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  • Chris Walker could be Florida's best low post scorer since Al Horford next season / Gator Country Photo by David Bowie

Donovan has Gators
in perpetual reload

Written by Franz Beard, April 15, 2014, 0 Comments,
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The Florida Gators lost three front court starters including the SEC Player of the Year from the 2011 team that was one shot away from the Final Four. The Gators lost the fifth leading scorer in school history who was also the career leader in assists and a freshman who was the third player picked in the NBA Draft from their 2012 team that was a game away from the Final Four. In 2013, the Gators lost three senior starters who all averaged double figures including the second leading scorer in school history from a third straight Elite Eight team. This year, the Gators lose four senior starters who helped Florida win 30 straight games and get to the first Final Four since the 2007 national championship season.

The reason it’s important to talk about the guys who have departed in each of the last four years is to emphasize the fact that Billy Donovan has the Florida basketball program in a reload mode. The Gators are losing talented guys every year – maybe not all those one-and-dones and first rounders that Kentucky has been producing – but instead of rebuilding from ground zero, the guys who step in and take over are getting the job done in a very big way.

On paper, it looks like the Gators have taken a real hit by losing SEC Defensive Player of the Year Patric Young, Will Yeguete, Wooden All-American Casey Prather and Scottie Wilbekin, the SEC Player of the Year who made several All-America teams. But the reality is that the Florida cupboard is far from empty. The Gators will be taller and deeper next season than they were this recently completed season and the history of the last four years tells us that Donovan is always losing players but the Gators don’t miss a beat the next season.

Here is the roster breakdown for next season (returning starters in bold face):

BIGS (6): Dorian Finney-Smith (6-8, 214, RJR); Chris Walker (6-10, 220, SO); * Damontre Harris (6-10, 235, RSR); * * Alex Murphy (6-9, 230, RJR); Devin Robinson (6-9, 190, FR); * * * Jacob Kurtz (6-6, 210, SR)

* Sat out 2013-14
* * Transferred from Duke at midyear
* * * Non-scholarship player

WINGS (6): Michael Frazier II (6-4, 199, JR); * Eli Carter (6-2, 200, RJR); DeVon Walker (6-6, 200, JR); * Dillon Graham (6-4, 190, RSO); Brandone Francis (6-5, 220, FR); * * Zach Hodskins (6-4, 200, FR)

* Medical redshirt in 2013-14
* * Non-scholarship player

POINTS (2): Kasey Hill (6-1, 181, SO); Chris Chiozza (5-10, 160, FR)

Donovan will have more options than he’s had at any time since the 2011 season because of the front court depth. Carter scored 899 points in two years at Rutgers. If he’s healthy, he will probably start on the wing opposite Frazier, giving the Gators scorers on either side of the ball with Hill operating the point. The likely starting front court would have Finney-Smith at the high post and Chris Walker down low although Donovan could go big with Finney-Smith or Devin Robinson on the wings with Chris Walker and either Harris or Murphy on the inside.

The front court depth will allow the Gators to match up size-wise with just about any team in the country. If Chris Walker adds strength and develops in the offseason, the Gators will have potentially their best inside scorer since the days of Al Horford. Having Walker and Harris available also means that Donovan can press full court with a shot blocker as the safety to protect the rim. While it’s hard to imagine the Gators being better defensively than they were the last two seasons, they will have the ability to reject shots and go with a longer, more athletic press lineup.

If there is a potential weakness, it would be outside shooting. Frazier is one of the best outside shooters in the country, but he can go silent as he proved against UConn. Carter was a volume scorer at Rutgers before transferring to Florida, but was a very streaky shooter

If the Harrison twins elect to go to the NBA rather than come back for their sophomore seasons at Kentucky, the Gators will be favored to win their fourth SEC championship in five years. Even if the twins come back, Florida will be considered no worse than the preseason #2 in the league and a consensus top 10 pick nationally to start the season.

Here is a look at the other 13 teams in the SEC:

(Starters listed in bold face)

ALABAMA (13-19, 7-11 SEC)

Coach: Anthony Grant (99-71 in 5 years; 175-96 overall)

Losses (1): Trevor Releford, PG (18.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.1 apg), Carl Engstrom (1.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg)

Returning scholarship players (9): Algie Key (6-4, 195, SR); * Ricky Tarrant, PG/SG (6-2, 190, RJR); * Michael Kessens, PF (6-9, 215, RSO); Jimmie Taylor, C (6-10, 240, SO); Shannon Hale, PF (6-8, 220, SO); Nick Jacobs, PF/C (6-8, 250, SR); Levi Randolph, SF/SG (6-5, 210, SR); Rodney Cooper, SG/SF (6-6, 215, JR); Retin Obasohan (6-1, 205, JR)

* Sat out 2013-14 after transferring

Recruits (3): Justin Coleman, PG (5-10, 155); Riley Norris, SF (6-7, 190); Devin Mitchell, SG (6-4, 175)

Outlook for 2014-15: Anthony Grant kept his job due to the combination of a very good recruiting class and transfers Ricky Tarrant and Michael Kessens, who sat out last season. Tarrant (Tulane transfer) and Kessens (Longwood) are excellent scorers as are incoming freshmen Riley Norris and Devin Mitchell. The question is who replaces do-everything point guard Trevor Releford. Justin Coleman is certainly quick enough but is he really 5-10? And can he score? There are four starters returning but none of them are difference-makers.

Trending Up: Alabama should improve enough to make the NIT but will that be enough to save Anthony Grant’s job? He’s on shaky ground.

 

ARKANSAS (22-12, 10-8 SEC)

Coach: Mike Anderson (59-39 in 3 years; 259-137 overall)

Losses (4): Mardracus Wade, SG/PG (3.9 ppg); Ricky Scott Jr., SG (2.7 ppg); Coty Clarke, PF (9.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.4 apg); Fred Gully III, SG (3.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.9 apg)

Returning scholarship players (8): Rashad Madden, PG/SG (6-5, 180, SR); Alandise Harris, PF/SF (6-7, 237, SR); Anthlon Bell (6-3, 188, SO); Bobby Portis, C/PF (6-10, 242, SO); Jacorey Williams, PF/C (6-8, 215, JR); Michael Qualls, SG/SF (6-6, 210, JR); Moses Kingsley, C/PF (6-10, 230, SO); * Keaton Miles, SF (6-7, 215, SR)

* Sat out 2013-14 after transferring

Recruits (5): Anton Beard, PG (6-1, 180); Trey Thompson, PF (6-9, 230); Nick Babb, SF (6-4, 180); Jabril Durham, PG (6-1, 180); * Dusty Hannahs, SG (6-4, 210)

* Will sit out 2014-15; Texas Tech transfer

Outlook for 2014-15: The key stat is oh-fer as in oh-fer the NCAA Tournament since Mike Anderson has been the coach. Anderson has a roster full of players tailored to his style of play so there are no more excuses for missing The Big Dance. Bobby Portis has the body and skills to play in the NBA but the helter-skelter style of play that Anderson employs isn’t furthering his status as a top prospect. The lack of a point guard capable of directing a half court attack has been a killer, which is why incoming freshman Anton Beard and juco transfer Jabril Durham are critical. If they can’t slow the team down and get them playing under control, it will be same old, same old in Fayetteville – tough at home and road kill away.

