The offseason was full of major coaching changes in the SEC. Programs that continued to lose or were marred in controversy moved on from their coaching staff and brought fresh faces in to lead their programs. How will these programs gel heading into the 2022-23 SEC basketball season? Most of the programs that kept their staff have some of the best names in college basketball and are looking to win an SEC and NCAA title this season. The SEC has title contenders and this year it isn’t just the Kentucky Wildcats.
2022-23 SEC Basketball Season Preview
Alabama Crimson Tide
Nate Oats has firmly established himself as a top-level Head Coach in the SEC and NCAA. His biggest problem has been replacing the talent that he sends to the NBA each year. This year is the same, but a few key returners will have the Crimson Tide back in the NCAA Tournament. The two key returning players for the roster are senior guard Jahvon Quinerly and sophomore center Charles Bediako. They will be the leaders on the team for Oats this year and will be the driving forces on the team this year.
If Nate Oats is going to continue to put multiple guys in the NBA each year then his recruiting game will have to stay top-notch. His 2022 recruiting class is highlighted by five-star recruits Brandon Miller and Jaden Bradley who will likely head to the NBA after this season. Oats also added four-star recruits Rylan Griffin and Noah Clowney as well as JUCO transfer Nick Pringle. Alabama also has St. Bonaventure transfer Dominick Welch and Ohio transfer Mark Sears on the roster. Finally, the team has a wildcard on their roster. Texas Tech transfer Nimari Burnett was supposed to play last year but missed the year with a knee injury. If he returns to form, the Crimson Tide could make plenty of noise in the SEC this year.
A few years ago at Nevada, it felt inevitable that Eric Musselman would one day be a star Head Coach at a major program. He has proved himself with the Arkansas Razorbacks. The roster this year is effectively brand new after the program lost players to the NBA, graduation, and even a few transfers. Davonte Davis is the lone player returning this season that played in the main rotation for Arkansas last season. Experience is vital and Davis will need to have a key voice this season to effectively run Muselman’s scheme. Despite the lack of returners, Arkansas is a title contender this season, because of their incoming transfers and perhaps the best recruiting class the program has ever had.
The three key additions are the five-star recruits, combo guard Nick Smith, point guard Anthony Black, and small forward Jordan Walsh. These three players will likely be playing in the NBA next season. The team also adds a few four-star recruits that will fight for a role this season. It would not be an Eric Musselman roster without top-level transfers and this year is no different. The team adds Wichita State guard Ricky Council IV, Arizona State center Jalen Graham, Rhode Island big men Makhel and Makhl Mitchell, and finally Missouri forward Trevon Brazile. As long as the team gels they are full of talent and will be a Final Four contender.
Bruce Pearl has proven to be the guy for the job with the Auburn Tigers. Surviving scandal and winning games have highlighted his tenure with the program. Putting talent into the NBA and losing them early is a good problem to have, but replacing Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler will be vital. Luckily for Pearl, he has three key upperclassmen back this season and they will keep him near the top of the SEC this season. Auburn is bringing back senior guard Allen Flanigan, junior guard Wendell Green Jr, and junior guard K.D. Johnson. Pearl will likely need at least one player from last year’s team to step up into a bigger role this season.
Bruce Pearl has proven to be a talented recruiter and while this year’s freshman class is smaller it does have two players that should immediately contribute this season. Auburn’s 2022 class is highlighted by five-star center Yohan Traore as well as four-star small forward Chance Westry. The team is also bringing in Morehead State transfer center Johni Broome. Bruce Pearl and his ability to coach is a major reason why Aubrun will once again be a major player in the SEC this season.
Florida like many other SEC programs this offseason hired a new Head Coach. Todd Golden was hired away from a successful San Francisco program that was clearly on the rise. The SEC demands success and the window for proving yourself as a coach is small. Pressure is on, but Golden could prove he is ready to handle the job with a program that expects National Championship contention regardless of how capable the program is of that without Billy Donovan. Florida brings back leading scorer and rebounder, super senior big man Colin Castleton as well super senior guard Myreon Jones.
