Friday October 28th, 2016

Sports Illustrated’s 2016–17 preview is guided by data from our College Basketball Projection System, a collaboration between economist Dan Hanner and SI’s Luke Winn and Jeremy Fuchs. We project teams on a player-by-player, lineup-based level and then simulate the season 10,000 times to generate our 1–351 national rankings and conference forecasts.

These are the model’s projections for the SEC, including individual awards, the teams’ order of finish and (advanced and raw) stats for the top seven players in each school’s rotation.

Find more about how our projection system works here, and read all of our 2016–17 preview content here.

The Big Picture

No surprise here at the top: Kentucky, led by an outstanding stable of freshman prospects, is our projected No. 1 team. And there’s a familiar face in the second spot too, as Florida makes its return to the SEC’s elite in Year 2 of the Mike White era. As with previous years of SEC basketball, there may be only four NCAA tournament qualifiers from a league of 14 teams. SEC basketball fever isn’t quite here yet, but there’s hope for the future.

College Basketball
Josh Hart, Grayson Allen lead SI's player of the year projections

Player of the Year: Malik Monk, Kentucky

The Wildcats’ third-highest-rated recruit (and the nation’s ninth), according to the Ratings Services Consensus Index, projects as the SEC’s best player overall thanks in part to an expected sizable role in Kentucky’s offense. Some of the explosive backcourt playmaker’s toughest competition for the award will come from a pair of his classmates in Lexington, but as the central offensive piece on the league’s best team—and a top-flight national title contender—Monk gets the nod for the hardware.

Newcomer of the Year: Monk, Kentucky

So . . . how about that Malik Monk? Not only does he project as the conference’s best player—he’s also new, setting him up for a second superlative. Aside from John Calipari’s other superfrosh, Bam Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox, Monk’s challengers for this title will likely be the league’s newly eligible transfers, chiefly projected Alabama leading scorer Nick King (a forward who transferred from Memphis) or Ole Miss guards Deandre Burnett (Miami) and Cullen Neal (New Mexico), who project as the Rebels’ top two scorers.

All-Conference Team & Sixth Man

PG: J.J. Frazier, Georgia
SG: Malik Monk, Kentucky
PF: Bam Adebayo, Kentucky
PF: Tyler Davis, Texas A&M
PF: Moses Kingsley, Arkansas
6th man: PG: De'Aaron Fox, Kentucky

College Basketball
Washington's Markelle Fultz, Duke's Jayson Tatum lead top projected freshmen scorers

Projected Order of Finish

(Projected conference record in parentheses. The tiebreaker for teams with identical records is their standing in SI’s 1–351 national rankings, which will be revealed in early November.)

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Kentucky 16–2 13–5
2 Florida 11–7 9–9
3 Texas A&M 11–7 13–5
4 Vanderbilt 10–8 11–7
5 Georgia 9–9 10–8
6 Arkansas 9–9 9–9
7 Ole Miss 9–9 10–8
8 Mississippi State 9–9 7–11
9 South Carolina 8–10 11–7
10 Auburn 8–10 5–13
11 Alabama 8–10 8–10
12 Tennessee 7–11 6–12
13 LSU 7–11 11–7
14 Missouri 4–14 3–15

The Skinny on Each Team

1. Kentucky (16–2)

As usual, when it comes to pedigree, few can compare to Kentucky’s stable of studs. Among the Wildcats’ 11 scholarship players, only three were not top-60 RSCI recruits. One of those was senior forward Derek Willis, a three-star prospect who projects to repeat as Kentucky’s most efficient player this season in his limited offensive role. After ranking as the nation’s best in 2014–15, the Wildcats’ defense sagged to 32nd in efficiency last season. It projects to return to the top five this season, bringing the team’s title hopes with it.

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Malik Monk Fr SG 16.0 2.1 2.5 117.1 25% 77%
De'Aaron Fox Fr PG 12.9 1.7 3.9 117.6 21% 77%
Bam Adebayo Fr C 12.5 6.9 0.8 116.3 24% 63%
Derek Willis Sr PF 11.1 6.3 0.7 125.6 16% 68%
Isaiah Briscoe So PG 10.9 5.1 3.3 109.1 20% 80%
Wenyen Gabriel Fr PF 7.2 4.7 0.6 110.3 20% 45%
Isaac Humphries So C 5.0 5.4 0.4 109.9 15% 50%

2. Florida (11–7)

Mike White’s second season in Gainesville should see the Gators return to the SEC”s top half—and the NCAA tournament—despite losing leading scorer Dorian Finney-Smith to graduation. Part of that slack will be picked up by graduate transfer Canyon Barry (son of Hall of Famer Rick) and increased usage for forward Devin Robinson, the team’s most efficient option last season.

