What to watch in the Southeastern Conference in 2017-18:
Top players not playing for Kentucky
1. Robert Williams, Texas A&M. Defensive Player of the Year last season.
2. Yante Maten, Georgia. Quietly the most productive player in the SEC.
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3. Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi State. He averaged 16.7 points last season.
4. Matthew Fisher-Davis, Vanderbilt. A 37.2 percent three-point shooter last season.
5. KeVaughn Allen, Florida. All-league talent who could contend for Player of the Year.
Top freshmen not playing for Kentucky
1. Michael Porter Jr., Missouri. NBADraft.net tabs him the first player selected in the 2018 NBA Draft.
2. Collin Sexton, Alabama. Considered the nation’s top point guard recruit.
3. Tremont Waters, LSU. Late signee gives LSU a reason to believe.
4. Nick Weatherspoon, Mississippi State. Could be his team’s starting point guard.
5. Saben Lee, Vanderbilt. Could be his team’s starting point guard.
Sorry to see you leave
1. J.J. Frazier, Georgia. Inch for inch, the SEC’s most valuable player last season.
2. Sebastian Saiz, Ole Miss. Steady and consistently productive.
3. Luke Kornet, Vanderbilt. Lexington ties run deep.
4. Canyon Barry, Florida. The under-handed free throw is no more.
5. Kim Anderson, Missouri coach. Alas, in his case, a guy nice did finish last.
Fashionably late to the party
1. John Egbunu, Florida. Due to return from ACL surgery in January.
2. Jarred Vanderbilt, Jemarl Baker, Kentucky. Foot and knee woes, respectively, delay their debut.
3. JJ Caldwell, Texas A&M. Point guard vital to Aggies’ hopes suspended for first five games.
4. LSU freshman Galen Alexander is coming off ACL surgery and probably won’t be able to play when the season begins.
New to the scene
1. LSU Coach Will Wade. He has stated he wants to change the culture. LSU has advanced out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament twice in the last 30 years.
2. James Daniel III, Tennessee. Transfer led the nation in scoring (27.1 ppg) in 2015-16 while playing for Howard.
3. Duane Wilson, Texas A&M. Transfer point guard from Marquette might be indispensable if freshman JJ Caldwell stumbles.
4. Daniel Giddens, Alabama. Transfer from Ohio State could get minutes on front line.
5. Egor Koulechov, Florida. Transfer from Rice (and a native of Russia) made 47.4 percent of his three-point shots last season.
6. Markel Crawford, Ole Miss. He’s a graduate transfer from Memphis.
7. Jalen Hudson, Florida. Transfer from Virginia Tech is considered versatile enough to play any perimeter position on either end of the court.
We hardly knew ye
1. Cullen Neal, Ole Miss. Transfer from New Mexico transferred after one season.
1. Riley LaChance, Vanderbilt. A move away front point guard should help his three-point accuracy, which wasn’t bad last season (48.6 percent).
2. Egor Koulechov, Florida. Transfer from Rice is a good shooter.
3. Deandre Burnett, Ole Miss. He made 37.6 percent of his three-point shots last season.
4. Daryl Macon, Arkansas. He made 38.7 percent of his three-point shots last season.
1. Brad Calipari, Kentucky. The son of UK Coach John Calipari may have his moment.
2. Isaiah Stokes, Florida. Big freshman (6-8, 270) is younger brother of former big Vol, Jarnell Stokes.
3. Nick Weatherspoon, Mississippi State. Freshman is the younger brother of Quinndary Weatherspoon.
4. Jontay Porter, Missouri. Freshman is the brother of star freshman Michael Porter Jr., and the son of Missouri assistant coach Michael Porter Sr.
5. Brian White, Missouri deputy athletics director. He’s the brother of Florida Coach Mike White.
6. Nicolas Claxton, Georgia. Freshman is the son of former Georgia player Charles Claxton.
7. Wayde Sims, LSU. Sophomore is the son of former LSU player Wayne Sims.
1. Georgia will be seeking a fifth straight winning season. Aside from nine straight winning seasons in the 1980s, that hasn’t happened since 1936-37 through 1940-41.
2. The last two No. 1 prospects from Mississippi to sign with Mississippi State both transferred: Malik Newman to Kansas and Mario Kegler to Baylor.