Treading Water: Arkansas SHOULD be better but history says the Razorbacks won’t improve all that much. Unless Arkansas can win on the road, it’s another NIT season and that might not save Anderson’s job.

AUBURN (14-16, 6-12 SEC)

Coach: Bruce Pearl (First year at Auburn; 462-145 overall)

Losses (3): Chris Denson, SG (19.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.4 apg), Allen Payne, SF (7.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, C (6.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.1 bpg)

Returning scholarship players (10): KT Harrell, SG (6-4, 216, SR); Dion Wade, SG (6-5, 170, SO); Tahj Shamsid-Deen, PG (5-10, 163, SO); Alex Thompson, PF (6-8, 204, SO); Malcolm Canada, PG (6-3, 224, SR); Benas Griciunas, C (7-0, 225, SO); Chris Griffin, PF (6-7, 226, SR); Ronald Delph, C (7-0, 235, RFR); Matthew Atewe, C (6-9, 250, SO); Jordon Granger, PF (6-8, 200, JR)

Recruits (2): Sam Longwood, SF (6-7, 205); Jack Purchase, C/PF (6-10, 200); * Cinmeon Bowers (6-7, 260)

* Juco, spring signee.

Outlook for 2014-15: The good news is that Bruce Pearl is the coach. The bad news is that 10 players return from last year’s team and only two of them are legitimate SEC players. KT Harrell is a legitimate scorer (18.3 ppg) who should score even more in Pearl’s system. Tahj Shamsid-Deen is extremely quick and good on the offensive end (9.5 ppg, 2.9 apg) but he’s a defensive liability which will not endear him to Pearl. There aren’t any other players on this roster that Pearl would have recruited in the first place but he will maximize potential. UPDATE: Auburn added juco transfer Cinmeon Bowers from Chipola College in Florida, the #1 juco power forward in the country.

Trending Up: History tells us that Bruce Pearl will get the job done and the turnaround will begin in year one even if it doesn’t show in a better record. You can bet that Auburn will schedule better and play harder. A plus-.500 record would be a great start but that might be asking much, even for Bruce Pearl.

 

GEORGIA (20-14, 12-6 SEC)

Coach: Mark Fox (84-76 in 5 years; 207-119 overall)

Losses (2): Donte Williams, C  (4.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg); * John Cannon, C (1.4 ppg)

* Transferred

Returning scholarship players (11): Marcus Thornton, PF (6-8, 235, RSR); Juwan Parker, PG/SG (6-4, 200, SO); Charles Mann, PG (6-5, 210, JR); Tim Dixon, C/PF (6-10, 230, SR); Cameron Forte, PF/SF (6-7, 220, JR); Kenny Gaines, SG (6-3, 195, JR); Houston Kessler, PF (6-8, 225, SO); Kenny Paul Geno, SF (6-6, 200, SO); J.J. Frazier, PG (5-10, 150, SO); Brandon Morris, SF/SG (6-7, 215, JR); Nemaja Djurisic, PF/SF (6-8, 230, SR)

Recruits (2): Yante Maten, PF (6-8, 230); Fred Iduwe (6-11, 220)

Outlook for 2014-15: If Georgia had played anything but a collection of convents, homeless shelters and senior citizens homes prior to the SEC schedule, the Bulldogs would have made the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs are hoping their year of experience works for them the way it did for Florida. This is not an overly talented team but four starters return who went 12-6 in the SEC and had a couple of impressive road wins. Georgia will be taller but there still isn’t a knock down shooter you can count on every night. Charles Mann will be one of the 10 best players in the SEC this year.

Trending Up: In any league that didn’t have Billy Donovan running the SEC table, Mark Fox would have been coach of the year.  Fox can coach, but he still hasn’t turned the recruiting corner. Atlanta is loaded with talent but not much of it is heading to Athens. Still, the Bulldogs improve. If they play a representative non-conference schedule they could make the NCAA this year.

 

KENTUCKY (29-11, 12-6 SEC)

Coach: John Calipari (152-37 in 5 years; 555-174 overall)

Losses (7): * Julius Randle, PF (15 ppg, 10.4 rpg); * James Young, SF/SG (14.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg); * Aaron Harrison, SG (13.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg); * Andrew Harrison, PG (10.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.0 apg); Jon Hood, SF (1.2 ppg); Jarrod Polson, PG (1.0 ppg)

* Expected to declare for the NBA Draft

Returning scholarship players (6): Willie Cauley-Stein (7-0, 235, JR); Marcus Lee, C/PF (6-9, 215, SO); Alex Poythress, PF (6-8, 239, JR); Dominique Hawkins, PG (6-0, 193, SO); Derek Willis, PF (6-9, 205, SO); Dakari Johnson, C (7-0, 265, SO)

Recruits (4): Trey Lyles, PF/C (6-10, 255); Karl Towns Jr., C/PF (6-11, 235); Devin Booker, SG (6-5, 190); Tyler Ulis, PG (5-9, 150)

Outlook for 2014-15: If John Calipari convinces the Harrison twins to stay a year, Kentucky has the look of a Final Four team. If the twins go – which they are expected to do – Kentucky will be able to block shots and dominate games in the paint, but who’s going to shoot the ball? If they go, incoming freshman Devin Booker is the only outside shooter on the team. If they stay, Cal has the opportunity of bringing pint-sized Tyler Ulis off the bench. If they go, Ulis has to start. He’s listed at 5-9. He might be 5-7. He’s dynamite in the open court but let’s see how he does among the trees in the paint.

Treading Water: Kentucky could be trending upward next week if the twins elect to stay along with Cauley-Stein, Poythress and Johnson. Best bet is the twins say sayonara, which means Calipari might be looking for a transfer who has (a) already graduated, (b) can shoot and (c) can play at the SEC level.