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Kevaughn Allen So SG 12.7 3.2 1.8 116.1 20% 72%
John Egbunu Jr C 11.6 6.8 0.6 112.5 22% 63%
Devin Robinson Jr SF 10.5 5.5 0.8 121.7 19% 60%
Canyon Barry Sr SG 10.0 3.4 1.0 104.7 23% 52%
Kasey Hill Sr PG 9.2 2.2 3.3 101.6 24% 56%
Justin Leon Sr PF 8.2 5.0 0.6 115.1 17% 55%
Chris Chiozza Jr PG 7.6 2.6 3.8 108.9 20% 59%

3. Texas A&M (11–7)

Conference player of the year candidate Tyler Davis will get help from fellow sophomores Admon Gilder and D.J. Hogg, top-100 recruits who project as double-digit scorers in their first season as starters. More concerning may be replacing the now-graduated Anthony Collins, Alex Caruso and Danuel House from a top-10 defense.

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Tyler Davis So C 14.3 7.5 1.0 114.4 24% 70%
Admon Gilder So PG 13.1 3.9 3.1 113.1 19% 83%
D.J. Hogg So SF/PF 11.6 5.1 1.6 109.7 20% 73%
Tonny Trocha-Morelos Jr C 10.9 6.5 1.3 106.1 21% 68%
Eric Vila Fr SF 7.6 4.9 0.9 95.8 19% 58%
J.C. Hampton Sr PG/SG 6.1 1.6 1.6 99.8 21% 40%
Robert Williams Fr PF 4.8 3.0 0.4 105.1 17% 38%

4. Vanderbilt (10–8)

Despite the departure of two NBA first-rounders, new coach Bryce Drew could return the Commodores to the NCAA tourney fringe if smooth-shooting Matthew Fisher-Davis and Jeff Roberson take well to their increased roles. A key X-factor will be the health of 7-footer Luke Kornet after off-season foot surgery.

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Matthew Fisher-Davis Jr SF 12.7 4.3 1.6 120.4 17% 78%
Jeff Roberson Jr SF 12.3 6.5 1.7 122.8 19% 77%
Riley LaChance Jr CG 12.1 3.8 3.4 108.1 21% 84%
Luke Kornet Sr PF 10.0 6.5 1.5 109.5 22% 65%
Nolan Cressler Sr SG 8.1 3.1 1.1 104.0 24% 44%
Camron Justice So SG 7.4 2.7 0.9 103.9 19% 47%
Joe Toye So SF 6.6 3.2 0.7 104.0 21% 40%

5. Georgia (9–9)

The Bulldogs have a young trio of rim protectors in junior Yante Maten (7.0% block percentage last season) and sophomores Derek Ogbeide (6.1%) and Mike Edwards (3.5%), who helped them rank seventh nationally in the category last season. Undersized senior guard JJ Frazier is a projected All-SEC first-teamer, but Georgia lacks the complementary offense to make a tourney return.

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
J.J. Frazier Sr PG 16.6 3.9 4.3 117.0 25% 82%
Yante Maten Jr PF/C 16.2 8.0 0.9 106.0 27% 76%
Tyree Crump Fr SG 9.7 3.2 1.7 101.4 19% 69%
Derek Ogbeide So PF 6.1 6.1 0.7 96.4 20% 50%
Jordan Harris Fr SG 5.7 1.1 0.9 100.3 18% 43%
Juwan Parker Jr SG 5.2 2.6 1.0 100.3 18% 43%
Mike Edwards So PF 3.5 3.6 0.4 91.7 15% 41%

6. Arkansas (9–9)

A fleet of transfers—forward Dustin Thomas from Colorado and ex-jucos Jaylen Barford, Daryl Macon, and Arlando Cook—will fill out the Razorbacks’ rotation, but none project as true difference-makers. Arkansas will also have to replace the marksmanship of Anthlon Bell, who shot 44.1% from three last year on 6.3 attempts per game.