While those two will be vital for the team, the newcomers under the new regime will set the pace for where the program is heading into the future. The 2022 class has four-star shooting guard Riley Kugel and three-star combo guard Denzel Aberdeen coming in and while they will contribute this season the transfers will need to be the main focus. Flordia is bringing in St. Bonaventure point guard Kyle Lofton, Virginia Military Insititute point guard Trey Bonham, LSU small forward Alex Fudge, and Belmont combo guard Will Richard. Florida is likely a middle-of-the-road SEC team, but that should be good enough for a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
Speaking of Florida, before he could be fired Mike White left the program for their rivals the Georgia Bulldogs. The program has been a bottom feeder for some time now in the SEC and that likely won’t change this season. The team returns junior guard and leading scorer Kario Oquendo, senior center Braelen Bridges, and senior forward Jailyn Ingram. The team has one recruit coming in with four-star power forward KyeRon Lindsay, but several transfers that will reshape the roster. Georgia adds North Texas point guard Mardrez McBride, Syracuse Center Frank Anselem, Oklahoma State small forward Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe, Alabama small forward Jusaun Holt, Bradley combo guard Terry Roberts, and Longwood point guard Justin Hill. Time will tell if Mike White can turn the program around, but he did not do well with Florida.
John Calipari and the powerhouse Kentucky Wildcats are once again a title favorite this season. The program is used to five-star talent moving in and out of the program, but this year has a difference. Calipari and Kentucky have major returning names and look every bit the title contender they expect to be this season. The mix of returners and newcomers makes them a dangerous team this season. Kentucky returns player of the year center Oscar Tshiebwe, senior point guard Sahvir Wheeler, senior forward Jacob Toppin, junior forward Lance Ware, and sophomore big man Damion Collins. CJ Fredrick also returns after missing last season with an injury. The Iowa transfer was supposed to play at Kentucky last season but gets his chance this season.
Kentucky is no stranger to five-star freshmen and this year will be no different. They bring in five-star combo guard Cason Wallace, five-star small forward Chris Livingston, and four-star center Ugonna Kingsley Onyenso. Kentucky also has Illinois State small forward Antonio Reeves transferring into the program. This could shape up to be one of the better rosters that John Calipari has had and the team has major NCAA Championship aspirations this season when heading into the 2022-23 SEC basketball season.
Will Wade’s NCAA violations finally caught up to him and the program and because of that, he was fired. Murray State Head Coach Matt McMahon was hired to be the new Tiger’s Head Coach. The LSU Tigers effectively lost everyone between the NBA Draft and the transfer portal. Illinois transfer Adam Miller was hurt before the season last year and did not get to play for LSU, but he does return this year for the team. Outside of him, it will be new faces for a program that could have a fairly down year due to the high turnover. The Tigers bring in four-star small forward Tyrell Ward, four-star power forward Jalen Reed, and four-star center Shawn Phillips.
McMahon has also convinced some talented transfers to play for LSU as well. A trio of Murray State transfers follow their Head Coach in center KJ Williams, point guard Trae Hannibal, and point guard Justice Hill. They are joined by North Carolina State point guard Cam Hayes, Mississippi State small forward Derek Fountain, and Northwestern State power forward Kendal Coleman. The team’s season will hinge on how the three Murray State transfers handled playing in the SEC. LSU could be a fringe NCAA Tournament team this season.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Like many other SEC programs, Mississippi State is starting over and has a new Head Coach with former New Mexico State Head Coach Chris Jans. Expectations are not particularly high this season for the Bulldogs despite many believing in Jans for the future. The team does return senior forward Tolu Smith and D.J. Jeffries which does offer some stability. Transfers will have to step up and save the day if the Bulldogs hope to compete. They bring in Southern Miss power forward Tyler Stevenson, Albany point guard Jamel Horton, Southeast Missouri State combo guard Eric Reed, New Mexico State center William McNair Jr, and Oregon State shooting guard DaShawn Davis. Overall the program is rebuilding and this year will show the growing pains.
