Previewing the Southeastern Conference men's basketball season:
Three reasons SEC is on the rise
1. Money. League teams split $455.8 million from the 2014-15 school year. That's more than $100 million more than the Big Ten. Facility upgrades and the hiring of high-profile coaches ensued.
2. Recruiting. Nine players generally regarded as among the top 30 or so prospects in the nation signed with SEC teams. Better still, other teams besides Kentucky got in on the booty. Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney at LSU, Malik Newman at Mississippi State, D.J. Hogg and Tyler Davis at Texas A&M, P.J. Dozier at South Carolina, Dazon Ingram at Alabama.
3. Improved non-conference scheduling. Besides Kentucky's customary stout schedule, Alabama plays Xavier, Arkansas plays Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, Florida plays Michigan State and Oklahoma State, Georgia plays Clemson and Kansas State, Mississippi State plays Miami and Florida State, Tennessee plays Georgia Tech and Gonzaga, Vandy plays St. John's, Baylor and Purdue.
Top five freshmen
1. Skal Labissiere, Kentucky
2. Ben Simmons, LSU
3. Jamal Murray, Kentucky
4. Malik Newman, Mississippi State
5. Antonio Blakeney, LSU
Top 10 players regardless of class
1. Skal Labissiere, Kentucky
2. Ben Simmons, LSU
3. Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
4. Jamal Murray, Kentucky
5. Damian Jones, Vanderbilt
6. Malik Newman, Mississippi State
7. Stefan Moody, Mississippi
8. Danuel House, Texas A&M
9. Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida
10. Jalen Jones, Texas A&M
Sorry to see leave
1. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
2. Billy Donovan, Florida
3. Jordan Mickey, LSU
4. Forward combo of Marcus Thornton/Nemanja Djurisic, Georgia
5. Michael Qualls, Arkansas
Newcomers of note not named Ben Simmons, Skal Labissiere, Jamal Murray, Malik Newman
1. P.J. Dozier, South Carolina
2. Nolan Cressler, Vanderbilt (transfer from Cornell)
3. Kareem Canty, Auburn (transfer from Marshall)
4. Derek Ogbeide, Georgia
5. Jimmy Whitt, Arkansas
6. Terrence Phillips, Missouri
7. John Egbunu, Florida
8. Anthony Collins, Texas A&M (transfer from South Florida)
1. Alex Caruso, Texas A&M
2. Tim Quarterman, LSU
3. Craig Sword, Mississippi State
4. Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
5. Wade Baldwin, Vanderbilt
Comeback-of-year candidates1. Alex Poythress, Kentucky (torn ACL in December)
2. Danuel House, Texas A&M (foot injury in March)
3. Luke Kornet, Vanderbilt (broken bone in left foot)
4. Robert Hubbs III, Tennessee (shoulder surgery)
5. Wes Clark, Missouri (dislocated elbow in February)
1. Riley LaChance, Vanderbilt
2. Anthlon Bell, Arkansas
3. Stefan Moody, Mississippi
4. Keith Hornsby, LSU
5. (tie) Matthew Fisher-Davis and Nolan Cressler, Vanderbilt
1. Vanderbilt's permanent home-and-home opponents are Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee.
2. Florida's Kasey Hill made only 52.6 percent of his free throws last season.
3. Kentucky's Marcus Lee made only 32 percent of his free throws last season (eight of 25).
4. Twice in the last five years, Tennessee has fired coaches because of NCAA violations.
5. A 9-23 record last season was Missouri's worst since 3-23 in 1966-67.
Did you k now?
1. William "Turtle" Jackson, freshman point guard at Georgia, scored 2,275 points in high school.
2. New Tennessee coach Rick Barnes' wife, Candy, is a Tennessee graduate.
3. Malik Newman scored 3,108 points and won four state titles as a high school player.
4. Vanderbilt returns players who made 245 of the team's 255 three-point baskets last season.
5. The SEC's leading returner in double-doubles and rebounding? Cinmeon Bowers of Auburn (14 double-doubles, 9.6 rpg)
1. John Calipari is one of only three coaches to guide teams to four Final Fours in a five-season span. The other two? John Wooden and Mike Krzyzewski.
2. Georgia seeks a third straight 20-win season. That's only happened once previously (1995-98).
3. South Carolina has had an SEC record of better than .500 three times in its 25 years in the league.
4. Florida is coming off its first losing season since 1997-98.
5. Arkansas' only NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008 came last season.
6. Auburn had the nation's second-highest average attendance increase last season.
7. Rick Barnes is Tennessee's fourth coach in six years.
8. New Florida Coach Mike White won 49 of his last 50 home games as coach at Louisiana Tech.
9. Besides Kentucky, the only other team to be a top-four seed in each of the last two SEC tournaments? Georgia.
Extensions, expansions since last season
1. John Calipari received a one-year contract extension that runs through 2021-22.
2. Georgia's Mark Fox received a five-year extension that runs through 2019-20.
3. Georgia's Stegeman Coliseum is supposed to get a high-definition video board/scoreboard to hang over center court within two years.
4. Mississippi expects to move to a $90 million new arena in January.
5. Rupp Arena has new ribbon advertising. A scoreboard hanging over center court is in the plans.
1. John Calipari on the media voting Alex Poythress to the All-SEC second team: "I hope that inspires him because right now he's not playing to that."
2. Johnny Jones on the basketball potential of LSU football star Leonard Fournette: "I don't think there's a guy in college basketball who can contain him when he comes down off the bounce ... and keep him from getting to the rim."
3. Malik Newman on why he did not accept Kentucky's offer of a scholarship: "We're not going to speak on that. We're just going to let the past be the past."
4. Billy Kennedy on when Texas A&M fans transition from football to basketball: "I don't know if they ever really transition into basketball."
5. Kevin Stallings on Billy Donovan's legacy: "What he's done for our league will be measured generations from now. That's how great his impact was."