The SEC men’s basketball season starts next Tuesday, Nov. 9! Yes, we’re still in the heart of football season, but this men’s hoops season figures to be one of the most competitive in recent history.

The transfer portal has led to major roster shakeups for all 14 teams, which means we’ll have to get used to new faces in new places in a hurry.

But the SEC should be as competitive as it has been recently. So, how do the 14 teams stack up as we prepare for opening night?

Here are our SEC preseason power rankings:

14. Georgia

No coach enters the 2021-22 season on a hotter seat than Tom Crean. It’s time for the Bulldogs to take a step forward, but Crean will have to try to do that with perhaps his worst roster yet. Add in the fact that PJ Horne, the team’s only returning starter, will miss the year with a knee injury, and things are looking bleak in Athens.

Fortunately, the Georgia football team is looking like a title contender, so not many folks in Athens will pay much attention to this team until mid-January. I like Aaron Cook (a transfer guard from Gonzaga) a lot, and fellow transfers like Jailyn Ingram and Jabri Abdur-Rahim could develop into nice pieces. But this team has a long road to respectability. We’ll see if they can get there by the time SEC play starts and fans start tuning in.

13. Texas A&M

Getting Andre Gordon and Quenton Jackson back is a good start for Buzz Williams’ squad. However, those guys didn’t get a ton of consistent experience last year, as no team was hit harder (or more frequently) by COVID-19 than the Aggies. They literally did not play in the month of February due to COVID issues.

But this team has a talented freshman in Manny Obaseki, a Duke transfer (Henry Coleman III) and a couple of other intriguing pieces to work with. I just think it’s going to take most of the year for this team to jell.

12. South Carolina

Keyshawn Bryant coming back is the only reason the Gamecocks aren’t dead last on my list. I think Bryant takes a step toward becoming a star this season. Jermaine Couisnard will be a solid player and Frank Martin-coached teams are always tough, but if a couple of transfer players don’t step up, it’s going to be a long year in Columbia.

Josh Gray (LSU), Erik Stevenson (Washington), AJ Wilson (George Mason), James Reese V (North Texas) and Chico Carter Jr. (Murray State) make up the group of transfers from which a couple of guys will have to emerge. We’ll see.

11. Vanderbilt

I realize I’m higher on Vanderbilt than a lot of folks, but I think it is huge for this squad that Scotty Pippen Jr. is back. He was just voted the Preseason Player of the Year by SEC media members, and he has the chance to develop into an absolute star.

The Commodores have had absolutely horrendous injury luck in recent years. In fact, Pippen is one of their only stars not to miss significant time due to injury. Darius Garland, Aaron Nesmith and Dylan Disu have all missed time in recent years. If Pippen, Jordan Wright and Trey Thomas all stay healthy this year, though, the Commodores could actually win a few SEC games.

10. Mizzou

Kobe Brown showed flashes of stardom last year. If he and Javon Pickett both stay healthy and play well this year, the No. 10 spot in these rankings feels right for the Tigers. I’m intrigued by Amari Davis, the transfer from Green Bay. Ditto DaJuan Gordon and Jarron Coleman, transfers from Kansas State and Ball State, respectively.

But, once again, Cuonzo Martin’s squad doesn’t have much depth. If something doesn’t go according to plan, this team could drop in the power rankings quickly. Outside of Crean at Georgia, Martin might be on the hottest seat in the SEC entering the 2021-22 campaign.

9. Ole Miss

The Rebels have an intriguing mix of returning talent and new players. No, Devontae Shuler, Romello White and KJ Buffen aren’t here anymore, but Tye Fagan is here from Georgia. And Daeshun Ruffin is a freshman who should make an immediate impact for Kermit Davis’ squad.

Then, you have the returning talent. Jarkel Joiner averaged 12 points per game last year. Sophomore Matthew Murrell should be better after coming in as a highly-rated recruit in the 2020 class. Luis Rodriguez, Robert Allen and Austin Crowley should all be ready for bigger roles. Davis has a lot of options. It’ll be interesting to see how this team’s rotation looks out of the gates.

8. LSU

I was a lot more intrigued by this team until news broke last week that Illinois transfer Adam Miller tore his ACL and would miss the season. That’s a brutal loss, as Miller was great at times for the Illini last season and was going to be a big part of LSU’s squad.

Missouri transfer Xavier Pinson and returning starter Darius Days will still give this team plenty of offensive firepower. But, without Miller’s shooting, there are just too many question marks on this roster to justify putting LSU in the top half of these rankings.

7. Florida

Tre Mann, Noah Locke and Scottie Lewis are all gone. As is Omar Payne. But Mike White still has plenty of returning talent to work with, headlined by big man Colin Castleton. Tyree Appleby and Anthony Duruji will also make an impact on this squad. And, of course, we’ll all be anxiously waiting to see if star forward Keyontae Johnson is able to return to the court this year after his scary medical situation that occurred during the Florida State game last season.