3. South Carolina won as many games in the 2017 NCAA Tournament (four) as it had in eight previous appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
4. Teams coached by Cuonzo Martin ranked in the top 30 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency (don’t ask) in three of the last four seasons.
5. Auburn’s top four scorers last season were freshmen.
In need of a fix-up
1. Auburn gave up an average of 85.1 points in its final 10 games.
2. LSU gave up 90 or more points in 10 of its last 21 games.
3. Chris Silva of South Carolina committed 141 fouls last season. That led the nation.
Obligatory hot seat talk
1. Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy. He’s the dean of SEC coaches, therefore fans may want a new toy to play with.
2. Georgia Coach Mark Fox. He has produced solid and fundamentally sound Georgia teams. But in an age of marketing razzmatazz, the Bulldogs come up short. A 1-25 record against opponents ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 since the start of the 2012-13 season makes the natives restless.
1. Lamar Peters, Mississippi State. The memory of him driving to the basket again and again against Kentucky remains vivid.
2. Chris Chiozza, Florida. He might be the SEC’s best point guard.
3. TJ Starks, Texas A&M. He will play a lot of minutes as a freshman.
4. Arkansas guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon. They were good enough to put eventual national champion North Carolina on the brink of elimination.
5. Danjel Purifoy, Auburn. He missed the game against Kentucky last season.
6. Kevin Puryear, Missouri. It will be interesting to see what he does playing alongside Michael Porter Jr.
7. Vandy. The Commodores return seven of their top nine players, including four starters.
8. Terence Davis, Ole Miss. He scored double-digit points in 26 games last season.
Next man up
1. Chris Silva, South Carolina. With Sindarius Thornwell and P.J. Dozier gone, he can be the main man.
2. Freshman Daniel Gafford, Arkansas. He will be asked to cushion the blow of losing Moses Kingsley.
1. Vandy Coach Bryce Drew’s team will play at Ole Miss. Drew made the famous buzzer-beating shot for Valparaiso that beat Ole Miss in the 1998 NCAA Tournament.
2. Missouri Coach Cuonzo Martin’s team does not play at Tennessee, where he had the unenviable task of following Bruce Pearl as coach.
Did you know?
1. One of Missouri Coach Cuonzo Martin’s high school teammates was LaPhonso Ellis, and he played with Glenn Robinson for Purdue.
2. Although the last two first overall draft picks failed to get their college teams to the NCAA Tournament (Markelle Fultz at Washington, Ben Simmons at LSU), possible 2018 No. 1 pick Michael Porter Jr. said he had a better supporting cast at Missouri.
3. Alabama has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2006.
4. Auburn won 18 games last season. The last time Auburn won that many games, John Calipari was coaching at Memphis (2008-09).
5. Missouri freshman guard Blake Harris comes from the same high school as former Kentucky star John Wall: Word of God Christian Academy in Chapel Hill, N.C.
6. Tennessee redshirt freshman John Fulkerson had 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks against Oregon early last season. Soon afterward, he suffered a season-ending arm injury.
7. Two of the last three No. 1-rated prospects in the country played in the SEC. Neither played for Kentucky. Ben Simmons went to LSU in 2015-16 and now Michael Porter Jr. will play for Missouri. The other No. 1-rated prospect was Markelle Fultz, who played for Washington last season.
1. Andy Kennedy of Ole Miss on being the dean of SEC coaches: “My mother is so proud that I’m finally a dean.”
2. Andy Kennedy on Ole Miss being picked to finish 10th in the SEC in a media vote: “Preseason top 10.”
3. Mississippi State Coach Ben Howland: “Our biggest key is staying healthy. We have 11 guys on scholarship. If those 11 guys stay healthy, I think we can beat anybody in our conference on a given night.”
4. Tennessee Coach Rick Barnes on the media picking his team to finish next to last in the SEC: “I don’t have a reaction. I don’t know why we do preseason polls anyway.”
5. Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said of assistant and ex-Cat John Pelphrey: “who we think is going to be a head coach again soon.”
6. Kentucky Coach John Calipari: “This league is a physical league. You cannot just walk in and say you’re going to be cute. You can’t avoid anything.”
7. Texas A&M Coach Billy Kennedy: “We’re talented enough to win (the SEC). The question is will we have the intangibles.”