The Kentucky Wildcats are no longer consistently ahead of the pack, but can they reclaim their perch after a brutal season?
The SEC has evolved into a reliably competitive league over the past several years—obviously, it’s not just Kentucky and everyone else anymore—and this is shaping up as a fascinating campaign, with five teams holding an ostensible shot at winning the conference. John Calipari and the reloaded Wildcats won’t go 9–16 again. Nate Oats has built a stable contender at Alabama. Arkansas and Tennessee have proved they can hang, and Auburn can’t be counted out. On paper, there’s just not a lot separating the upper tier of teams. And while LSU and Florida don’t quite have the same level of talent this year, those programs have been perennially relevant.
This isn’t a league with massive star power relative to seasons past—in that respect, it’s a slightly down year for a group of teams that have become a consistent feeder of NBA talent. A highly active transfer market has reshaped the conference and college hoops at large. But there should be six or seven tournament-caliber squads here when it’s all said and done, and potentially a couple of Final Four–caliber teams.