I took a look at the landscape of SEC basketball for the 2014-15 season a month or so ago. Now that we're into the offseason, well, let's just say our outlook is a bit clearer. And still somewhat muddled. But important updates nonetheless.
Additions: Jeff Garrett (6'7"/210, 3*, #58 PF)
With transfer Ricky Tarrant eligible and talented freshman Justin Coleman coming in, Key didn't figure to see too many minutes next season, so his decision to transfer probably won't affect Alabama's assessment much. Engstrom had his uses, but won't be terribly missed either. Nothing really changes; the Tide have some nice depth and talent on hand (but then, they looked like they did entering last season and we saw how that turned out.)
Losses: DeQuavious Wagner (transfer, 0.0 WS)
Additions: Jabril Durham (6'1"/180, 3*, #4 JC PG), Dusty Hannahs (transfer/Texas Tech, 1.8 WS)
Hannahs will, in all likelihood, be sitting out next season. Durham should more than offset the loss of Wagner, who was a little-used reserve. More importantly, though, the Hogs won't be losing Bobby Portis or Michael Qualls, both of whom (wisely) passed on the NBA. The assessment doesn't really change here.
Additions: Cinmeon Bowers (6'7"/261, 4*, #1 JC PF)
Well, you can see two immediate effects from Bruce Pearl coming on board. One, the addition of Bowers, who should help right away. And two, the fact that (at least so far) there have been no transfers out of the program. That was a major problem under Tony Barbee, but Pearl appears to have put a stop to that, and also represents a clear upgrade in the coaching department. Obviously the assessment here is up a bit, more than it would have been had Auburn gone with "mid-major coach du jour."
Nothing to report here. The Gators look the same as they did a month ago: loaded (but a bit inexperienced.)
Additions: Yante Maten (6'8"/225, 3*, #55 PF), Fred Iduwe (6'11"/220, 3*, #35 C)
Cannon and Dixon didn't contribute a whole lot but they both had size. What those losses mean is that the two freshmen (both late signees) will be counted on to contribute early. Ever so slight downgrade here, if only because depending on a pair of senior bigs (however unproductive they've been) is a bit better than depending on a pair of freshman bigs.
Losses: James Young (NBA, 4.7 WS)
Officially, we're still waiting on Julius Randle (5.9 WS) to decide; unofficially, he's as good as gone. The Harrison twins (Aaron: 5.1 WS, Andrew: 3.2 WS) are a different matter. Regardless of Randle, Kentucky should have a loaded frontcourt with Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson returning to go with two top recruits. The backcourt, though, is a different matter: if the Harrisons go pro, you're looking at Dominique Hawkins backing up a pair of freshmen who are (gasp) four-star recruits.
Losses: Johnny O'Bryant (NBA, 2.7 WS)
Losing O'Bryant was expected, and actually kind of workable: in spite of being LSU's leading scorer, Win Shares pegged him as being LSU's fifth-best player. Assuming Jordan Mickey doesn't join him in the draft (which would be a mistake; Mickey doesn't have the size to play down low in the pros and isn't a wing player) LSU should be fine.
Losses: Derrick Millinghaus (transfer, 0.9 WS)
Additions: Rod Lawrence (6'4", 3*, #3 JC SG), MJ Rhett (transfer/Tennessee St., 2.2 WS, eligible immediately)
Millinghaus surprised no one by transferring as his minutes dwindled down the stretch. Rhett is the big addition and gives Andy Kennedy another big body to throw at you (that makes five on the roster.) Worth pointing out that Ole Miss is currently at 15 scholarships for next year with nine guys returning and six new faces, meaning a couple of other guys are going to transfer (subtext: Andy Kennedy is going to cut a couple of guys' scholarships.)
Additions: Johnny Zuppardo (6'9"/230, 3*, #10 JC PF)
Nothing to get too excited about here, unless average-ish JUCO bigs excite you.
