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SEC Basketball Power Rankings: August Edition

This is the debut of the SEC basketball power rankings at A Sea of Blue. We take a look at how the SEC stacks up heading into the beginning of Fall practice

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

On August 19th the Southeastern Conference (SEC) released its conference schedule for the 2015-16 season. Today we take a look at how the conference stacks up as freshmen enroll at their respective universities.

Since the end of the 2015 season there has been a lot of news that has shuffled the landscape of SEC basketball.  A lot of the top players from last season graduated or entered the NBA Draft. The coaching staffs changed a lot.  Florida coach Billy Donovan moved on (finally) to the NBA, Tennessee hired Rick Barnes from Texas, Alabama hired former NBA head coach Avery Johnson, and Mississippi State hired former UCLA head coach Ben Howland.

As usual the SEC will see its share of premier freshmen.  The consensus top two players in the 2015 class will play in the SEC this season, Ben Simmons (LSU) and Skal Labissiere (Kentucky).  Consensus top ten prospect Malik Newman stayed home and will play for Mississippi State.

Power Rankings

1. Kentucky (2015: 1st) - Death, taxes, Kentucky ruling the SEC.  Not much will change in 2016 atop the SEC standings.  Kentucky did lose a lot from last season, but brings in two of the top freshmen in the country with the top recruiting class. Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray will not only be two of the best players in the SEC, but in the country.  Tyler Ulis returns for his sophomore season.  Ulis showed flashes last season playing behind Andrew Harrison and looks to become one of the top point guards in the country.  Alex Poythress returns for his senior season after missing almost all of 2015 with a torn ACL.  The Cats will begin the season ranked in the top 5 of the AP and Coaches polls when they're released in October.

Projected Starters

G Tyler Ulis -- 5'9", 155-lbs., So. -- 5.6 pts

G Jamal Murray -- 6'5", 180-lbs., Fr. -- 2015 #10 overall

G Mychal Mulder -- 6'5", 185-lbs., Jr. -- JuCo #17 overall

F Alex Poythress -- 6'8", 238-lbs., Sr. -- 5.5 pts

F Skal Labissiere -- 6'11", , Fr. -- 2015 #2 overall

Bench: Marcus Lee (F, Jr.), Isaiah Briscoe (G, Fr.), Isaac Humphries (C, Fr.)

2. Texas A&M (5th) - Head coach Billy Kennedy has the Aggies trending upward.  Since joining the league in 2013, Texas A&M has improved its league record each season.  Last season the Aggies finished with a 11-7 record, good for 5th overall.  Kennedy's recruiting efforts brought in a top 5 class for this season highlighted by 5-star forward D.J. Hogg.  The Aggies also return four of five starters including 1st team All-SEC selection Danuel House.  Former South Florida guard Anthony Collins (7.1 pts, 5.2 ast) has transferred into the program and will be immediately eligible. The Aggies will begin the season ranked in the top 25 of the AP and Coaches polls when they're released in October.

Projected Starters

G Anthony Collins -- 6'0", 175-lbs., So. -- USF Transfer

G Alex Caruso -- 6'5", 185-lbs., Sr. -- 9.1 pts

F Jalen Jones -- 6'7", 225-lbs., Sr. -- 13.7 pts

F Danuel House -- 6'7", 210-lbs., Sr. -- 14.8 pts

F D.J. Hogg -- 6'8", 220-lbs., Fr. -- 2015 #17 overall

Bench: Alex Robinson (G, So.), Tyler Davis (C, Fr.), Elijah Thomas (C, Fr.)

3. Vanderbilt (7th) - The Commodores have not finished over .500 in league play since the 2012 season.  A lot of turnover and turmoil have soured the 'Dores success the past three seasons. Unlike in seasons past, the 'Dores return the core of their team which includes future lottery pick Damian Jones.  Jones is poised for a breakout season and is an early contender for SEC Player of the Year.  Sophomores Riley LaChance and Wade Baldwin return to give Vanderbilt lethal shooting with Jones' interior presence.  Cornell transfer Nolan Cressler is eligible after redshirting in 2015.  The Commodores will begin the season ranked in the top 25 of the AP and Coaches polls when they're released in October.