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Dusty Hannahs Sr SG 16.5 2.5 1.3 118.3 24% 68%
Moses Kingsley Sr PF 16.4 8.8 1.2 115.2 26% 74%
Anton Beard Jr PG 8.9 2.3 2.1 108.7 19% 60%
Jaylen Barford Jr PG 7.6 3.0 2.2 103.8 19% 56%
Daryl Macon Jr SG 7.6 2.8 1.2 103.8 19% 52%
Dustin Thomas Jr PF 6.9 3.5 0.7 105.8 20% 48%
Arlando Cook Jr PF 6.6 4.2 0.5 103.8 19% 45%

7. Ole Miss (9–9)

Burnett and Neal’s arrivals from Miami and New Mexico, respectively, give the Rebels a pair of gunners to replace Stefan Moody, but neither projects as Moody’s heir in terms of efficiency. Coach Andy Kennedy has also said he is expecting an increased shooting range from forward Sebastian Saiz, a standout rebounder and double-double threat who played part of last season with a detached retina.

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Deandre Burnett Jr SG 13.5 3.5 1.6 104.4 23% 72%
Cullen Neal Sr PG 11.7 3.9 3.7 98.9 23% 78%
Sebastian Saiz Sr C 11.5 7.9 0.7 114.8 21% 68%
Rasheed Brooks Sr SG 9.6 3.7 1.8 105.0 18% 71%
Marcanvis Hymon Jr SF 8.6 6.0 0.9 113.1 19% 59%
Justas Furmanavicius Jr SF 7.6 4.4 0.9 101.5 20% 52%
Nate Morris Fr PF 4.5 3.1 0.4 99.4 18% 34%

Rob Foldy/Getty

8. Mississippi State (9–9)

Senior point guard I.J. Ready is the only upperclassman on the Bulldogs’ roster, which features six freshmen. A projected modest improvement in coach Ben Howland’s second season depends on the readiness of those half-dozen recruits, who all rank between Nos. 48 and 100 in the RSCI. Hometown hero Tyson Carter, who starred on the team’s preseason tour of Italy, projects to make the biggest immediate impact.

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Quinndary Weatherspoon So SG 13.5 4.7 1.7 111.7 23% 73%
Tyson Carter Fr PG 9.7 4.1 3.3 102.6 19% 73%
I.J. Ready Sr PG 9.6 2.2 4.1 108.9 20% 73%
Mario Kegler Fr SF 8.7 4.2 1.2 105.2 20% 56%
Schnider Herard Fr C 7.4 4.4 0.7 103.1 19% 51%
Abdul Ado Fr C 6.2 3.9 0.5 102.6 19% 43%
Xavian Stapleton So SG 6.1 2.1 0.7 104.8 21% 35%

9. South Carolina (8–10)

After last season’s undefeated run into January, SI’s system forecasts a step back for the Gamecocks. Their highest share of offense is projected to go to 6' 6" sophomore wing P.J. Dozier, who posted an offensive rating of just 78.9 last season in a high-volume, medium-minutes role. Even a large bump in efficiency could leave Dozier lacking.

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Sindarius Thornwell Sr PG/SG 14.3 5.3 3.7 111.3 22% 84%
Duane Notice Sr SG 12.2 2.9 3.0 117.7 19% 76%
P.J. Dozier So SG 10.3 4.2 2.5 95.8 25% 65%
Chris Silva So PF 10.2 7.3 0.6 107.5 22% 62%
Ran Tut Jr PF 7.0 4.8 0.5 102.6 19% 48%
Sedee Keita Fr PF 6.5 4.6 0.5 103.8 18% 48%
Hassani Gravett So PG 4.5 1.7 1.3 100.4 19% 34%

10. Auburn (8–10)

Last season’s dismal finish—12 losses in 14 games—does not portend well for the Tigers, but there are reasons for longer-term hope. Forward Danjel Purifoy (now eligible after redshirting last year due to ACT issues) and top-20 guard Mustapha Heron are promising freshmen who will be afforded ample court time to grow.