 

LSU (20-14, 9-9 SEC)

Coach: Johnny Jones (39-26 in 2 years; 244-188 overall)

Losses (3): Andre Stringer, PG (11.8 ppg, 2.6 apg); * Johnny O’Bryant III, PF/C (15.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg); Shavon Coleman, SF (9.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg)

* Declared for the NBA Draft

Returning scholarship players (10): Anthony Hickey, PG (5-11, 182, SR); * Keith Hornsby, SG (6-4, 190, RJR); Shane Hammink, SF/PF (6-7, 217, JR); Jarrell Martin, PF (6-9, 241, SO); Brian Bridgewater, SF/PF (6-6, 230, RFR); Darcy Malone, C (7-0, 229, SO); Malik Morgan, SG (6-4, 199, JR); Jordan Mickey, PF/SF (6-8, 220, SO); John Odo, C/PF (6-9, 236, SO); Tim Quarterman, PG/SG (6-6, 175, SO)

* Sat out 2013-14 after transferring

Recruits (4): Elbert Robinson, C (6-11, 270); Aaron Epps, C/PF (6-9, 220); Jalyn Patterson (6-1, 170); Josh Gray, PG (6-1, 175)

Outlook for 2014-15: LSU is going to once again be very, very tall and with the addition of UNC-Asheville transfer Keith Hornsby, the sun of keyboard rocker Bruce Hornsby and a deadeye long distance shooter, LSU could be very good if Johnny Jones can somehow find a point guard. Anthony Hickey will be back for his fourth year but he’s such a defensive liability. Either Tim Quarterman needs to step up his game or else juco Josh Gray has to be able to step in and play.

Treading Water: With all that front court talent, LSU should be a conference contender but it isn’t going to happen unless there is a significant improvement in the backcourt. If Jones doesn’t hurry up and find some guards that can play, he’s going to find himself on coaching’s endangered species list.

 

MISSISSIPPI STATE (14-19, 3-15 SEC)

Coach: Rick Ray (24-41 in 2 years)

Losses (2): Colin Borchert, PG (8.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg); Tyson Cunningham, SG (1.8 ppg)

Returning scholarship players (9): Fred Thomas, SF (6-5, 206, JR); Andre Applewhite, SF/SG (6-5, 217, JR); Trivante Bloodman, PG (6-0, 182, SR); Jacoby Davis, PG (6-1, 191, SO); I.J. Ready, PG (5-11, 170, SO); Gavin Ware, C/PF (6-9, 268, JR); Fallou Ndoye, C (6-11, 215, RFR); Roquez Johnson, SF (6-7, 210, SR); Craig Sword, PG/SG (6-3, 194, JR)

Recruits (5): Demetrius Houston, SF (6-6, 185); Oliver Black, PF (6-9, 215); Elijah Staley, SF (6-6, 208); Maurice Dunlap, SG (6-2, 170); * Johnny Zuppardo, C/PF (6-9, 235)

* Juco, spring signee

Outlook for 2014-15: If Mississippi State had played any decent out of conference teams the record would have been more reflective of just how bad the Bulldogs were last season. There will be more live bodies to work with but only Gavin Ware and Craig Sword are SEC caliber players. There are no difference-makers arriving in the recruiting class. All four recruits are projects. UPDATE: The addition of juco center Johnny Zuppardo gives the Bulldogs a bit more depth up front, but it’s still not enough.

Trending Down: The record could improve or stay the same but that wouldn’t change the fact that (a) this is a bad basketball team and (b) Rick Ray has neither recruited the type of athletes who can play in the SEC nor has he developed his roster.

 

MISSOURI (23-12, 9-9 SEC)

Coach: Open

Losses (4): Jabari Brown, SG (19.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg); Jordan Clarkson, PG (17.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.4 apg); Tony Criswell, C/PF (3.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg); Earnest Ross, SF/SG (14 ppg, 6 rpg)

Returning scholarship players (8): Wes Clark, PG (6-0, 171, SO); Johnathan Williams III, C/PF (6-9, 223, SO); Shane Rector, PG (6-1, 171, SO); Torren Jones, PF (6-8, 234, SO); Danny Feldmann, C (6-9, 225, SR); Hayden Barnard, PF (6-10, 215, FR); Ryan Rosburg, C/PF (6-10, 252, JR); Keanu Post, C/PF (6-11, 255, SR)

Recruits (3): JaKeenan Grant, PF (6-8, 210); Namon Wright, SG (6-5, 175); Kevin Punter Jr., SG (6-4, 170)

Outlook for 2014-15: If Frank Haith had a clue about building team chemistry, the Tigers would have won 25 games in the regular season and made the NCAA Tournament last year. Instead, they tanked and were a two-and-through in the Nobody’s Interested Tournament (NIT). That’s the bad news. The good news is that even though all the scorers are gone and Louisville transfer Zach Price has been kicked off the team, Haith is gone. Haith saw the handwriting on the wall and bolted for Tulsa.

Trending Down: The buzzards won’t have to circle. Haith is gone. Topping the wish list to replace Haith is Gregg Marshall of Wichita State.

OLE MISS (19-14, 9-9)

Coach: Andy Kennedy (170-100 in eight years; 191-113 overall)

Losses (2): Marshall Henderson, SG (19 ppg); Demarco Cox, C (4.2 ppg, 3.9); Derrick Millinghaus, PG (6.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 2.3 apg)

Returning scholarship players (9): Martavious Newby, SG (6-3, 210, JR); Ladarius White, SG/SF (6-6, 211, SR); Sebastian Saiz, C/PF (6-9, 233, SO); Anthony Perez, PF/SF (6-9, 213, JR); Dwight Coleby, C (6-9, 236, SO); Janari Joesaar, SF (6-6, 208, SO); Terry Brutus, SF/PF (6-6, 237, SO); Jarvis Summers, PG/SG (6-3, 186, SR); Aaron Jones, C/PF (6-9, 220, SR)

Recruits (5): Stefan Moody, PG (5-10, 175); Macanvis Hymon, PF (6-7, 220); J.T. Escobar, SG (6-2, 170); Rauno Nurger, C/PF (6-10, 230); *Roderick Lawrence, SG (6-4, 185)

* Juco, spring signee

Outlook for 2014-15: The Marshall Henderson magic wore off after his junior year. He was a distraction not to mention a bad shooter and even worse defender last year. So, it figures to be addition by subtraction. Jarvis Summers is a stud and one of the best players in the SEC. If Sebastian Saiz and Anthony Perez follow up a good season with improvement, Ole Miss should win 20-plus games.