Projected Starters

G Riley LaChance -- 6'2", 185-lbs., So. -- 12.3 pts

G Wade Baldwin -- 6'3", 195-lbs., So. -- 9.3 pts

F Matthew Fisher-Davis -- 6'5", 185-lbs., So. -- 7.2 pts

F Luke Kornet -- 7'1", 240-lbs., Jr. -- 8.7 pts

C Damian Jones -- 7'0", 230-lbs., Jr. -- 14.5 pts

Bench: Nolan Cressler (G, Jr.), Josh Henderson (C, Sr.), Djery Baptiste (F, Fr.)

4. LSU (3rd) - If these rankings were based on pure talent LSU would be 2nd.  The Tigers have one of the top players in the country in Ben Simmons, a future top-3 NBA Draft pick.  Along with Simmons, head coach Johnny Jones brought in 5-star guard Antonio Blakeney.  Despite losing Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey to the NBA Draft, the Tigers have high expectations for the upcoming season in part because of how special Simmons is.  Arizona transfer Craig Victor will be eligible in December, and will provide bulk in the front court that the Tigers desperately need.  The Tigers will be a team receiving votes in the top 25 of the AP and Coaches polls when they're released in October.

Projected Starters

G Tim Quarterman -- 6'6", 190-lbs, Jr. -- 11.5 pts

G Keith Hornsby -- 6'4", 210-lbs., Jr. -- 13.4 pts

G Antonio Blakeney -- 6'4", 185-lbs., Fr. -- 2015 #16

F Ben Simmons -- 6'10". 225-lbs., Fr. -- 2015 #1

F Darcy Malone -- 7'0", 245-lbs., Jr. -- 0.9 pts

Bench: Brandon Sampson (G, Fr.), Craig Victor (F, So.), Brian Bridgewater (F, Jr.)

5. Georgia (4th) - Head coach Mark Fox has quietly built a consistent program down at Georgia.  The Dawgs had only made it to the NCAA Tournament three times in a fifteen year period prior to Fox.  They have made two appearances in Fox's five years in Athens.  Georgia returns its entire backcourt including All-SEC'er Charles Mann.  Yante Maten will replace Marcus Thornton in the frontcourt.  Georgia will be a team receiving votes in the top 25 of the AP and Coaches polls when they're released in October.

Projected Starters

G J.J. Frazier -- 5'10", 155-lbs., Jr. -- 9.5 pts

G Kenny Gaines -- 6'3", 205-lbs., Sr. -- 11.7 pts

G Charles Mann -- 6'5", 215-lbs., Sr. -- 11.2 pts

F Yante Maten -- 6'8", 240-lbs., So. -- 5.0 pts

F Derek Ogbeide -- 6'8", 250-lbs., Fr. -- 2015 #175

Bench: Juwan Parker (G, Jr.), Kenny Paul Geno (F, Jr.), Houston Kessler (F, Jr.)

6. Florida (9th) - Even with Billy Donovan moving on to the NBA, the Gators still have talent on their roster that is good enough to finish in the top half of the league.  Head coach Michael White was hired from Louisiana Tech to replace a legendary coach, which will not be an easy task.  However, White will have veterans to lean on in his first season in the SEC.  Senior Dorian Finney-Smith is a 1st team All-SEC player that will be the go-to guy on the team. Point guard Kasey Hill, a former top-10 recruit, returns for his junior season.  Devin Robinson returns for his sophomore season after being named to the All-SEC Freshman team in 2015.  Those three are a solid core and will help White transition into the SEC.

Projected Starters

G Kasey Hill -- 6'1", 180-lbs., Jr. -- 7.2 pts

G KeVaughn Allen -- 6'2", 180-lbs., Fr. -- 2015 #61

F Devin Robinson -- 6'8", 195-lbs., So. -- 6.4 pts

F Dorian Finney-Smith -- 6'8", 220-lbs., Sr. -- 13.1 pts

C John Egbunu -- 6'11", 255-lbs., So. -- redshirt

Bench: Alex Murphy (F, Sr.), Chris Chiozza (G, So.), Kevarrius Hayes (F, Fr.)

