SEC Basketball might not always be the best overall level of competition, but over the past few years it’s still been exciting and on some weeks it seems like any given team can walk away with a win. Also, while the league might not have all the stars that some other conferences have, whether that be one-and-dones or four year veteran stars, there are still plenty of players that are worth watching, at least once.
After watching at least a few games from each SEC team throughout the non-conference schedule and almost every game of SEC play, these are the ten players in the SEC that I think every basketball fan needs to watch play:
J.J. Frazier | Sr. G, Georgia
At 5’10” I’m sure J.J. Frazier has been overlooked for a majority of his career and he’s done a lot to make people pay. Frazier was one of the stars leading Georgia last season, so coming into this season I had picked Frazier as my Preseason SEC Player of the Year. He got off to a slower start for his standards in the non-conference slate, but starting with the game against Auburn, he’s been looking like he’s in for another great year in the SEC. I’m not quite sure how he does it, but even while playing under 6 feet, Frazier has an incredible ability to attack the basket and just float shots over much taller defenders. Even if you’re not a Georgia fan, you should take time to watch a game to see what J.J. Frazier is able to accomplish.
Jared Harper | Fr. G, Auburn
Their style of play is a little different, but when I first saw Jared Harper playing with other recruits and Auburn players a year or so ago, I thought of J.J. Frazier mostly because of how effective Harper was, even at 5’9”. Those expectations have been met now that Harper has started all but one game for Auburn this season and is averaging 13 points and 3.2 assists per game. Harper is as quick as they come and also has a pretty good deep three point shot when he’s on. Harper doesn’t go to the floater like Frazier quite as often, but instead he uses his quickness to just blow by defenders and lay the ball in. He ultimately missed, but in a pretty lopsided loss against Vanderbilt, Harper even attempted to throw down a dunk over 7’1” Luke Kornet and almost finished the play. His ability to “sell fouls” or flop like opposing teams seem to think may turn some fans away, but Harper is still one of the young players and players overall that you need to watch play a few times.
De’Aaron Fox | Fr. G, Kentucky
Speaking of quick freshmen guards, De’Aaron Fox might be one of the quickest basketball players I’ve ever seen. While I probably don’t have to tell you that you should watch any of Kentucky’s young, talented players that Coach Calipari brings in every year, Fox is certainly worth watching in himself. He may settle for outside shots more than I would like, but when Fox is in attack mode, whether it’s from the top of the key or the opposite baseline, opposing teams should look out. There aren’t many teams this year that have proven they can stop Fox and his teammates in a fast break so far.
Deandre Burnett | Jr. G, Ole Miss
I’ll admit that I overlooked Miami transfer Deandre Burnett at the beginning of the season, but as Ole Miss has surpassed my preseason expectations, Burnett has been a big reason why. He’s cooled off a little lately, but Burnett still might be one of the best scorers in the SEC. He’s currently 3rd in the conference overall averaging 19.1 points per game and even had a 41 point performance against Oral Roberts earlier in the year. As I’ll be cheering for Auburn it won’t be as fun, but as a basketball fan, it will probably be a treat to get to watch Burnett in person this Saturday when Ole Miss comes to Auburn Arena. Whether you see him in person or not, you probably want to watch Burnett play soon especially since he is one of the least talked about SEC players up to this point and is quietly third in the conference in scoring.
Malik Monk | Fr. G, Kentucky
If you like scoring, then Malik Monk is the player you certainly need to watch. Some would call him a streaky shooter, but so far this season Monk has been on for almost every game. He currently leads the SEC with 22.6 points per game and has scored 35 and 24 in his first two SEC games against Ole Miss and Texas A&M. Monk also had one of the best scoring performances in all of college basketball when he put up 47 points against UNC in one of the best college basketball games of the year. The Freshman of the Year in the SEC will almost always come out of Kentucky, and as of now, Malik Monk would probably be the favorite.
Yante Maten | Jr. F, Georgia
Before the year started I picked Frazier as my Preseason SEC Player of the Year but so far this season it looks like I might have picked the wrong Georgia player for that honor. I knew both Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier would carry Georgia this year, but Maten has been even better than I expected which is saying a good bit considering I had him on my 2nd All-SEC Team. Maten is one of only two players in the SEC averaging over 20 points a game with 20.4 so far this season. At 6’8” he’s also a pretty good rebounder and is currently in 3rd place in the SEC with 8.4 rebounds per game. Unlike most big men, Maten also possesses the ability to shoot the outside shot pretty well and is 12-27 from three on the year. It wasn’t necessarily pleasant that it took place against Auburn, but I certainly had a front row seat when both J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten took over in the second half and led Georgia to the comeback and eventual 12 point win in Auburn Arena.