Trending Up: Everybody on the team will play better with Henderson gone, particularly Summers, who averaged more than 18 points and hit 42.3% of his 3-pointers. If LaDarius White or Anthony Perez can step up as scorers, the Rebels will be vastly improved.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA (14-20, 5-13)

Coach: Frank Martin (28-38 in 2 years; 145-92 overall)

Losses (2): Brenton Williams, SG/PG (14.9 ppg); * Carlton Geathers, C

* Medical hardship

Returning scholarship players (10): Sindarius Thornwell, SG/SF (6-5, 206, SO); Tyrone Johnson, PG (6-3, 194, JR); Duane Notice, PG (6-2, 221, SO); Laimonas Chatkevicius, PF/C (6-11, 250, JR); Reggie Theus Jr., SF/SG (6-6, 210, SO); Justin McKie, SG (6-4, 195, SO); Demetrius Henry, C (6-9, 215, SO); Michael Carrera, SF (6-5, 214, JR); Mindaugas Kacinas, SF/PF (6-7, 210, JR); Desmond Ringer, C/PF (6-9, 255, SO)

Recruits (3): Marcus Stroman, PG (6-2, 170); TeMarcus Blanton, SG (6-4, 185); Shamiek Sheppard (6-6, 225)

Outlook for 2014-15: By beating Kentucky and winning two games in the SEC Tournament, South Carolina served notice that Frank Martin’s plan for success is starting to work. The Gamecocks are that team nobody wants to play because they will grind on you physically. Martin has the backcourt combo that will work in Sindarius Thornwell and Tyrone Johnson. If Demetrius Henry and Desmond Ringer can figure out how to play without fouling, South Carolina will be very much improved on the inside.

Trending Up: Frank Martin teams tend to get better as they go. This is going to be year three and that should mean a winning record and perhaps a challenge to get to the NIT. It’s a pivotal year. If he can win with the talent he has, it will open the door for better recruiting in the future.

TENNESSEE (24-13, 11-7 SEC)

Coach: Open

Losses (4): Jeronne Maymon, PF (9.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg); Jordan McRae, SG (18.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg); Antonio Barton, PG (7.5 ppg. 2.6 apg); * Jarnell Stokes, C/PF (15.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg); D’Montre Edwards, SG/SF (2.2 ppg)

* Declared for NBA Draft

Returning scholarship players (7): Josh Richardson, SF/SG (6-6, 196, SR); Robert Hubbs III, SG/SF (6-6, 206 SO); Armani Moore, SG (7-5, 215, JR); Rawane Nidiyae, C (6-10, 275, SR); Darius Thompson, PG (6-5, 181, SO); A.J. Davis, SF (6-9, 212, SO); Derek Reese SF/PF (6-8, 220, JR)

Recruits: Phil Cofer, PF (6-7, 200); Larry Austin, PG (6-1, 161); C.J. Turman, C (6-9, 220); Jordan Cornish, SG (6-4, 180)

Outlook for 2014-15: Maybe Cuonzo Martin took a look at what he had coming back and decided it was time to see if the grass is really greener on the other side of the hill. Tennessee doesn’t have a bare cupboard, but it will be a young team without any inside experience that has been put together to win grind it out games. Unfortunately, this is not a grind it out roster with Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon gone.

Trending Down: The Vols’ chances of making the NCAA again departed when Stokes announced he’s leaving for the NBA. When Martin announced he’s going to Cal, any chances of making the NIT found the bottom of the ocean.

TEXAS A&M (18-16, 8-10 SEC)

Coach: Billy Kennedy (48-46 in 3 years; 259-225 overall)

Losses (1): Fabyon Harris, PG (6.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.7 apg); * Shawn Smith, PG/SG (5.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg)

* Transferring to another school.

Returning scholarship players (9):  Tavario Miller, SF/PF (6-7, 224, SO); Jordan Green, SG (6-5, 188, SR); Kourtney Roberson C/PF (6-9, 244, SR); Davonte Fitzgerald, SF (6-7, 200, SO); Alex Caruso, SG/SF (6-5, 183, JR); Jamal Jones, PF/SF (6-8, 197, SR); Antwan Space, PF (6-8, 224, RJR); * Tony Trocha (6-10, 220, RFR); Dylan Johns, C (6-11, 227, SO)

* Sat out 2013-14 waiting NCAA clearance

Recruits (4): Alex Robinson, PG (6-1, 170); Sidy Ndir, SG (6-2, 175); Peyton Allen, SG (6-5, 185); * Avery Johnson Jr., PG (5-9, 174)

* Spring signee

Outlook for 2014-15: The Aggies return nine scholarship players, three starters and two important reserves from a team that couldn’t shoot straight. To improve, freshman point Alex Robinson must be good as advertised, shooting guard Sidy Ndir has to be able to hit jump shots consistently, and Tony Trocha will have to give the Aggies a scorer on the inside. None of the returning players showed any measure of offensive consistency last year but they all play defense. Expect a lot of ugly games unless the three newbies can inject some life into the offense.

Trending Upward: The Aggies will be better than they were last year but how much better? They could make the NIT but that probably wouldn’t save Billy Kennedy’s job. Better than the NIT will require some serious over-achieving.

VANDERBILT (15-16, 7-11 SEC)

Coach: Kevin Stallings (292-192 in 15 seasons; 415-255 overall)

Losses (2): Rod Odom, PF (13.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg); Kyle Fuller, PG (11 ppg, 3.7 rpb, 4.2 apg)

Returning scholarship players (8): * Kedren Johnson, PG (6-4, 215, RJR); ** Eric McClellan, PG/SG (6-4, 188, RJR); Luke Kornet, C (7-0, 216, SO); Dai-Jon, SG Parker (6-3, 190, SR); Damian Jones, C/PF (6-10, 235, SO); Shelby Moats, PF (6-8, 227, SR); James Siakam, SF/PF (6-7, 215, RJR); Josh Henderson, C (6-11, 231, JR)

* Sat out 2013-14 for academic reasons

** Sat out second semester for academic reasons

Recruits (5): Riley LaChance, PG (6-2, 175); Wade Baldwin, PG (6-2, 180); Matthew Fisher-Davis, SG (6-5, 175); Jeff Roberson, SF (6-6, 195); * Nolan Cressler, SG (6-4, 190)

* Will sit out 2014-15; transfer from Cornell

Outlook for 2014-15: If Kedren Johnson and Eric McClellan will remember to go to class, Vanderbilt will be significantly improved. Johnson was the leading scorer in 2013 and McClellan was averaging better than 14 a game when he went belly up in the classroom before the SEC schedule began. If they can stay eligible and make some shots, the Commodores will be the most improved team in the league because Damian Jones is going to be a star. He could be NBA bound if he improves as much in this offseason as he did from his senior year in high school.

Trending Up: Vanderbilt will never stray too far south of .500 as long as there is Memorial Gym. The home court advantage, Kevin Stallings’ coaching and some people who can score should get the Commodores at least to the NIT.

