College basketball fans are anticipating the start of the college basketball season. As writers type out their predictions for potential breakout players, sleeper teams, and everything in-between, conference schedules are also being released. First up is the SEC, which some teams within the league are looking to bounce back from under-par seasons. And then there are other teams in the conference that are trying to repeat everything from last year. Scrolling through the SEC schedule for 2022, one day catches the eye; the first day. Ten of the fourteen teams in the conference are playing games on Wednesday, December 29th, which is the first day of conference play. Let’s break down the insane match-ups that are to be seen.
Missouri Tigers @ Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky is coming into the season looking to bounce back from a sub-par 2021 season. Head Coach John Calipari hit the recruiting trail hard this off-season trying to find improvement with outside shooting. He did just that by capturing some stellar guard play, including 2021 TyTy Washington. With Calipari also adding Georgia’s Sahvir Wheeler, Iowa’s CJ Fredrick, and Davidson’s Kellan Grady, this Wildcat back-court is something to watch during the season.
After finishing seventh in the league last year, Missouri loses their top-four scorers from a year ago. Junior Kobe Brown, returns to the Tigers after averaging 21 minutes a game last season. Seven new faces join the squad including Green Bay Transfer, Amari Davis. Missouri should be able to compete to a degree. If I had to guess, Cuonzo Martin’s team should finish around the same area they ended last season.
Florida vs Ole Miss
The Gators come into the 2021-22 season with a ton of experience waiting to hit the court. Out of the four transfers coming to Gainsville, the youngest is CJ Felder, who is a junior. Gator Head Coach Mike White is also returning three of his top four scorers from a season ago. This is going to be a fun, experienced team on both ends of the floor. Penn State transfer, Myron Jones is a highly skilled guard who is going to be fun switching from the Big Ten to the SEC.
Both Florida and Ole Miss ended the season in fifth place in the SEC. In their first games of league play in 2021-22, they will face-off looking for that same ending, or even better. The Rebels return their second top scorer, Jarkel Joiner who averaged 12 PPG while playing a huge minutes role as 30 MPG. With Joiner returning, Ole Miss also returns Louis Rodriguez and Matthew Murrell, who both logged pretty solid minutes a year ago. In returning these three, their leading scorer and facilitator, Devontae Shuler left for the NBA. Tough break there for the Rebels as they already bring back three solid players.
Tennessee vs Alabama
Rick Barnes may be losing studs, Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson to the first round of the NBA Draft, but bringing back senior Victor Bailey Jr, and graduate student John Fulkerson, as well as a top-five recruiting class into 2021-22, is going to help. Leading the 2021 recruiting class into Knoxville are five-star Kennedy Chandler and five-star Brandon Huntley-Hatfield. This specific Tennessee team is looking to land a top spot in the SEC, with the looks at a deep run come March. This will be a tough match-up on day one of SEC play.
Alabama got hit with terrible news earlier this week that Texas Tech transfer Nimari Burnett, a potential starter this season, will be out for the year with a torn ACL.
On a brighter note, the Crimson Tide is still looking tough as ever. Coming off of the SEC regular-season and tournament championships, Nate Oats is looking to do it all over again. Oats loses John Petty Jr, as well as Herb Jones, but Alabama brings back two of their top scorers. Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly will lead the way during the season, with talented five-star JD Davison, the #12 ranked player in the 2021 recruiting class. This will undoubtedly be the best game of the day when it comes to SEC basketball.
LSU vs Aubrun
After losing to Michigan in the Round of 32 in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, LSU is looking for the top spot in the SEC this upcoming season. Highlighting the Tigers 2021 recruiting class is five-star sensation, Efton Reid, a 6-11 center out of IMG Academy. Will Wade did not stop there, in his fifth season at Louisiana State he went all-in on the transfer portal. Wade was able to land Illinois transfer Adam Miller, a lefty who shot 34% from three in 2021. Will Wade was also able to grab Missouri transfer, Xavier Pinson. Those two will highlight the players from the transfer portal. LSU looks to be another fast-paced. fun offense in 2022.
The Tigers are coming into the 2021-22 season with a lot of hope. Returning five guys who played 25 minutes or more for Bruce Pearl last season, the core is still in place. Trying to replace Sharife Cooper is going to be a tough task, but a couple of guys from the transfer portal could potentially land in the starting five. K.D Johnson, a Georgia transfer, and Wendell Green, a transfer from EKU, could find themselves inserted into a starting role.
This Auburn team also brings in one of the most exciting players to watch this season out of the transfer portal. North Carolina’s Walker Kessler, showed his outstanding length in his minute’s increase in last season’s post-season. Kessler should be a starter right away when he hits campus at Auburn. The seven-footer has a 7-4 wingspan that can create havoc all season long. This is a very deep and potentially scary Bruce Pearl team coming into 2022. Overall, a great game to watch on a Wednesday night.
These are some of the top games going on to kick off the first day of SEC basketball play. Another team in action on that day is the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Hogs kicked butt in the transfer portal this off-season and will look to make it past the Elite Eight in 2022. The MUSS BUS is rolling in Fayetteville, and college basketball fans are all for it. A great way to start conference play is with a great slate, and that is exactly what the SEC is providing us with on Wednesday, December 29th, 2021
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