As far as transfers, this team has an intriguing mix. Myreon Jones averaged 15.3 points for Penn State last year. CJ Felder averaged 9.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game for Boston College in 2020-21. And UMKC transfer Brandon McKissic showed his knack for scoring by averaging 17.2 points a year ago.

White has plenty of firepower at his disposal. But can he finish in the top 5 of the SEC this year? If he doesn’t, he’ll continue to face questions about his job security.

6. Mississippi State

Every time I look at Mississippi State’s roster, I find something new I like. Iverson Molinar returning? That’s huge. Tolu Smith coming back? Also huge. Landing Garrison Brooks as a transfer from North Carolina? I like that a lot. Rocket Watts (Michigan State), DJ Jeffries (Memphis) and Shakeel Moore (NC State) joining the squad? That will help a bunch.

I really want to rank the Bulldogs higher, but until I can get a feel for how they play together, I’m going to have to settle for ranking them No. 6. Keep an eye on them this year, though. They could be a dark-horse contender in the SEC.

5. Arkansas

Davonte Davis looks like a star in the making. JD Notae is a great scorer. Add in Chris Lykes, a transfer from Miami, and this backcourt should be the strength of the team. Au’Diese Toney is also a solid guard, coming over from Pittsburgh.

The frontcourt could be an issue. Trey Wade, the Wichita State transfer, should be a good player for Eric Musselman’s squad, but he’s only 6-6. The key to how good the Razorbacks are in 2021-22, though, will be Jaylin Williams. He showed flashes of brilliance last year, but he’s going to have to take on a lot of the production the Hogs got from Justin Smith a year ago. If he can do that, this team can compete for the SEC title.

4. Tennessee

I love the addition of Auburn transfer Justin Powell and incoming 5-star freshman Kennedy Chandler, but I worry about this team’s depth. The Vols have had consistency issues the past couple of years. With John Fulkerson, Santiago Vescovi, Victor Bailey Jr. and Josiah-Jordan James returning, how am I supposed to believe more in this team this time?

If the Vols can play more consistently, they have championship potential. But I worry about some of the things that popped up last year continuing to rear their ugly heads. The Vols play Villanova on Nov. 20, so we’ll find out pretty quickly if they’re for real.

3. Kentucky

Kentucky usually has 5 impact freshmen coming in to take over the starting spots, right? Well, not this year. The Wildcats played the transfer portal well this offseason, landing Georgia point guard Sahvir Wheeler, Davidson sharpshooter Kellan Grady, Iowa guard CJ Fredrick and West Virginia big man Oscar Tshiebwe.

Meanwhile, Davion Mintz, Dontaie Allen, Keion Brooks Jr. and Jacob Toppin return from last year’s squad and should be even better. TyTy Washington headlines a smaller, but still dynamic, freshman class. I’m not going to go as far as to pick this team to win the SEC title like I did last year (what a disaster that turned into!), but last year’s struggles should be well in the rearview mirror.

2. Auburn

Even with Allen Flanigan set to miss the first few weeks of the year after Achilles surgery, this is one of the deepest teams in the league. Incoming transfers like Walker Kessler (North Carolina), KD Johnson (Georgia), Zep Jasper (Charleston) and Wendell Green Jr. (Eastern Kentucky) will play critical minutes. Returning to the squad are key players like Devan Cambridge, Dylan Cardwell and Jaylin Williams. They’ll be in the rotation, too.

Then, there’s the 5-star freshman — forward Jabari Smith. Smith will be in the mix for the SEC Freshman of the Year, if not SEC Player of the Year. He’ll likely be a 1-and-done, as he’s getting serious buzz for Round 1 of the 2022 NBA Draft. If the Tigers can play well during nonconference play without Flanigan, his potential return around the start of the SEC season could give Bruce Pearl’s squad the boost it needs to compete for a league title.

1. Alabama

I know the Crimson Tide lost a lot. Herb Jones was special on both ends of the floor. There aren’t many shooters better than John Petty Jr. when he’s hot. And then Josh Primo went and got drafted before either of them! That’s a lot of talent to replace.

But there’s also some key talent returning. Jahvon Quinerly and Jaden Shackelford return to lead the way. Keon Ellis should take another step forward, as should Juwan Gary. James Rojas will eventually return from an injury. Then, there’s the new talent. There’s a lot of hype around 5-star freshman JD Davison. Furman transfer Noah Gurley figures to get plenty of minutes. If Charles Bediako and Alex Tchikou can provide some solid minutes in the post, this team will again be one of the strongest all-around squads in the SEC.

Even with Texas Tech transfer Nimari Burnett out for the year, this team has plenty of depth and talent. Now, all that’s left to do is see if Nate Oats and Co. can repeat as SEC regular-season and tournament champions.