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Andy Katz | NCAA.com Correspondent | October 17, 2018

SEC basketball predictions: Every team ranked for 2018-2019 season

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — There is a chance the SEC might just end up being one of the deepest conferences in the country.

Possibly. And that’s in men’s basketball.

The SEC has two teams that could make a Final Four run and at least eight more that I could see making the NCAA tournament (not all 10 will, but 10 could be in contention late).

MORE: Big Ten basketball predictions and power rankings for the 2018-19 season

I’ve come down to a number of SEC media days in the past, and I’m not sure I’ve seen such optimism.

A year ago, the SEC was a surprise deep league. This season there is an expectation that the SEC will deliver.

Here are my revised predictions:

1. Kentucky: The Wildcats are old. And that’s a rarity in this modern era in Lexington. Kentucky coach John Calipari has plenty of options at every position. But having Reid Travis looking chiseled and ready to contribute to a winner and seeing PJ Washington, Quade Green and Nick Richards improve is a recipe for a title team. The newcomers Keldon Johnson, EJ Montgomery and Tyler Herro will all have their moments. This is my favorite for the title and in the SEC.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament.

2. Tennessee: The Vols return essentially their team from winning a share of the SEC. Kentucky leap frogged ahead due to the influx of talent, including Travis. But would it be a shocker if the Vols won the league? No. Tennessee has the goods again. This squad, led by Grant Williams, seems refined and ready to go. Rick Barnes is confident and has a squad that can win from day one. I’m all on board with the Vols to make a deep run.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament.

3. Auburn: The Tigers were even more of a surprise to share the SEC title last season. Getting Austin Wiley (out right now with a stress reaction) and Danjel Purifoy eventually back with Bryce Brown and Jared Harper means the Tigers have the depth they lacked last season. The key will be how this group handles expectations. Now the pressure is on to maintain excellence. I predict they will, although the Tigers could slide one or two spots down.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament.

4. Mississippi State: Being in the NIT semifinals doesn’t always equate to a spring board to the NCAA tournament. That's mostly because players leave. That wasn’t the case last season as the core four returned, and the Bulldogs under Ben Howland should be a real player in the SEC. Howland went to Starkville to rebuild and get back to the NCAA tournament. He will complete the first phase of the project this season with a bid.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament.

5. Florida: Jalen Hudson’s return gives the Gators a real shot to finish in the chase for the league title. But replacing Chris Chiozza is still the major question mark. There are a number of candidates to be the lead guard, but if it ends up being Andrew Nembhard, there is reason to believe the Gators will be good to go come March. This team will definitely age well throughout the season. Mike White was feeling very good about the progress so far, but understandably knows there is still a way to go.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament,.

6. Alabama: This is where I’m feeling a bit influenced by media day Wednesday. But that’s fine. Avery Johnson sold me. And I’m onboard with the fact that the core of this team is back, including John Petty, Dazon Ingram and Donta Hall. Texas transfer Tevin Mack gives the Tide another experienced player. This was a team dominated by Collin Sexton last season. He got the praise, and it was well deserved. But it wasn’t like he was flying solo on the floor. He had talent around him. And his former teammates will take a step forward and shine this season.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament.

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7. LSU: The Tigers have one of the best players in the league who gets no love: Tremont Waters. He’s confident and engaging. He’s got a backcourt mate in Skylar Mays, who can help make this a tough team to beat off the dribble. Having freshman Naz Reid in the post will help create balance. The Tigers are dealing with a horrific tragedy after the death of Wayde Sims. There’s no telling what kind of effect this will have on the team — especially early. Coach Will Wade is handling it as best as he can, but he said there are still tough times ahead as everyone is grieving in their own way. I still think the Tigers will band together and make a decent run.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament.

8. South Carolina: I’m not always easily swayed, but when you spend time with Frank Martin and look at the roster, you’ll see that the Gamecocks should not have been predicted to finish 11th. I could see South Carolina finishing higher. Four starters are back. And Chris Silva is a conference player of the year possibility. There is no way Martin is finishing out of the postseason. Don’t see it at all.

Postseason prediction: NCAA bubble.

9. Vanderbilt: The Commodores brought two freshmen to media day in Darius Garland and Simi Shittu. That should tell you something. This team will be young, but has a load of talent. If it all meshes early and Notre Dame transfer Matt Ryan can deliver, then the ‘Dores will be finishing much higher in the SEC.

Postseason prediction: NCAA bubble.

 
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10. Missouri: The Tigers are a tough one to figure out. I had a hard time trying to place this squad amid the other contenders ahead. But there was too much lost after an NCAA tournament season. Jontay Porter will be the main artery for this team, with everything running through him. Cuonzo Martin said he can affect the game at both ends. He said he has improved in all aspects of his game and there are times when he can’t be stopped. Maybe he can carry the Tigers by himself to the NCAAs.

Postseason prediction: NCAA bubble.

11. Arkansas: The Hogs have an all-SEC player in Daniel Gafford. He’s going to put up monster numbers. But the rest of the squad will be very green. Mike Anderson is the eternal optimist. He said everything will run through Gafford, but he does think he’ll have this squad playing his style of havoc soon. The upside is still there for this team to be a pest.

Postseason prediction: NIT bubble.

12. Texas A&M: The Aggies are going through a major bridge season. Billy Kennedy fully understands this is a transition year. He said if there is one player who will be critical to this team’s success, it’s going to be Savion Flagg. The Aggies will get better, but it’s hard to see them back in the NCAAs after all they lost.

Postseason prediction: NIT bubble.

MORE: Pac-12 predictions for the 2018-19 basketball season

13. Georgia: The Bulldogs are in retooling mode with Tom Crean creating his team’s own identity. Senior William Jackson II will be the go-to player. There is strength inside in Derek Ogbeide. But this team will be a good watch because the effort and enthusiasm will be in place.

Postseason prediction: None.

14. Ole Miss: Kermit Davis is taking over a program in transition. Former coach Andy Kennedy had the Rebels as a model of consistency, albeit not always able to compete for the top. This program will improve after a bit of a bumpy first year, which is expected. Davis has maximized talent wherever he has stopped. Expect Ole Miss to be a tough out later in the SEC season.

Postseason prediction: None.