We were supposed to have everybody back this season. Yeah, that didn't quite happen, but in spite of the depth issues this season has been better than what a lot of Vanderbilt fans were expecting. No, we don't exactly like .500ish seasons like this year and last, but... well, frankly, this year could have been a lot worse.
Next year, though, should be better. We have two seniors on this year's team (Rod Odom and Kyle Fuller) and while Odom (3.2 win shares, best on the team) won't be easy to replace, the loss of Fuller's production (1.7 win shares, mostly on the defensive end) will be mitigated considerably by, hopefully, the return of Kedren Johnson, and three four-star recruits (Wade Baldwin, Matthew Fisher-Davis, Riley LaChance) should likely mean we won't be having any depth issues in the backcourt. The return of Josh Henderson from injury should help as well, combined with further development from the two freshmen (Damian Jones and Kyle Fuller.) While we will only have ten scholarship players next season, four of those will be seniors (assuming Henderson isn't granted a second redshirt year) and we should be both good and experienced.
What about the rest of the conference? (Win shares are from sports-reference.com; recruiting rankings are composite rankings from 247sports.com.)
Seniors: Trevor Releford (4.6 WS)
Incoming: Justin Coleman (4*, #14 PG), Devin Mitchell (4*, #25 SG), Riley Norris (4*, #23 SF), Ricky Tarrant (transfer/Tulane, 4.4 WS in 2012-13), Michael Kessens (transfer/Longwood, 2.3 WS in 2012-13)
The Tide only lose one senior, but it's a big one; Releford should leave among Alabama's top five all-time leading scorers. A solid recruiting class and a couple of talented transfers will help, but really, getting talented recruits hasn't been Alabama's problem under Grant; most of the players currently on the roster were highly regarded as recruits. The other question is whether Grant is back for next season and, of course, player defections.
NBA?: Bobby Portis (3.8 WS)
Incoming: Anton Beard (4*, #23 PG), Nick Babb (3*, #34 SG), Trey Thompson (3*, #60 PF), Keaton Miles (transfer/West Virginia, 1.1 WS in 2012-13)
Losing Clarke hurts, but hopefully Miles should be able to mitigate that loss somewhat, while Beard should be able to match Gulley's production as a freshman. The major question is Portis, who probably won't be a lottery pick but might be tempted by NBA dollars. If he's back, I think Arkansas can be very good next year.
Incoming: Ronald Delph (3*, #23 C; redshirting this year), Sam Logwood (3*, #48 SF), Jack Purchase (2*, #83 SF)
Denson will be difficult to replace, and you're kind of seeing why Tony Barbee is in so much trouble: it's not like he's struggling with an inexperienced team. There are six freshmen on this year's team, but only Tahj Shamsid-Deen is much of a contributor right now. It will be interesting to see what direction Auburn goes in this offseason; KT Harrell is back, but next year's Auburn team might really struggle regardless of who's coaching it.
Incoming: Devin Robinson (5*, #4 SF), Brandone Francis (4*, #10 SG), Chris Chiozza (4*, #7 PG), Alex Murphy (transfer/Duke, 0.4 WS in 2012-13)
Florida has a lot to replace, but they also had a lot to replace off last year's team and look how that's worked out. The incoming recruiting class is great, and Florida should also get a full year from Chris Walker in addition to talented youngsters like Kasey Hill and Michael Frazier coming back. Do you want to bet against Billy Donovan?
Seniors: Donte Williams (2.1 WS)
Incoming: None (yet)
The Bulldogs don't have anybody signed right now, but they're in the enviable position of currently being in third place in the SEC standings and bringing basically everybody back next season. I doubt they'll challenge Florida or Kentucky for league supremacy, but with a solid backcourt returning the NCAAs won't be out of the question.
Seniors: Jarrod Polson (0.4 WS), Jon Hood (0.2 WS)
Incoming: Trey Lyles (5*, #2 PF), Karl Towns (5*, #3 C), Devin Booker (4*, #8 SG), Tyler Ulis (4*, #4 PG)
Randle is as good as gone, while the other guys -- who largely project as late-first/early-second round picks -- are up in the air. Intentionally or not, Kentucky is starting to resemble a more conventional program rather than a one-and-done factory as only one of the incoming freshmen is projected as a first-round pick in 2015 by NBAdraft.net. Maybe Calipari is tired of losing to Billy Donovan and his talented seniors? Anyway, Kentucky could be a championship contender again in 2015 depending on who's back.
NBA?: Jordan Mickey (3.0 WS), Johnny O'Bryant (2.1 WS)
Robinson brings the beef at 322 pounds (side note: what is it with LSU and 300-pound basketball players?) Stringer and Coleman are the kind of guys who are replaceable; neither Mickey nor O'Bryant are big-time NBA prospects but that hasn't stopped players from declaring for the draft before. Further development from some talented freshmen could mean a breakthrough next year, but then I thought that about LSU this year as well.
Seniors: Marshall Henderson (2.9 WS)
Incoming: Marcanvis Hymon (3*, #34 SF), Stefan Moody (3*, #4 JC SG), Rauno Nurger (3*, #31 C), J.T. Escobar (2*, #75 SG)
Yes, Marshall Henderson is gone, though according to Win Shares he's not even Ole Miss's best player this year (that would be Jarvis Summers.) But if you saw Ole Miss's offense in the couple of games he was suspended you know this is a significant loss. The Rebels should have a ton of size, though with 12 players returning and four incoming there are going to be some... "defections" this offseason.
Seniors: Colin Borchert (1.4 WS)
Incoming: Demetrius Houston (3*, #46 SF), Oliver Black (3*, #69 PF), Maurice Dunlap (3*, #64 SG), Fallou Ndoye (3*, #65 PF, redshirting this year)
Borchert is replaceable, but the outlook for Mississippi State still isn't great; there's talent on this team, but it hasn't come together. Maybe experience will help, but this still doesn't look like a team that will challenge for an NCAA bid.
Seniors: Earnest Ross (3.7 WS), Anthony Criswell (0.9 WS)
Bello and Price were both once highly touted recruits who struggled to break into the rotation at Baylor and Louisville, respectively, while Gant and Wright are talented as well. Clarkson and Brown could go to the NBA, which would hurt, but this should be a talented team either way... the question still remains, though, whether Frank Haith will get the most out of them.
Seniors: Brenton Williams (3.3 WS)
Incoming: Marcus Stroman (3*, #27 PG), TeMarcus Blanton (3*, #38 SF)
Losing Williams will hurt, and there's not a whole lot coming in, but with a frighteningly young team (7 freshmen, 4 sophomores) this year, Frank Martin's team should improve next year if they can manage to keep the roster intact. Sindarius Thornwell could be a star.
NBA?: Jarnell Stokes (4.5 WS)
Incoming: Larry Austin (3*, #28 PG), Philip Cofer (3*, #33 PF), CJ Turman (3*, #37 PF), Jordan Cornish (3*, #45 SG)
That's a lot of talent to lose, and if Stokes goes to the NBA this situation could get even worse. Getting five-star freshman Robert Hubbs healthy would be a boost to the Vols, but otherwise the Vols look to be in a rebuilding year next year. And the fact that this team might not make the NCAAs is causing Cuonzo Martin to feel some heat.
Seniors: Fabyon Harris (1.6 WS)
Incoming: Alex Robinson (4*, #13 PG), Peyton Allen (3*, #56 SG), Sidy Ndir (3*, #64 PG)
Another team that brings back basically everyone; Harris has his uses but is replaceable. Getting more improvement from the four freshmen on the roster would help. A&M has potential for next year but could flop again.