Way-too-early SEC men’s basketball power rankings for 2021-22
The 2020-21 season came to an end on Monday night, with Baylor routing Gonzaga to hand the Bulldogs their first loss of the season. It was the first-ever national championship for the Bears.
Now, our attention turns to the 2021-22 season. More specifically, it turns to the NCAA transfer portal.
Almost every team in the league has multiple spots to fill on its roster, so expect a flurry of transfer news in the coming weeks. But, it’s never too early to try to make sense of the madness that could take place next season.
So, with that said, here’s a look at our way-too-early SEC power rankings heading into the 2021-22 campaign:
Until Vanderbilt starts proving it on the court, it’s always a safe bet to have the Commodores projected to finish near the bottom of the standings. Not only is Scotty Pippen Jr. likely heading to the NBA Draft, but several key players have entered the transfer portal. Jerry Stackhouse will have his work cut out for him putting together a competitive roster for next season.
13. South Carolina
Frank Martin is on a very hot seat at South Carolina. If AJ Lawson heads off to the NBA Draft, the Gamecocks could look much different next season. Jermaine Couisnard declared for the draft (but won’t hire an agent). Same for Keyshawn Bryant. Justin Minaya entered the draft and also the transfer portal. A couple of other players are in the portal. It’s not looking good for the Gamecocks next season.
12. Mississippi State
Keep an eye on Iverson Molinar, DJ Stewart Jr. and Tolu Smith this offseason. If they all leave, Mississippi State will be in a world of hurt in 2021-22. Even if 2 of those guys transfer or go pro, it won’t be good for Ben Howland’s squad. Yes, this team made a run to the NIT title game (losing to Memphis) with that group, but it’s not like they were ever in serious competition for an NCAA Tournament slot. Even if all 3 return, it could be a long year in Starkville.
Even if Tom Crean lands a bunch of talent from the transfer portal, are there any Georgia fans out there confident in his ability to put together an NCAA Tournament-worthy team? That’s a serious question. If there are, please comment below, I’d love to hear from you!
In the past 2 years, Crean has had an NBA No. 1 pick (Anthony Edwards) and an all-conference point guard (Sahvir Wheeler). This past season, he had a future NBA player in Toumani Camara. Last year, he had Rayshaun Hammonds, too. That’s some serious talent. Now, though, Camara is in the transfer portal, and even if Crean lands a couple of guys from the portal to replace him, I’m not confident in this team.
10. Texas A&M
If Emanuel Miller comes back, that’s a huge building block for Buzz Williams and the Aggies. Andre Gordon coming back would also be big. Losing Kevin Marfo and Savion Flagg to the portal will hurt, yes, but I have faith in Williams as a coach. The Aggies were devastated by COVID-19 this past year. If they don’t have any issues in 2021-22, they’ll be a much better team.
How good will 5-star freshman Manny Obaseki be? That’s going to determine how good this team can be.
9. Ole Miss
If the Rebels have to replace Devontae Shuler and Romello White, that’s a tough task. But, they do likely get Jarkel Joiner, Matthew Murrell and Luis Rodriguez back. Pairing that trio with incoming freshman Daeshun Ruffin will be helpful, but this squad could use some help in the post.
Cuonzo Martin has been doing work in the transfer portal. After losing several guys to the NBA and to the portal, Martin’s Tigers have brought in Amari Davis from Green Bay, DaJuan Gordon from Kansas State and Jarron Coleman from Ball State. That’s a solid trio of players. There are still a couple of open scholarships as of Tuesday night. If Martin can add a couple of additional impact players to fill those spots, this Tiger team could be competitive in 2021-22.
LSU is (probably) losing Trendon Watford, Cam Thomas, Javonte Smart and Darius Days to the NBA. The incoming recruiting class has some nice pieces, but it is far from elite. There don’t seem to be any Cam Thomases or Trendon Watfords in this group. But, the Tigers have been a solid squad under Will Wade so far, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now.
Colin Castleton has entered the 2021 NBA Draft, but hasn’t signed with an agent, so he can still return to school. Tyree Appleby will likely be back. Outside of that, the Gators have lost Tre Mann and Scottie Lewis to the NBA Draft. Noah Locke, Omar Payne and others are entering the portal.
But, I really like the Gators’ addition of Brandon McKissic out of UMKC. He’s a great player who can knock down 3s at a high level. Then, there’s the X-factor of Keyontae Johnson. If he’s cleared to return to the court, that would be a huge boost. We’ll see what this roster looks like in a couple of months.
Jabari Smith, the No. 5 overall player in the 2021 class, is signed with Auburn. 4-star guard Trey Alexander is also heading to The Plains. Bruce Pearl knows how to recruit. If JT Thor, Allen Flanigan, Devan Cambridge and others come back, this team is going to be a lot better than it was in 2020-21. Losing Sharife Cooper will hurt, but the Tigers are poised for a solid 2021-22 season.
I am very excited to see Tennessee’s incoming backcourt of Kennedy Chandler and Justin Powell in action. Now, it’ll just be a waiting game to see which players return for Rick Barnes’ squad. Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James will potentially return. Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson will likely be first-round picks in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Keep an eye on what Yves Pons and John Fulkerson decide to do. They both regressed this past season, so we’ll see if they come back for one last ride on Rocky Top.
The Wildcats had an awful 2020-21 season, but there’s already plenty of reason for hope. Kellan Grady, a highly coveted transfer from Davidson, is heading to Lexington next season. So is West Virginia big man Oscar Tshiebwe. The Wildcats also have the SEC’s No. 2 recruiting class (behind Alabama) and some key players from last year potentially returning. Coach John Calipari is going to have to change his coaching style a bit and embrace the 3-pointer, but there’s potential for the Wildcats moving forward.
No one plays the transfer portal like Eric Musselman. That goes back to his Nevada days. He brought in Justin Smith, JD Notae, Jalen Tate and others last year. Smith is likely gone, as is freshman sensation Moses Moody. But, Devo Davis is probably coming back, and I’m high on him entering 2021-22. I think he has alpha dog potential and could be one of the SEC’s best players.
Let Musselman add a few guys from the portal and this team will form into something he can make another deep NCAA Tournament run.
The Crimson Tide just won the SEC regular-season and tournament titles, and there’s no reason to knock them off their pedestal heading into this next season. If Jahvon Quinerly, Jaden Shackelford, Keon Ellis and Josh Primo all return to school, that’s a huge boost for coach Nate Oats and the Tide.
Then, there’s JD Davison, a 5-star freshman who is coming in. I’m really excited to see what he does in Oats’ offense. The Tide also landed a commitment from 4-star big man Charles Bediako on Tuesday. This team has a lot to work with next season!