The Missouri Tigers are yet another SEC team with a new Head Coach. Dennis Gates joins the team after three years of leading Cleveland State. There are major question marks about his readiness for the SEC and his roster won’t do him any favors. The one major returner is the leading scorer and rebounder senior guard Kobe Brown. Several players that didn’t have large roles will need to step up this season or the Tigers will be a bad basketball team. The team has three key names coming in as recruits. Four-star small forward Aidan Shaw as well as JUCO prospects Mohamed Diarra and Sean East should all factor in this season. The team has several transfers that could impact the team, but the best player on the team next year should be Missouri State transfer Shooting Guard Isiaih Mosely. He and Kobe Brown will need a lot of help to keep the Tigers relevant this year.
Ole Miss Rebels
The program decided not to fire Head Coach Kermit Davis this off-season, but that means he is firmly on the hot seat. This season the program returns junior guard Matthew Murrell and sophomore guard Daeshun Ruffin. They were major players last season for Ole Miss and will need to be that again. Ole Miss brings in four-star center Mallque Ewin and four-star point guard Amaree Abram. They can both be impact freshmen, but the team will need their three transfers to play well. Transferring into the program are Buffalo power forward Josh Mballa, Louisiana center Theo Akwuba, and Jackson State power forward Jayveous McKinis. Kermit Davis will need to pull a rabbit out of his hat to save his job this season.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Moving on from Frank Martin probably needed to happen, but replacing him with Chatanooga’s Lamont Paris could be considered questionable. The team doesn’t return much from a poor roster which could be a good thing. Making the season about one player likely isn’t ideal, but it’s the situation the program finds itself in. Five-Star Power Forward and South Carolina native GG Jackson will be the star of the show this season. His ability to carry this team as a freshman is unlikely, but it should get him drafted in the lottery of the 2023 NBA Draft. South Carolina will likely be near or at the bottom of the SEC once again.
Rick Barnes nearly has winning down to a science at this point. Recruit, develop, NBA, repeat is the name of the game for the Volunteers. The team returns several key names including sharpshooter senior guard Santiago Vescovi and senior guard Josiah-Jordan James. Experience is key in a Barnes-led program and this year will be no different in the SEC. Sophomore guard Zakai Zeigler and senior forward Olivier Nkamhoua could see increased roles and will need to produce this year in those roles. The Volunteers have the experience for a deep run in the SEC and NCAA Tournaments. Their incoming talent is also stellar and could help set them apart.
Five-star small forward Julian Phillips headlines the Tennessee 2022 recruiting class. Phillips has “one and done” aspirations and should compete for the SEC Freshman of the Year award. Joining him are four-star point guard BJ Edwards and four-star small forward DJ Jefferson. Both recruits should contribute some as freshmen this season. Indiana State transfer point guard Tyreke Key should play consistently and could be a big factor on the team this season. Barnes will have to beat some talented SEC teams, but he is capable and the team could once again win the SEC.
Texas A&M Aggies
The Buzz Willaims era with Texas A&M has been a work in progress thus far, but the team did make it all the way to the NIT Championship game last season. The team returns three key players this season in junior forward Henry Coleman III, senior guard Tyrece Radford, and sophomore guard Wade Taylor IV. They will be major factors this season if the team hopes to compete in the 2022-23 SEC basketball season. Transferring into the program are Mississippi State forwards Jalen Johnson and Andersson Garcia as well as Arkansas point guard KK Robinson and Michigan State power forward Julius Marble. The Aggies aren’t in a position to win the SEC, but they can easily right last year’s wrongs and make the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
There may not be a hotter coaching seat in the NCAA than Jerry Stackhouse’s heading into the 2022-23 SEC basketball season. The team got better and made the NIT quarterfinals last season, but the past three seasons have been dreadful overall. Stackhouse returns two key names in senior guard Jordan Wright and junior forward Myles Stute. It will be up to the newcomers to help those two win games this season. A trio of four-star recruits should contribute this season as freshmen and have a shot at being big-impact players. Those three are center Lee Dort, point guard Noah Shelby, and power forward Colin Smith. Vanderbilt also brings in Wisconsin-Green Bay power forward Emmanuel Ansong and UC Davis point guard Ezra Manjon. Will the NIT save Stackhouse’s job this season? It may be the best this team can manage.