Sindarius Thornwell | Sr. G, South Carolina
Sindarius Thornwell is clearly the key piece that keeps South Carolina as a top team in the SEC. The Gamecocks are undefeated when Thornwell plays and suffered all three of their losses while Thornwell was out with a suspension. He’s good to go now and should lead South Carolina for the rest of the season like he did before his suspension. Thornwell does just about everything well and is averaging 18.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game so far this season. In his first game back, Thornwell put up 19 points, 11 rebounds, 6 steals, and 3 blocks in a big road win over Georgia. Now that Thornwell is back, South Carolina is once again a team that you should watch in the SEC.
Robert Williams | Fr. F, Texas A&M
Coming into the year all the talk around Texas A&M was about Tyler Davis. Davis is certainly still one of the best big men in the SEC and probably around the country, but after non-conference play, Robert Williams is the player you really need to watch on Texas A&M. The Aggies are struggling, especially in SEC play, due to the lack of a quality point guard, but that shouldn’t be a reason to not watch an extremely talented front line. Williams may just be averaging 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, but he’s doing it while averaging less than 20 minutes of action in each contest. Williams leads the SEC in field goal percentage and is certainly up there as one of the most explosive and athletic players in the conference and he’s just a freshman.
Bam Adebayo | Fr. F, Kentucky
I know there are three Kentucky players on this list, but as the best team in the SEC by far, there are probably one or two other guys I could add to this list as well. Bam Adebayo was my pick for Preseason SEC Freshman of the Year and I also had him on my 1st All-SEC team. I don’t know if he’s warranted those accolades quite yet, but he’s a rare freak of nature down low that you definitely need to watch. Kentucky has some high flying dunks to their name this season but Adebayo is probably the best dunker of them all. Kentucky has plenty of stars on their lineup, but Bam has still gotten his own averaging 13.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game while providing the inside presence that Kentucky was missing last season. With SEC play now started, Bam Adebayo seems to have found his game and will only get better as the year goes on.
Moses Kingsley | Sr. F, Arkansas
Moses Kingsley was selected as the Preseason SEC Player of the Year by the media and while I disagreed with that pick, he’s certainly one of the top players and a key piece for Arkansas. He may not have the super impressive offensive numbers that other stars usually have, but with 11.1 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, Kingsley isn’t someone you should overlook. Kingsley makes the biggest difference on the defensive end where he leads the SEC with 3 blocks per game. The senior forward might have to develop a little bit more of an offensive game if the Razorbacks want to keep up their good record and hopefully represent the SEC in the NCAA Tournament at the end of the year.
The Florida Gators
As the second best team in the SEC, Florida felt like they had to be represented on this list, but after looking over their roster and looking through stats, it’s hard to pick just one player. I could say you have to watch Canyon Berry for his granny free throws or KeVaughn Allen and Kasey Hill for their excellent guard play. Devin Robinson and John Egbunu lock down the front line, but as a team that wins based on defense, it’s hard to pick just one Florida player to represent the Gators on this list. As a copout, I’m picking the whole team and I think almost any of the starters could find themselves on this list on their own but the Gators under Mike White certainly deserve some attention. Kentucky is the best team in the SEC and that’s no secret, but people shouldn’t miss out on Florida, especially as they’ll only start to play better as they fuel off of the home environment in the newly renovated O-Dome.
Matthew Fisher-Davis is one of the best three point shooters in the SEC and is starting to find his flow as Vanderbilt looks to make a big turnaround after starting 2-0 in SEC play following a 6-6 non-conference record.
Sabastian Saiz is averaging a double-double with 15.7 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. He’s certainly one of the best players but honestly he plays so well and efficiently that it’s sometimes hard to notice he’s doing so well. Burnett is the more entertaining player for Ole Miss, but there’s no doubt that Saiz is also a big reason the Rebels will challenge more teams in the SEC.
Quinndary Weatherspoon gave Mississippi State fans a scare when he was originally listed as out for the season with a wrist injury. He eventually came back after a few games and has proven that he’s the star that keeps Mississippi State afloat. He’ll have to have some impressive performances if Mississippi State and the rest of their young roster are going to pick up SEC wins this season.
Antonio Blakeney is downright carrying LSU. The former 5-star recruit decided to return to LSU even after last year’s disaster of a season. He’s averaging 17.5 points per game on the year and has scored 24 points in LSU’s first two SEC games against Vanderbilt and Missouri.
Robert Hubbs III is starting to catch on as the leader of a young Tennessee team that might be a dark horse in the SEC after struggling through a brutally tough non-conference schedule. As a senior, Hubbs is averaging 15.2 points and 4.8 rebounds for Tennessee and had 21 points and 7 rebounds in a close loss to Arkansas.
With 14 teams in the SEC, almost all of them are represented on this list but it’s hard to recognize all of the players in the conference that are worth watching. I don’t think I’ve missed anyone major on this list, but if I have or you think there are some other players that deserve to at least be an honorable mention, let me know on Twitter and I’m sure we can have an interesting discussion.
With SEC play now in full swing, there should be plenty of opportunities to watch each of these guys week in and week out so don’t miss your opportunity.