Franz Beard

About Franz Beard

Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.

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The Florida Gators lost three front court starters including the SEC Player of the Year from the 2011 team that was one shot away from the Final Four. The Gators lost the fifth leading scorer in school history who was also the career leader in assists and a freshman who was the third player picked in the NBA Draft from their 2012 team that was a game away from the Final Four. In 2013, the Gators lost three senior starters who all averaged double figures including the second leading scorer in school history from a third straight Elite Eight team. This year, the Gators lose four senior starters who helped Florida win 30 straight games and get to the first Final Four since the 2007 national championship season.

The reason it’s important to talk about the guys who have departed in each of the last four years is to emphasize the fact that Billy Donovan has the Florida basketball program in a reload mode. The Gators are losing talented guys every year – maybe not all those one-and-dones and first rounders that Kentucky has been producing – but instead of rebuilding from ground zero, the guys who step in and take over are getting the job done in a very big way.

On paper, it looks like the Gators have taken a real hit by losing SEC Defensive Player of the Year Patric Young, Will Yeguete, Wooden All-American Casey Prather and Scottie Wilbekin, the SEC Player of the Year who made several All-America teams. But the reality is that the Florida cupboard is far from empty. The Gators will be taller and deeper next season than they were this recently completed season and the history of the last four years tells us that Donovan is always losing players but the Gators don’t miss a beat the next season.

Here is the roster breakdown for next season (returning starters in bold face):

BIGS (6): Dorian Finney-Smith (6-8, 214, RJR); Chris Walker (6-10, 220, SO); * Damontre Harris (6-10, 235, RSR); * * Alex Murphy (6-9, 230, RJR); Devin Robinson (6-9, 190, FR); * * * Jacob Kurtz (6-6, 210, SR)

* Sat out 2013-14
* * Transferred from Duke at midyear
* * * Non-scholarship player

WINGS (6): Michael Frazier II (6-4, 199, JR); * Eli Carter (6-2, 200, RJR); DeVon Walker (6-6, 200, JR); * Dillon Graham (6-4, 190, RSO); Brandone Francis (6-5, 220, FR); * * Zach Hodskins (6-4, 200, FR)

* Medical redshirt in 2013-14
* * Non-scholarship player

POINTS (2): Kasey Hill (6-1, 181, SO); Chris Chiozza (5-10, 160, FR)

Donovan will have more options than he’s had at any time since the 2011 season because of the front court depth. Carter scored 899 points in two years at Rutgers. If he’s healthy, he will probably start on the wing opposite Frazier, giving the Gators scorers on either side of the ball with Hill operating the point. The likely starting front court would have Finney-Smith at the high post and Chris Walker down low although Donovan could go big with Finney-Smith or Devin Robinson on the wings with Chris Walker and either Harris or Murphy on the inside.

The front court depth will allow the Gators to match up size-wise with just about any team in the country. If Chris Walker adds strength and develops in the offseason, the Gators will have potentially their best inside scorer since the days of Al Horford. Having Walker and Harris available also means that Donovan can press full court with a shot blocker as the safety to protect the rim. While it’s hard to imagine the Gators being better defensively than they were the last two seasons, they will have the ability to reject shots and go with a longer, more athletic press lineup.

If there is a potential weakness, it would be outside shooting. Frazier is one of the best outside shooters in the country, but he can go silent as he proved against UConn. Carter was a volume scorer at Rutgers before transferring to Florida, but was a very streaky shooter

If the Harrison twins elect to go to the NBA rather than come back for their sophomore seasons at Kentucky, the Gators will be favored to win their fourth SEC championship in five years. Even if the twins come back, Florida will be considered no worse than the preseason #2 in the league and a consensus top 10 pick nationally to start the season.

Here is a look at the other 13 teams in the SEC:

(Starters listed in bold face)

ALABAMA (13-19, 7-11 SEC)

Coach: Anthony Grant (99-71 in 5 years; 175-96 overall)

Losses (1): Trevor Releford, PG (18.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.1 apg), Carl Engstrom (1.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg)

Returning scholarship players (9): Algie Key (6-4, 195, SR); * Ricky Tarrant, PG/SG (6-2, 190, RJR); * Michael Kessens, PF (6-9, 215, RSO); Jimmie Taylor, C (6-10, 240, SO); Shannon Hale, PF (6-8, 220, SO); Nick Jacobs, PF/C (6-8, 250, SR); Levi Randolph, SF/SG (6-5, 210, SR); Rodney Cooper, SG/SF (6-6, 215, JR); Retin Obasohan (6-1, 205, JR)

* Sat out 2013-14 after transferring

Recruits (3): Justin Coleman, PG (5-10, 155); Riley Norris, SF (6-7, 190); Devin Mitchell, SG (6-4, 175)

Outlook for 2014-15: Anthony Grant kept his job due to the combination of a very good recruiting class and transfers Ricky Tarrant and Michael Kessens, who sat out last season. Tarrant (Tulane transfer) and Kessens (Longwood) are excellent scorers as are incoming freshmen Riley Norris and Devin Mitchell. The question is who replaces do-everything point guard Trevor Releford. Justin Coleman is certainly quick enough but is he really 5-10? And can he score? There are four starters returning but none of them are difference-makers.

Trending Up: Alabama should improve enough to make the NIT but will that be enough to save Anthony Grant’s job? He’s on shaky ground.

 

ARKANSAS (22-12, 10-8 SEC)

Coach: Mike Anderson (59-39 in 3 years; 259-137 overall)

Losses (4): Mardracus Wade, SG/PG (3.9 ppg); Ricky Scott Jr., SG (2.7 ppg); Coty Clarke, PF (9.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.4 apg); Fred Gully III, SG (3.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.9 apg)

Returning scholarship players (8): Rashad Madden, PG/SG (6-5, 180, SR); Alandise Harris, PF/SF (6-7, 237, SR); Anthlon Bell (6-3, 188, SO); Bobby Portis, C/PF (6-10, 242, SO); Jacorey Williams, PF/C (6-8, 215, JR); Michael Qualls, SG/SF (6-6, 210, JR); Moses Kingsley, C/PF (6-10, 230, SO); * Keaton Miles, SF (6-7, 215, SR)

* Sat out 2013-14 after transferring

Recruits (5): Anton Beard, PG (6-1, 180); Trey Thompson, PF (6-9, 230); Nick Babb, SF (6-4, 180); Jabril Durham, PG (6-1, 180); * Dusty Hannahs, SG (6-4, 210)

* Will sit out 2014-15; Texas Tech transfer

Outlook for 2014-15: The key stat is oh-fer as in oh-fer the NCAA Tournament since Mike Anderson has been the coach. Anderson has a roster full of players tailored to his style of play so there are no more excuses for missing The Big Dance. Bobby Portis has the body and skills to play in the NBA but the helter-skelter style of play that Anderson employs isn’t furthering his status as a top prospect. The lack of a point guard capable of directing a half court attack has been a killer, which is why incoming freshman Anton Beard and juco transfer Jabril Durham are critical. If they can’t slow the team down and get them playing under control, it will be same old, same old in Fayetteville – tough at home and road kill away.