7. Alabama (8th) - Avery Johnson will begin his college coaching career at Alabama this season.  Johnson won an NBA Championship coaching the Dallas Mavericks in 2011.  The cupboard was not left bare for him.  The Tide did lose their top three scorers from last season, but return a very solid core of young, talented players.  Shannon Hale was on the All-SEC Freshman team in 2014.  He returns as "the man" this season with classmate Jimmie Taylor.

Projected Starters

G Retin Obasohan -- 6'1", 200-lbs., Sr. -- 6.2 pts

G Riley Norris -- 6'7", 205-lbs., So. -- 4.7 pts

F Shannon Hale -- 6'8", 225-lbs., Jr. -- 8.2 pts

F Michael Kessens -- 6'9", 225-lbs., Jr. -- 5.9 pts

F Jimmie Taylor -- 6'10", 240-lbs., Jr. -- 5.5 pts

Bench: Donta Hall (F, Fr.), Justin Coleman (G, So.), Dazon Ingram (G, Fr.)

8. Auburn (13th) - It won't take Bruce Pearl long to turn Auburn into a consistent winner.  The Tigers showed flashes of what the program can be by reaching the semifinals of the SEC Tournament last season.  Pearl brought in a top-10 recruiting class in his first full season highlighted by 4-star forward Horace Spencer.  Pearl was also able to sign the top junior college prospect in the country, T.J. Dunans.  Kareem Canty, a transfer from Marshall, will be eligible after redshirting last season.  Tyler Harris transfers in from Providence and will be immediately eligible.

Projected Starters

G Kareem Canty -- 6'1", 185-lbs., Jr. -- redshirt

G T.J. Dunans -- 6'5", 190-lbs., Jr. -- #1 JuCo

F Jordon Granger -- 6'8", 220-lbs. Sr. -- 4.9 pts

F Cinmeon Bowers -- 6'7", 250-lbs., Sr. -- 12.1 pts

F Horace Spencer -- 6'9", 220-lbs., Fr. -- 2015 #48

Bench: Tyler Harris (F, Sr.), Tahj Shamsid-Deen (G, Jr.), New Williams (G, Fr.)

9. South Carolina (11th) - The Gamecocks are steadily improving under Frank Martin.  They've brought in 5-star guard P.J. Dozier with four returning starters off last years team.  This will be the first time that the Gamecocks will have depth, experience, and talent.  Leading scorers Duane Notice and Sindarius Thornwell return to help bolster the Gamecocks improvement in the SEC.  The Gamecocks had five losses in league play last season that were 6 points or less.

Projected Starters

G Duane Notice -- 6'2", 220-lbs., Jr. -- 11.7 pts

G P.J. Dozier -- 6'6", 200-lbs., Fr. -- 2015 #25

G Sindarius Thornwell -- 6'5", 215-lbs., Jr. -- 11.1 pts

F Mindaugus Kacinas -- 6'7", 230-lbs., Sr. -- 6.1 pts

F Laimonas Chatkevicius -- 6'11", 245-lbs., Sr. -- 8.6 pts

Bench: Michael Carrera (F, Sr.), Marcus Stroman (G, So.), Chris Silva (F, Fr.)

10. Mississippi State (12th) - The Bulldogs made a major upgrade in coaching and personnel in the offseason.  Rick Ray was replaced by former UCLA head coach Ben Howland.  Howland took the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours from 2006 to 2008.  Howland's hiring allowed State to secure the signing of 2015 top-10 prospect Malik Newman.  The Bulldogs also return four of five starters from last years team including All-SEC guard Craig Sword.  The Bulldogs will play really good defense and now have a go-to scorer in Newman.

Projected Starters

G Malik Newman -- 6'4", 180-lbs., Fr. -- 2015 #7

G Craig Sword -- 6'3", 195-lbs., Sr. -- 11.3 pts

G Fred Thomas -- 6'5", 205-lbs., Sr. -- 9.1 pts

F Aric Holman -- 6'10". 195-lbs., Fr. -- 2015 #118

F Gavin Ware -- 6'9", 260-lbs., Sr. -- 10.0 pts

Bench: Travis Daniels (G, Sr.), I.J. Ready (G, Jr.), Quinndary Weatherspoon (G, Fr.)

