It’s finally November, which means college basketball is upon us. Ben Simmons is gone, but Kentucky’s highly-touted freshman class will be even more fun to watch. John Calipari is bringing in arguably his best recruiting class since arriving in Lexington, highlighted by five top 30 recruits, three of which have the capability to be the best player in the conference this season. This team is loaded, especially considering these freshman will join returning players such as Isaiah Briscoe and Derek Willis. Okay, enough about Kentucky (for now).
After only sending three teams to the NCAA Tournament last season, expect that number to increase this season, with there being up to six teams with talent capable of earning a bid. Then again, teams can underperform and sleepers can pop out of nowhere (watch out for Mississippi State and Alabama), but this is an improving conference and should be much more enjoyable to watch compared to a season ago. Credit that to the solid coaching hires by programs in recent years and the recruits teams have been able to sign.
But at the end of the day, this is still Kentucky’s conference and while other teams are moving in the right direction, most teams appear to still be one or maybe a couple seasons away from becoming legitimate threats to dethrone the king of the SEC. A third consecutive season sweep as regular and post season champions is more likely than not. Yet, the season still has to be played and accolades must be awarded, so here are the predictions for the all-conference teams, awards and standings. Be prepared to read a lot about Kentucky.
G J.J Frazier, Georgia Sr.
Predicted 2016-2017 stats: 34.1 minutes, 18.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.7 steals, .423 field goal percentage, .391 three-point percentage
G Malik Monk, Kentucky Fr.
Predicted 2016-2017 stats: 31.8 minutes, 19.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.9 steals, .462 field goal percentage, .384 three-point percentage
F Moses Kingsley, Arkansas Sr.
Predicted 2016-2017 stats: 32.3 minutes, 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, 1.3 steals, .559 field goal percentage
F Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, Kentucky Fr.
Predicted 2016-2017 stats: 28.9 minutes, 15.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.2 steals, .584 field goal percentage
C Tyler Davis, Texas A&M So.
Predicted 2016-2017 stats: 31 minutes, 16.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, .604 field goal percentage
G De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky Fr.
Predicted 2016-2017 stats: 30.6 minutes, 14.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.3 steals, .451 field goal percentage, .388 three-point percentage
G Antonio Blakeney, LSU So.
Predicted 2016-2017 stats: 33.9 minutes, 19.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, .440 field goal percentage, .359 three-point percentage
F D.J. Hogg, Texas A&M So.
Predicted 2016-2017 stats: 32.4 minutes, 16.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, .422 field goal percentage, .351 three-point percentage
F Yante Maten, Georgia Jr.
Predicted 2016-2017 stats: 32.6 minutes, 17.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, .491 field goal percentage
C Luke Kornet, Vanderbilt Sr.
Predicted 2016-2017 stats: 31.3 minutes, 14.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, .427 field goal percentage, .312 three-point percentage
Names to watch:
G Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky So.
G Quinndary Witherspoon, Mississippi State So.
G KeVaughn Allen, Florida So.
F Devin Robinson, Florida Jr.
G De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
G Malik Monk, Kentucky
F Mario Kegler, Mississippi State
Predicted 2016-2017 stats: 31.8 minutes, 13.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.5 steals, .442 field goal percentage, .341 three-point percentage
F Braxton Key, Alabama
Predicted 2016-2017 stats: 31.7 minutes, 13.4 points, 6.3 rebounds. 2.9 assists, 1.3 steals, .417 field goal percentage
F Bam Adebayo, Kentucky
Player of the Year: Malik Monk, Kentucky
Bam Adebayo and Moses Kingsley were strongly considered, but the first look at Monk in Kentucky’s first exhibition game attributes to him being the pick. Regardless of the opponent, he looked amazing, scoring 15 points in only 19 minutes. In just limited minutes, Monk showed off all the skills that have scouts so excited about this freshman phenom. For all the lovers of explosive dunkers, Malik Monk is your guy. Just check this out.
Kentucky freshman Malik Monk 😳 https://t.co/EJ1OL57V0k
— Basketball Videos™ (@bballvines) October 22, 2016
In addition to the ridiculous hops, which one NBA scout has already been quoted as saying, “He has some of the best elevation I’ve ever seen,” the freshman blows by defenders with ease.
Seriously, good luck to the defenders in the SEC who have to try and keep Monk in front of them. He has a smooth stroke and when he’s knocking down threes, no one’s stopping him. If that’s happening on a consistent basis, Monk is easily going to be the best player in the conference. In addition to being a competent on-ball defender, he uses his athleticism and instincts to jump passing lanes. And once he’s in transition, it’s a highlight reel waiting to happen. Kentucky’s roster is stacked and the backcourt is a tad crowded, but Monk is one of those ballers who rolls out of bed and scores 20 points. The freshman will be one of the most exciting players to watch.
Defensive player of the Year: Moses Kingsley, Arkansas
Standing at 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, it’s easy to understand why he is such a presence in the paint. Averaging three blocks a game is not out of the question (averaged 2.4 blocks per game last season). The fact that he is also an adequate perimeter defender, is why Kingsley will end up winning this award. For a big man to have that type of impact around the rim, while also being able to come out and defend pick and rolls, makes him the best and most complete defender in the conference. Other big men such as Luke Kornet may block three shots a game as well, but may be a bigger liability when forced to come away from the basket. There are several guards who are incredible perimeter defenders, but are any of them near the threat Kingsley is when contesting shots at the rim? The Nigerian-born center is a difference maker on both ends of the floor, and the Razorbacks especially rely on his abilities to carry them defensively.
Freshman of the Year: Malik Monk, Kentucky
If he’s going to win player of the year, obviously he has to win freshman of the year as well. The point has been made on how special Monk is going to be, so just take in his highlights from Kentucky’s exhibition game.
Coach of the Year: John Calipari, Kentucky
Could this be John Calipari’s best class yet? He’s bringing in a loaded class, in which five of the freshmen were ranked in the top 30 of the class. Add in returning players such as Isaiah Briscoe, and this team is loaded with talent. It could potentially be Calipari’s best team in general, as they are among the favorites to cut down the nets in April. Expect this Kentucky squad to live up to expectations and earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If that happens, Coach Cal will be the overwhelming favorite to win this award and deservingly so. For what he has done during his tenure at Kentucky, this man is easily the best coach in the conference, and one of the best in all of college basketball. No one does a better job at drawing in talent to his program, and this year’s squad should produce several more pros.
Predicted SEC standings
- Texas A&M
- Mississippi State
- Ole Miss
- South Carolina
Edited by Dalton King
Featured image by Phil Denton, courtesy of creativecommons.org