Treading Water: Arkansas SHOULD be better but history says the Razorbacks won’t improve all that much. Unless Arkansas can win on the road, it’s another NIT season and that might not save Anderson’s job.

AUBURN (14-16, 6-12 SEC)

Coach: Bruce Pearl (First year at Auburn; 462-145 overall)

Losses (3): Chris Denson, SG (19.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.4 apg), Allen Payne, SF (7.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, C (6.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.1 bpg)

Returning scholarship players (10): KT Harrell, SG (6-4, 216, SR); Dion Wade, SG (6-5, 170, SO); Tahj Shamsid-Deen, PG (5-10, 163, SO); Alex Thompson, PF (6-8, 204, SO); Malcolm Canada, PG (6-3, 224, SR); Benas Griciunas, C (7-0, 225, SO); Chris Griffin, PF (6-7, 226, SR); Ronald Delph, C (7-0, 235, RFR); Matthew Atewe, C (6-9, 250, SO); Jordon Granger, PF (6-8, 200, JR)

Recruits (2): Sam Longwood, SF (6-7, 205); Jack Purchase, C/PF (6-10, 200); * Cinmeon Bowers (6-7, 260)

* Juco, spring signee.

Outlook for 2014-15: The good news is that Bruce Pearl is the coach. The bad news is that 10 players return from last year’s team and only two of them are legitimate SEC players. KT Harrell is a legitimate scorer (18.3 ppg) who should score even more in Pearl’s system. Tahj Shamsid-Deen is extremely quick and good on the offensive end (9.5 ppg, 2.9 apg) but he’s a defensive liability which will not endear him to Pearl. There aren’t any other players on this roster that Pearl would have recruited in the first place but he will maximize potential. UPDATE: Auburn added juco transfer Cinmeon Bowers from Chipola College in Florida, the #1 juco power forward in the country.

Trending Up: History tells us that Bruce Pearl will get the job done and the turnaround will begin in year one even if it doesn’t show in a better record. You can bet that Auburn will schedule better and play harder. A plus-.500 record would be a great start but that might be asking much, even for Bruce Pearl.

 

GEORGIA (20-14, 12-6 SEC)

Coach: Mark Fox (84-76 in 5 years; 207-119 overall)

Losses (2): Donte Williams, C  (4.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg); * John Cannon, C (1.4 ppg)

* Transferred

Returning scholarship players (11): Marcus Thornton, PF (6-8, 235, RSR); Juwan Parker, PG/SG (6-4, 200, SO); Charles Mann, PG (6-5, 210, JR); Tim Dixon, C/PF (6-10, 230, SR); Cameron Forte, PF/SF (6-7, 220, JR); Kenny Gaines, SG (6-3, 195, JR); Houston Kessler, PF (6-8, 225, SO); Kenny Paul Geno, SF (6-6, 200, SO); J.J. Frazier, PG (5-10, 150, SO); Brandon Morris, SF/SG (6-7, 215, JR); Nemaja Djurisic, PF/SF (6-8, 230, SR)

Recruits (2): Yante Maten, PF (6-8, 230); Fred Iduwe (6-11, 220)

Outlook for 2014-15: If Georgia had played anything but a collection of convents, homeless shelters and senior citizens homes prior to the SEC schedule, the Bulldogs would have made the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs are hoping their year of experience works for them the way it did for Florida. This is not an overly talented team but four starters return who went 12-6 in the SEC and had a couple of impressive road wins. Georgia will be taller but there still isn’t a knock down shooter you can count on every night. Charles Mann will be one of the 10 best players in the SEC this year.

Trending Up: In any league that didn’t have Billy Donovan running the SEC table, Mark Fox would have been coach of the year.  Fox can coach, but he still hasn’t turned the recruiting corner. Atlanta is loaded with talent but not much of it is heading to Athens. Still, the Bulldogs improve. If they play a representative non-conference schedule they could make the NCAA this year.

 

KENTUCKY (29-11, 12-6 SEC)

Coach: John Calipari (152-37 in 5 years; 555-174 overall)

Losses (7): * Julius Randle, PF (15 ppg, 10.4 rpg); * James Young, SF/SG (14.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg); * Aaron Harrison, SG (13.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg); * Andrew Harrison, PG (10.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.0 apg); Jon Hood, SF (1.2 ppg); Jarrod Polson, PG (1.0 ppg)

* Expected to declare for the NBA Draft

Returning scholarship players (6): Willie Cauley-Stein (7-0, 235, JR); Marcus Lee, C/PF (6-9, 215, SO); Alex Poythress, PF (6-8, 239, JR); Dominique Hawkins, PG (6-0, 193, SO); Derek Willis, PF (6-9, 205, SO); Dakari Johnson, C (7-0, 265, SO)

Recruits (4): Trey Lyles, PF/C (6-10, 255); Karl Towns Jr., C/PF (6-11, 235); Devin Booker, SG (6-5, 190); Tyler Ulis, PG (5-9, 150)

Outlook for 2014-15: If John Calipari convinces the Harrison twins to stay a year, Kentucky has the look of a Final Four team. If the twins go – which they are expected to do – Kentucky will be able to block shots and dominate games in the paint, but who’s going to shoot the ball? If they go, incoming freshman Devin Booker is the only outside shooter on the team. If they stay, Cal has the opportunity of bringing pint-sized Tyler Ulis off the bench. If they go, Ulis has to start. He’s listed at 5-9. He might be 5-7. He’s dynamite in the open court but let’s see how he does among the trees in the paint.

Treading Water: Kentucky could be trending upward next week if the twins elect to stay along with Cauley-Stein, Poythress and Johnson. Best bet is the twins say sayonara, which means Calipari might be looking for a transfer who has (a) already graduated, (b) can shoot and (c) can play at the SEC level.