Additions: Kevin Punter (6'4"/170, NR JC SG), Cameron Biedscheid (transfer/Notre Dame, 1.1 WS, eligible midseason)
Losing Brown and Clarkson to the NBA hurts. Losing Zach Price, a Louisville transfer who never played a game at Mizzou, hurts as well; Mizzou could have used his size next season. Haith leaving for Tulsa mostly just adds insult to injury; aside from the fact that, well, he left for Tulsa, now you have to wait and see if Mizzou's spring signees decide to bail, though you also get the very real sense that Haith was leaving one step ahead of the ax. Forget about the coaching situation, though: look at Missouri's projected roster for next season. Ten players on scholarship, one won't be eligible until semester break, three of those will be newcomers, two didn't play a whole lot last season. Can you say "dumpster fire"?
Losses: None (so far)
Additions: Shamiek Sheppard (6'6"/220, 3*, #64 SF)
No losses so far, but the addition of Sheppard puts the Gamecocks one over the scholarship limit, so somebody will have to go obviously. Only question is who.
The loss of Stokes means the Vols are losing four of their top five players from last season (only Josh Richardson returns.) They're bringing in a bunch of not-terribly-well-regarded recruits, and may see some attrition from that recruiting class because of the coaching change. The silver lining is that the Vols do get former five-star Robert Hubbs back (he missed most of the season with a shoulder injury) and if he plays to expectations, he, Richardson, and Darius Thompson make for a pretty nice backcourt. But with Stokes gone, the frontcourt is unproven. Whoever the new coach is will be in for a rebuilding year.
Losses: Shawn Smith (transfer, 1.0 WS)
The Aggies should be able to overcome the loss of Smith, who was basically a depth guy last season but got pushed into action because of injuries. Jones is a key addition whom I'd forgotten about, while Johnson (the son of that Avery Johnson, yes) is a nice depth addition at the point.
Losses: None (yes!)
Additions: Nolan Cressler (transfer/Cornell, 0.9 WS)
I assume we all are familiar with this team.
Off the top of my head predictions
1. Kentucky: Your preseason #1 if the Harrisons return, probably a fringe top 10 team if they don't on the strength of the frontcourt alone, but media types will probably think freshmen Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker are better than they actually are.
2. Florida: Inexperienced, but talented, and still coached by Billy Donovan.
3. Arkansas: Portis's return means the Hogs should be an NCAA team next year.
4. LSU: Even minus O'Bryant, strong frontcourt; should be an NCAA team if they can get better guard play.
5. Vanderbilt: This might be the best-case scenario, but hey, I'M OVERLY OPTIMISTIC. Depth issues are, hopefully, a thing of the past.
6. Alabama: More talented than what they showed last season. Fringe NCAA team if everything goes right, Anthony Grant gets shown the door if it doesn't.
7. Georgia: Due for some regression after playing over their heads in SEC play last season; solid backcourt, but frontcourt looks shaky; Fox will coach his tail off.
8. South Carolina: Gets basically everyone back and Frank Martin knows what he's doing. I'm betting on a move up the standings, though probably a year away from contending for the NCAAs.
9. Texas A&M: Most everyone of consequence returns. Kennedy gets them to defend, but there still doesn't appear to be a whole lot of offense here.
10. Tennessee: New coach, in for a rebuilding season, but there's at least some talent on hand here.
11. Auburn: Gets KT Harrell back, and Pearl alone bumps them up a couple of notches, but I wouldn't bet on much more than that unless Cinmeon Bowers is Chris Porter 2.0.
12. Ole Miss: Jarvis Summers, nameless, faceless, random 6'9" guys, and a bunch of question marks. If you thought Marshall Henderson was overrated, then you should have seen how putrid this offense was in the two SEC games he missed.
13. Missouri: I could be way off base here, but this seriously has the look and feel of a massive dumpster fire at the moment. New coach to be named. I can see why Frank Haith didn't feel like waiting around to get canned.
14. Mississippi State: Returns all but one regular, but if you watched Mississippi State play last year, you're not sure if that's a good thing or not. Recruits coming in aren't all that highly touted. Rick Ray is seriously looking like a questionable hire right now.