinar, Jalen Johnson, Abdul Ado, and Tolu Smith. It’s also added Rocket Watts (Michigan State), Shakeel Moore (NC State), Garrison Brooks (North Carolina), and D.J. Jeffries (Memphis) as head coach Ben Howland has been extremely active in the transfer portal, adding depth to his team’s frontcourt and backcourt.
With these top-notch improvements to their roster, the Bulldogs and Howland are letting everyone in the SEC know that they will be part of the dogfight in 2021-22. This should be a much different team from the one a year ago.
Stuck in Purgatory: Missouri, South Carolina, Texas A&M
Head coach: Cuonzo Martin (5th season)
2020-2021 record: 16-10 (8-8 in SEC)
Conference finish: 7th
Head coach Cuonzo Martin has put together a decent basketball program at Missouri, and he is continuing to build the Tigers into a competitive SEC team. He has retained the services of Kobe Brown and Javon Pickett and recruited DuJuan Gordon (Kansas) and Ronnie DeGray III (UMass), who will add depth to a reasonably-young Tigers roster.
They will need solid contributions from these experienced players, plus some of the recruits will need a breakout year to help the Tigers finish in the top half of the SEC with how deep this league is.
Head coach: Frank Martin (10th season)
2020-2021 record: 6-15 (4-12 in SEC)
Conference finish: 12th
The Gamecocks are another team that shouldn’t be written off in this competitive conference. Most of their players from last season are coming back, including the talented Jermaine Couisnard and Keyshawn Bryant. But South Carolina did lose a lot from its frontcourt after Justin Minaya – the team’s leading rebounder in 2020-21 – transferred to Providence and Jalyn McCreary – the team’s leading shot blocker in 2020-21 – exited for South Florida, not to mention A.J. Lawson’s departure to begin his pro career.
South Carolina has capable players in all positions on the court, and if everyone comes together, it can be competitive against any team in this league. But will the Gamecocks factor into the SEC title race? That’s hard to see.
Head coach: Buzz Williams (3rd season)
2020-2021 record: 8-10 (2-8 in SEC)
Conference finish: 13th
The Aggies are a bit of a sleeper that should be monitored in 2021-22. Their roster has been improved with the addition of Duke transfer Henry Coleman III, and they should get some offensive punch from four-star recruit Manny Obaseki.
Texas A&M has a decent backcourt with more of its top backcourt players from last season coming back. It could be the team that goes on a surprise run and causes some major upsets in the SEC. But with the incredible depth in this league this season, it’ll likely be a bottom-half finish for the Aggies.
Basement: Vanderbilt, Georgia
Head coach: Jerry Stackhouse (3rd season)
2020-2021 record: 9-16 (3-13 in SEC)
Conference finish: 14th
Vanderbilt has languished at the summit of the SEC in recent years, but it does have a few pieces who will get its fans excited. Scottie Pippen Jr. is a true superstar in the making, averaging 20.8 points last season, and is back to lead Vandy’s offense in 2021-22. Pippen will also have support from Minnesota transfer Liam Robbins and four-star recruit Shane Dezonie. This will be one of the most talented Vanderbilt rosters in recent times.
Head coach Jerry Stackhouse will have his hands full with the opposing competition, but he does have some genuine ballers at his disposal. The Commodores could sneak in some victories against top teams in the conference, but they’re not yet at the level to be contenders, especially with the expected level in the SEC.
Head coach: Tom Crean (4th season)
2020-2021 record: 14-12 (7-11 in SEC)
Conference finish: 10th
The Bulldogs had a decent team in 2020-21, allowing them to compete to a degree in what was a strong conference. However, their roster is certainly not deep enough to make them contenders, especially not in this SEC.
Georgia might spring some surprises in the season, but its roster has been totally decimated. All of its standout players from last season, including top scorers Sahvir Wheeler (Kentucky) and K.D. Johnson (Auburn) to transfers.
However, the Bulldogs managed to recruit a promising point guard in Aaron Cook (Gonzaga) as well as Jailyn Ingram (FAU) and Jabri Abdur-Rahim (Virginia) to give them some hope.
2021-22 SEC MEN’S BASKETBALL Players to Watch
JD Davison – Guard – Freshman – Alabama
JD Davison averaged a stunning 33.4 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, six steals, and four blocks per game last season in high school, showing his dominance all over the court. Alabama will have one of the best players in the country, and I’m excited to see how he will perform at the college level.
Davison is ranked No. 12 overall in the Class of 2021 and as the third-best point guard in the country, according to 247Sports. He should make an immediate impact as one of the best ballers in SEC basketball.
Jaden Shackelford – Guard – Junior – Alabama
Jaden Shackelford will form arguably the best one-two punch in the SEC with JD Davison. Shackelford made the All-SEC Second Team last season, and I anticipate he will continue to improve, especially with the quality of players around him.
I know I’ll be watching Shackelford throughout the season to see if he lives up to the lofty expectations. The link-up play with Davison will be box office worthy, and they can take the Crimson Tide to dazzling heights.
Scottie Pippen Jr. – Guard – Junior – Vanderbilt
Scottie Pippen Jr. is a genuine star who can make or break the season for Vanderbilt. He averaged more than 20 points per game last season, placing him second in the SEC in scoring. I expect him to play even better this upcoming campaign as the leader of the Vandy offense, and I’m looking forward to some crazy scoring numbers from him through the season.
If you don’t know, now you do – Pippen is very much worth checking out.
2021-22 MEN’S & WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL CONFERENCE PREVIEWS
Learn more about the upcoming 2021-22 men’s and women’s college basketball seasons with Nothing But Nylon’s extensive conference previews, with a new conference covered every week before the campaign tips off in November.