 

LSU (20-14, 9-9 SEC)

Coach: Johnny Jones (39-26 in 2 years; 244-188 overall)

Losses (3): Andre Stringer, PG (11.8 ppg, 2.6 apg); * Johnny O’Bryant III, PF/C (15.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg); Shavon Coleman, SF (9.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg)

* Declared for the NBA Draft

Returning scholarship players (10): Anthony Hickey, PG (5-11, 182, SR); * Keith Hornsby, SG (6-4, 190, RJR); Shane Hammink, SF/PF (6-7, 217, JR); Jarrell Martin, PF (6-9, 241, SO); Brian Bridgewater, SF/PF (6-6, 230, RFR); Darcy Malone, C (7-0, 229, SO); Malik Morgan, SG (6-4, 199, JR); Jordan Mickey, PF/SF (6-8, 220, SO); John Odo, C/PF (6-9, 236, SO); Tim Quarterman, PG/SG (6-6, 175, SO)

* Sat out 2013-14 after transferring

Recruits (4): Elbert Robinson, C (6-11, 270); Aaron Epps, C/PF (6-9, 220); Jalyn Patterson (6-1, 170); Josh Gray, PG (6-1, 175)

Outlook for 2014-15: LSU is going to once again be very, very tall and with the addition of UNC-Asheville transfer Keith Hornsby, the sun of keyboard rocker Bruce Hornsby and a deadeye long distance shooter, LSU could be very good if Johnny Jones can somehow find a point guard. Anthony Hickey will be back for his fourth year but he’s such a defensive liability. Either Tim Quarterman needs to step up his game or else juco Josh Gray has to be able to step in and play.

Treading Water: With all that front court talent, LSU should be a conference contender but it isn’t going to happen unless there is a significant improvement in the backcourt. If Jones doesn’t hurry up and find some guards that can play, he’s going to find himself on coaching’s endangered species list.

 

MISSISSIPPI STATE (14-19, 3-15 SEC)

Coach: Rick Ray (24-41 in 2 years)

Losses (2): Colin Borchert, PG (8.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg); Tyson Cunningham, SG (1.8 ppg)

Returning scholarship players (9): Fred Thomas, SF (6-5, 206, JR); Andre Applewhite, SF/SG (6-5, 217, JR); Trivante Bloodman, PG (6-0, 182, SR); Jacoby Davis, PG (6-1, 191, SO); I.J. Ready, PG (5-11, 170, SO); Gavin Ware, C/PF (6-9, 268, JR); Fallou Ndoye, C (6-11, 215, RFR); Roquez Johnson, SF (6-7, 210, SR); Craig Sword, PG/SG (6-3, 194, JR)

Recruits (5): Demetrius Houston, SF (6-6, 185); Oliver Black, PF (6-9, 215); Elijah Staley, SF (6-6, 208); Maurice Dunlap, SG (6-2, 170); * Johnny Zuppardo, C/PF (6-9, 235)

* Juco, spring signee

Outlook for 2014-15: If Mississippi State had played any decent out of conference teams the record would have been more reflective of just how bad the Bulldogs were last season. There will be more live bodies to work with but only Gavin Ware and Craig Sword are SEC caliber players. There are no difference-makers arriving in the recruiting class. All four recruits are projects. UPDATE: The addition of juco center Johnny Zuppardo gives the Bulldogs a bit more depth up front, but it’s still not enough.

Trending Down: The record could improve or stay the same but that wouldn’t change the fact that (a) this is a bad basketball team and (b) Rick Ray has neither recruited the type of athletes who can play in the SEC nor has he developed his roster.

 

MISSOURI (23-12, 9-9 SEC)

Coach: Open

Losses (4): Jabari Brown, SG (19.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg); Jordan Clarkson, PG (17.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.4 apg); Tony Criswell, C/PF (3.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg); Earnest Ross, SF/SG (14 ppg, 6 rpg)

Returning scholarship players (8): Wes Clark, PG (6-0, 171, SO); Johnathan Williams III, C/PF (6-9, 223, SO); Shane Rector, PG (6-1, 171, SO); Torren Jones, PF (6-8, 234, SO); Danny Feldmann, C (6-9, 225, SR); Hayden Barnard, PF (6-10, 215, FR); Ryan Rosburg, C/PF (6-10, 252, JR); Keanu Post, C/PF (6-11, 255, SR)

Recruits (3): JaKeenan Grant, PF (6-8, 210); Namon Wright, SG (6-5, 175); Kevin Punter Jr., SG (6-4, 170)

Outlook for 2014-15: If Frank Haith had a clue about building team chemistry, the Tigers would have won 25 games in the regular season and made the NCAA Tournament last year. Instead, they tanked and were a two-and-through in the Nobody’s Interested Tournament (NIT). That’s the bad news. The good news is that even though all the scorers are gone and Louisville transfer Zach Price has been kicked off the team, Haith is gone. Haith saw the handwriting on the wall and bolted for Tulsa.

Trending Down: The buzzards won’t have to circle. Haith is gone. Topping the wish list to replace Haith is Gregg Marshall of Wichita State.

OLE MISS (19-14, 9-9)

Coach: Andy Kennedy (170-100 in eight years; 191-113 overall)

Losses (2): Marshall Henderson, SG (19 ppg); Demarco Cox, C (4.2 ppg, 3.9); Derrick Millinghaus, PG (6.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 2.3 apg)

Returning scholarship players (9): Martavious Newby, SG (6-3, 210, JR); Ladarius White, SG/SF (6-6, 211, SR); Sebastian Saiz, C/PF (6-9, 233, SO); Anthony Perez, PF/SF (6-9, 213, JR); Dwight Coleby, C (6-9, 236, SO); Janari Joesaar, SF (6-6, 208, SO); Terry Brutus, SF/PF (6-6, 237, SO); Jarvis Summers, PG/SG (6-3, 186, SR); Aaron Jones, C/PF (6-9, 220, SR)

Recruits (5): Stefan Moody, PG (5-10, 175); Macanvis Hymon, PF (6-7, 220); J.T. Escobar, SG (6-2, 170); Rauno Nurger, C/PF (6-10, 230); *Roderick Lawrence, SG (6-4, 185)

* Juco, spring signee

Outlook for 2014-15: The Marshall Henderson magic wore off after his junior year. He was a distraction not to mention a bad shooter and even worse defender last year. So, it figures to be addition by subtraction. Jarvis Summers is a stud and one of the best players in the SEC. If Sebastian Saiz and Anthony Perez follow up a good season with improvement, Ole Miss should win 20-plus games.