11. Arkansas (2nd) - The Razorbacks will take a major step backwards in 2016.  The Hogs lost Bobby Portis, 2015 SEC Player of the Year, to the NBA Draft with athletic freak Michael Qualls entering early as well.  Starting point guard Ky Madden and starting forward Alandise Harris graduated.  Starting guard Anton Beard is the lone returning starter in 2016.  Former Kennesaw State forward Willy Kouassi transfers in and will be immediately eligible.  The Hogs also brought in top 100 guard Jimmy Whitt.

Projected Starters

G Anton Beard -- 6'0", 195-lbs., So. -- 5.7 pts

G Anthlon Bell -- 6'3", 185-lbs., Jr. -- 7.9 pts

G Jimmy Whitt -- 6'4", 170-lbs., Fr. -- 2015 #66

F Moses Kingsley -- 6'10", 230-lbs., Jr. -- 3.6 pts

F Willy Kouassi -- 6'10", 230-lbs., Sr. -- Kennesaw State Transfer

Bench: Dusty Hannahs (G, Jr.), Keaton Miles (F, Sr.), Jabril Durham (G, Sr.)

12. Ole Miss (6th) - Andy Kennedy is the second-most tenured coach in the SEC behind Stallings at Vanderbilt.  He has done really well with the Ole Miss program.  The Rebels finished 6th last season, but will take a step back after losing a lot of front court depth and experience, including three starters.  1st team All-SEC guard Stefan Moody returns and Liberty transfer Tomasz Gielo is immediately eligible.

Projected Starters

G Stefan Moody -- 5'10", 180-lbs, Sr. -- 16.6 pts

G Martavious Newby -- 6'3", 210-lbs., Sr. -- 4.0 pts

G Rasheed Brooks -- 6'5", 190-lbs., Jr. -- JuCo #51

F Sebastian Saiz -- 6'9", 230-lbs., Jr. -- 7.6 pts

F Tomasz Gielo -- 6'9", 220-lbs., Sr. -- Liberty Transfer

Bench: Marcanvis Hymon (F, So.), Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey (G, Fr.), Anthony Perez (F, Sr.)

13. Tennessee (10th) - Rick Barnes comes to Tennessee after a consistent tenure at Texas.  The Longhorns reached the tournament 16 times in Barnes' 17 seasons in Austin.  The Volunteers return four starters off a team that went .500 last season.  Armani Moore is the top returning scorer, averaging 10.3 points a game last season.  Ray Kosongo, a JUCO transfer, is the top signee in Barnes' inaugural class.

G Kyle Punter -- 6'2", 190-lbs., Sr. -- 10.3 pts

G Robert Hubbs -- 6'4", 205-lbs., Jr. -- 7.2 pts

F Armani Moore -- 6'4", 215-lbs., Sr. -- 10.3 pts

F Derek Reese -- 6'7", 230-lbs., Sr. -- 6.0 pts

F Ray Kasongo -- 6'8", 245-lbs., So. -- JuCo #31

Bench: Devon Baulkman (G, Sr.), Admiral Schofield (F, Fr.), Jabari McGhee (F, Fr.)

14. Missouri (14th) - Its amazing how far the Missouri program has fallen in just two seasons.  The program is in complete disarray under Kim Anderson.  Of the top 4 scorers off last year's abysmal team, 3 (Williams III, Gill-Caesar, Shamburger) left after the season.  The top returning player is junior guard Wes Clark, who averaged 10.1 points a game last season.  There does not seem to be much optimism for the upcoming season in Columbia.

Projected Starters

G Wes Clark -- 6'0", 180-lbs., Jr. -- 10.1 pts

G Namon Wright -- 6'5", 200-lbs., So. -- 6.8 pts

F Jakeenan Gant -- 6'8", 210-lbs., So. -- 4.9 pts

F Russell Woods -- 6'8", 225-lbs., Jr. -- JuCo #20

F Ryan Rosburg -- 6'10", 260-lbs., Sr. -- 1.8 pts

Bench: Tramaine Isabell (G, So.), D'Angelo Allen (F, So.), K.J. Walton (G, Fr.)