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Bryce Brown So SG 10.5 2.4 1.0 105.9 20% 60%
Mustapha Heron Fr SG 9.8 3.6 1.5 109.3 22% 55%
Danjel Purifoy Fr SF 8.5 4.4 1.1 102.4 19% 58%
Ronnie Johnson Sr PG 8.5 2.2 2.5 105.9 23% 50%
T.J. Dunans Sr SG 8.1 2.3 2.0 100.1 23% 50%
T.J. Lang Jr SG 7.9 3.0 0.9 116.5 14% 62%
Horace Spencer So PF 7.8 6.0 0.7 98.1 22% 58%

11. Alabama (8–10)

Year 2 of the Avery Johnson administration will feature heavy dosages of Nick King, a former top-50 recruit who averaged 7.2 points and 4.8 rebounds at Memphis in 2014–15. One place Johnson’s team could most readily improve its efficiency is the line: the Tide shot a paltry 64.3% on free throws last season.

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Nick King Jr SF 10.6 7.2 1.1 105.4 24% 64%
Shannon Hale Sr PF 9.2 2.6 0.8 98.0 27% 48%
Dazon Ingram So PG 9.0 5.5 3.7 97.8 21% 76%
Riley Norris Jr SF 8.5 5.2 0.9 106.1 17% 70%
Corban Collins Sr PG 8.2 2.9 2.5 105.3 19% 60%
Ar'mond Davis Jr SG 6.2 2.9 1.1 98.6 20% 45%
Jimmie Taylor Sr PF 4.9 3.7 0.4 101.3 18% 42%

12. Tennessee (7–11)

Eight new players will suit up in Knoxville this season, but the results project to be similar to last season, with the Volunteers near the SEC’s bottom. To avoid that, Rick Barnes will have to find some outside scoring from the newbies: Shembari Phillips is the only returnee to shoot better than 30.3% from outside.

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Detrick Mostella Jr SG 12.7 3.0 1.6 101.3 24% 68%
Robert Hubbs III Sr SG 12.1 4.2 1.3 113.7 21% 70%
Admiral Schofield So SF 11.6 5.9 1.4 111.8 20% 70%
Lamonte Turner Fr PG 9.2 1.8 3.5 103.5 18% 72%
Lew Evans Sr PF 8.5 5.2 0.9 102.0 23% 54%
Shembari Phillips So SG 7.3 2.5 1.3 99.5 20% 50%
Kwe Parker Fr SG 5.6 1.9 0.9 101.6 19% 40%

13. LSU (7–11)

If Tigers fans thought their year with Ben Simmons was a disappointment, the post-Simmons hangover could be even harder to stomach. LSU projects to have the SEC’s third-worst defense, which is actually only one spot lower than a year ago.

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Antonio Blakeney So SG 14.8 3.9 1.4 115.4 21% 76%
Craig Victor II Jr PF 12.6 6.2 0.9 105.5 24% 67%
Brandon Sampson So SG 9.9 3.3 1.8 100.7 20% 67%
Branden Jenkins So SG 8.9 3.5 2.5 96.7 21% 63%
Duop Reath So PF 7.4 4.9 0.5 96.7 21% 48%
Jalyn Patterson Jr PG 6.3 1.8 1.8 110.6 14% 57%
Aaron Epps Jr PF 5.1 2.9 0.4 102.9 19% 33%

14. Missouri (4–14)

A quartet of sophomores (one of which, Jordan Geist, is new as a juco transfer) will lead Kim Anderson’s rebuild and try to win their first Division I game away from Mizzou Arena. They’ll get a boost in December when 6' 7" forward Jordan Barnett, a transfer from Texas, becomes eligible.

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Kevin Puryear So PF 13.6 6.1 0.7 101.3 24% 74%
K.J. Walton So SG 11.5 3.9 1.9 105.8 23% 71%
Terrence Phillips So PG 10.5 4.1 4.0 97.2 22% 80%
Jordan Geist So PG/SG 8.0 2.8 2.3 95.1 21% 60%
Jordan Barnett Jr SF 7.9 4.9 1.1 96.0 20% 34%
Mitchell Smith Fr PF 5.6 3.8 0.4 99.5 15% 51%
Cullen VanLeer So SG 5.5 1.9 1.0 97.2 17% 48%

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.