Trending Up: Everybody on the team will play better with Henderson gone, particularly Summers, who averaged more than 18 points and hit 42.3% of his 3-pointers. If LaDarius White or Anthony Perez can step up as scorers, the Rebels will be vastly improved.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA (14-20, 5-13)

Coach: Frank Martin (28-38 in 2 years; 145-92 overall)

Losses (2): Brenton Williams, SG/PG (14.9 ppg); * Carlton Geathers, C

* Medical hardship

Returning scholarship players (10): Sindarius Thornwell, SG/SF (6-5, 206, SO); Tyrone Johnson, PG (6-3, 194, JR); Duane Notice, PG (6-2, 221, SO); Laimonas Chatkevicius, PF/C (6-11, 250, JR); Reggie Theus Jr., SF/SG (6-6, 210, SO); Justin McKie, SG (6-4, 195, SO); Demetrius Henry, C (6-9, 215, SO); Michael Carrera, SF (6-5, 214, JR); Mindaugas Kacinas, SF/PF (6-7, 210, JR); Desmond Ringer, C/PF (6-9, 255, SO)

Recruits (3): Marcus Stroman, PG (6-2, 170); TeMarcus Blanton, SG (6-4, 185); Shamiek Sheppard (6-6, 225)

Outlook for 2014-15: By beating Kentucky and winning two games in the SEC Tournament, South Carolina served notice that Frank Martin’s plan for success is starting to work. The Gamecocks are that team nobody wants to play because they will grind on you physically. Martin has the backcourt combo that will work in Sindarius Thornwell and Tyrone Johnson. If Demetrius Henry and Desmond Ringer can figure out how to play without fouling, South Carolina will be very much improved on the inside.

Trending Up: Frank Martin teams tend to get better as they go. This is going to be year three and that should mean a winning record and perhaps a challenge to get to the NIT. It’s a pivotal year. If he can win with the talent he has, it will open the door for better recruiting in the future.

TENNESSEE (24-13, 11-7 SEC)

Coach: Open

Losses (4): Jeronne Maymon, PF (9.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg); Jordan McRae, SG (18.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg); Antonio Barton, PG (7.5 ppg. 2.6 apg); * Jarnell Stokes, C/PF (15.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg); D’Montre Edwards, SG/SF (2.2 ppg)

* Declared for NBA Draft

Returning scholarship players (7): Josh Richardson, SF/SG (6-6, 196, SR); Robert Hubbs III, SG/SF (6-6, 206 SO); Armani Moore, SG (7-5, 215, JR); Rawane Nidiyae, C (6-10, 275, SR); Darius Thompson, PG (6-5, 181, SO); A.J. Davis, SF (6-9, 212, SO); Derek Reese SF/PF (6-8, 220, JR)

Recruits: Phil Cofer, PF (6-7, 200); Larry Austin, PG (6-1, 161); C.J. Turman, C (6-9, 220); Jordan Cornish, SG (6-4, 180)

Outlook for 2014-15: Maybe Cuonzo Martin took a look at what he had coming back and decided it was time to see if the grass is really greener on the other side of the hill. Tennessee doesn’t have a bare cupboard, but it will be a young team without any inside experience that has been put together to win grind it out games. Unfortunately, this is not a grind it out roster with Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon gone.

Trending Down: The Vols’ chances of making the NCAA again departed when Stokes announced he’s leaving for the NBA. When Martin announced he’s going to Cal, any chances of making the NIT found the bottom of the ocean.

TEXAS A&M (18-16, 8-10 SEC)

Coach: Billy Kennedy (48-46 in 3 years; 259-225 overall)

Losses (1): Fabyon Harris, PG (6.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.7 apg); * Shawn Smith, PG/SG (5.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg)

* Transferring to another school.

Returning scholarship players (9):  Tavario Miller, SF/PF (6-7, 224, SO); Jordan Green, SG (6-5, 188, SR); Kourtney Roberson C/PF (6-9, 244, SR); Davonte Fitzgerald, SF (6-7, 200, SO); Alex Caruso, SG/SF (6-5, 183, JR); Jamal Jones, PF/SF (6-8, 197, SR); Antwan Space, PF (6-8, 224, RJR); * Tony Trocha (6-10, 220, RFR); Dylan Johns, C (6-11, 227, SO)

* Sat out 2013-14 waiting NCAA clearance

Recruits (4): Alex Robinson, PG (6-1, 170); Sidy Ndir, SG (6-2, 175); Peyton Allen, SG (6-5, 185); * Avery Johnson Jr., PG (5-9, 174)

* Spring signee

Outlook for 2014-15: The Aggies return nine scholarship players, three starters and two important reserves from a team that couldn’t shoot straight. To improve, freshman point Alex Robinson must be good as advertised, shooting guard Sidy Ndir has to be able to hit jump shots consistently, and Tony Trocha will have to give the Aggies a scorer on the inside. None of the returning players showed any measure of offensive consistency last year but they all play defense. Expect a lot of ugly games unless the three newbies can inject some life into the offense.

Trending Upward: The Aggies will be better than they were last year but how much better? They could make the NIT but that probably wouldn’t save Billy Kennedy’s job. Better than the NIT will require some serious over-achieving.

VANDERBILT (15-16, 7-11 SEC)

Coach: Kevin Stallings (292-192 in 15 seasons; 415-255 overall)

Losses (2): Rod Odom, PF (13.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg); Kyle Fuller, PG (11 ppg, 3.7 rpb, 4.2 apg)

Returning scholarship players (8): * Kedren Johnson, PG (6-4, 215, RJR); ** Eric McClellan, PG/SG (6-4, 188, RJR); Luke Kornet, C (7-0, 216, SO); Dai-Jon, SG Parker (6-3, 190, SR); Damian Jones, C/PF (6-10, 235, SO); Shelby Moats, PF (6-8, 227, SR); James Siakam, SF/PF (6-7, 215, RJR); Josh Henderson, C (6-11, 231, JR)

* Sat out 2013-14 for academic reasons

** Sat out second semester for academic reasons

Recruits (5): Riley LaChance, PG (6-2, 175); Wade Baldwin, PG (6-2, 180); Matthew Fisher-Davis, SG (6-5, 175); Jeff Roberson, SF (6-6, 195); * Nolan Cressler, SG (6-4, 190)

* Will sit out 2014-15; transfer from Cornell

Outlook for 2014-15: If Kedren Johnson and Eric McClellan will remember to go to class, Vanderbilt will be significantly improved. Johnson was the leading scorer in 2013 and McClellan was averaging better than 14 a game when he went belly up in the classroom before the SEC schedule began. If they can stay eligible and make some shots, the Commodores will be the most improved team in the league because Damian Jones is going to be a star. He could be NBA bound if he improves as much in this offseason as he did from his senior year in high school.

Trending Up: Vanderbilt will never stray too far south of .500 as long as there is Memorial Gym. The home court advantage, Kevin Stallings’ coaching and some people who can score should get the Commodores at least to the NIT.

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