In my projected rankings for the SEC post, I included a high and low rank along with the actual predicted rank of each team. This was meant to be a best case scenario and worst case scenario for each SEC basketball team this season. The following fourteen players are each players that I think can make or break their team’s season. If these players play well and better than expected, I think the team could finish closer to their best case scenario. If these players aren’t able to contribute as much as expected, the team is more likely to finish closer to the worst case scenario.
For some teams, the most important player may be one of their best players, but in most cases, I picked a player that might be less talked about right now but will play a key role this season. In most cases, the players that we expect to be stars for a team will typically play well, but it’s the role players and lesser known guys that can surpass expectations and surprise some people.
With that said, here are the most important player for each SEC basketball team this season:
Alabama - Nick King
Nick King is a 6’7” junior guard/forward who transferred from Memphis and is a former 4-star recruit. For Alabama this season, I think one of their biggest issues will be replacing the excellent production of Retin Obasohan from last season. King is a different type of player than Obasohan, but if he can step up and be another good perimeter player alongside Dazon Ingram, the Crimson Tide could be a team that competes with the upper half of the league this season.
Arkansas - Dustin Thomas
Dustin Thomas is a 6’8” junior forward who transferred from Colorado. Thomas has the potential to be a solid second or third option down low for the Razorbacks to help backup star forward, Moses Kingsley. After playing 67 games for Colorado, Thomas can bring experience that the incoming talented Junior College prospects can’t necessarily provide. On a guard heavy team, if Thomas can solidify the front line and make it more than just Kingsley, Arkansas could finish at the top of the SEC.
Auburn - Anfernee McLemore
Anfernee McLemore is a 6’7” freshman forward from Worth County High School. Auburn is loaded in the back court this season with several returning players and the addition of 5-star Mustapha Heron and Houston transfer Ronnie Johnson. If Auburn is going to succeed this season, they’re shallow front court will have to all play well. That ultimately relies on McLemore contributing more than most expect as a freshman this season. For Auburn to do well, McLemore must be an almost equal third option in the post along with Horace Spencer and grad transfer LaRon Smith.
Florida - Devin Robinson
Devin Robinson is a 6’8” junior forward who was a former 5-star recruit and All-SEC Freshman team member. Mike White has said good things about Robinson this off-season and predicts he’ll be an improved player this season. While Florida already has a handful of talented returners in KeVaughn Allen and John Egbunu and newcomer Canyon Barry, Robinson could step in as a third of fourth star to really establish the Gators as one of the best teams in the SEC this season.
Georgia - Tyree Crump
Tyree Crump is a 6’1” freshman guard who was a 4-star recruit and averaged over 20 PPG throughout high school. It’s no secret that Georgia has two of the best players in the SEC in J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten, but depth could be an issue for the Bulldogs. For the Bulldogs to be as good as some are projecting them to be this season, I think Crump will be one of the newcomers that needs to step up. He proved he has the ability to score points in high school and Georgia will hope he continues to put points on the board in the SEC this season.
Kentucky - Isaiah Briscoe
Isaiah Briscoe is a 6’3” sophomore guard who was a borderline draft prospect last season and decided to return to Kentucky. Briscoe, even as a sophomore, will be considered a veteran for the Wildcats this season. Along with the few other veterans like Dominique Hawkins, Issac Humphries, and Derek Willis, Briscoe will have to be the leader of this team if Kentucky and their heralded freshman class want to make a deeper run in March Madness this season.
LSU - Antonio Blakeney
Antonio Blakeney is a 6’4” sophomore guard who was a former 5-star recruit along with Ben Simmons last season. I said that for most team’s the most imporant player won’t be the team’s best player, but that’s not the case for LSU this season. The Tigers lost a lot of talent, and for them to avoid being at the bottom of the SEC this season, Blakeney will have to play really well this season now that he’s outside the shadow of Ben Simmons. Blakeney showed he was good enough to make the All-SEC Freshman team last season, but he’ll need to be one of the best players in the league overall if LSU is going to win games this year.
Mississippi State - Abdul Ado
Abdul Ado is a 6’11” freshman forward who was a 4-star recruit. I could have picked almost anyone on Mississippi State’s team this season since the Bulldogs have only a few key returners plus an influx of young talent. I settled on Ado because he isn’t one of the highest rated recruits joining Mississippi State this season, but if he can play well, the Bulldogs should have two good big men down low this season. Quinndary Weatherspoon and I.J. Ready can hold down the back court as veterans, but it will be up to Ado and Schnider Herard to handle the post as freshman.
Missouri - Jordan Geist
Jordan Geist is a 6’2” sophomore guard who transferred from Ranger College. Missouri adds a lot of new faces this season and one of the best out of that large incoming class could be Jordan Geist. Geist, in his one season of Junior College basketball, led his team to a 35-3 record and was named to the NJCAA All-American Second Team. Geist will need to play as an experienced player and help Terrance Phillips, Kevin Puryear, and Cullen VanLeer lead this young Missouri team this season.
Ole Miss - Cullen Neal
Cullen Neal is a 6’5” junior guard who transferred from New Mexico. Similar to Alabama, Ole Miss will attempt to replace their best player by far after Stefan Moody graduated last season after leading the SEC in scoring. Cullen Neal certainly won’t put up the dazzling points that Moody did over his time as Ole Miss, but Neal can bring plenty of skill and experience from his time at New Mexico. Neal will need to be a distributer this season to get the other key players involved if Ole Miss is going to be better than some of the worst teams in the SEC this season.
South Carolina - Sedee Keita
Sedee Keita is a 6’9” freshman forward rated as a 4-star recruit and the second best player in Connecticut. South Carolina has one of the better coaches in the SEC in Frank Martin and returns a good amount of talent from a top team last season. Keita, as the highest rated newcomer, will have to play well this season if the Gamecocks want to make it all the way to the Big Dance. Keita will have to play with high energy if he is going to replace Michael Carrera, one of the most energetic players in the SEC over the last couple of years.
Tennessee - Kwe Parker
Kwe Parker is a 6’0” freshman guard from Wesleyan Christian Academy. Kwe Parker comes to Tennessee boasting a 45-inch vertical and a lot of explosiveness and potential for just a 3-star recruit. Parker is a smaller guard at 6’0”, but if he can learn to play quick and fast he might turn into a solid guard in the SEC. For Tennessee to do well this season, Parker will need to maximize on his potential earlier rather than later. The Volunteers don’t return a ton of talent from last year’s team and they’ll need freshman such as Parker to step up if they don’t want to be at the bottom of the league again this year.
Texas A&M - Kobie Eubanks
Kobie Eubanks is a 6’5” sophomore guard and former top-100 recruit. After joining Texas A&M in the spring last season after failing to qualify at Alabama, Eubanks didn’t see a lot of action during his freshman campaign. Now, with a full off-season under his belt, Eubanks will need to play a pivotal role this season if the Aggies want to remain the second best team in the SEC behind the Kentucky Wildcats. As a former top-100 player, Eubanks should be able to contribute, but he has to earn more than 36 total minutes like he played last season.
Vanderbilt - Riley LaChance
Riley LaChance is a 6’2” junior guard and former All-SEC Freshman Team member. Last season, Wade Baldwin IV stole the show in Vanderbilt’s backcourt, but LaChance was still able to average a respectable 6.9 PPG and 2.5 APG. This season, LaChance needs to be an even better guard and help feed Vanderbilt’s skilled big men in the post. For Vanderbilt to accomplish a lot this season with a shallow roster, LaChance will have to distributer that occasionally puts up points for the Commodores.