The 2018 SEC women’s basketball season is approaching quickly. Last season the league produced the NCAA Champion and two finalists. What does the 2018 season have in store? Here is our preseason prediction on how the 14 teams will finish in conference play.
- South Carolina
South Carolina heads this ranking, but much of how this season shakes out will be down to the Most Outstanding Player of last season’s Final Four. A’ja Wilson is good enough to carry this team back to a deep postseason run, but the center must cope with her team having lost over 40 points per game from last season’s squad.
- Mississippi State
It will need to be a case of quality over quantity for Mississippi State this season. Last year’s runners-up are far more top heavy than they were in 2016-17 as their depth has fallen off dramatically. What they do have is their top three scorers returning, including 6’7” junior center Teaira McCowan who figures to be even more of a force in the paint now she has another year of college experience under her belt.
The Tigers return some key pieces from last season, but they also have to replace some of their scoring output. Junior guard Sophie Cunningham is back after leading the team in scoring and she will once again be a key figure when Missouri needs points. Junior Cierra Porter is also back after leading the team in rebounding (8.1) per game and also chipping in 13.2 points per contest. The Tigers will need Jordan Frericks to be back to her best after she missed the entire 2016-17 season with a torn ACL in her right knee.
The Lady Vols are not used to being this low ranked in any poll, but there are questions to be answered after major stumbles that have taken some of the gloss off of the program over the last two seasons. Six-foot-6 preseason All-SEC pick Mercedes Russell gives the Vols a weapon to keep them in the running with the upper cusp of the league.
- Texas A&M
The Aggies went 22-12 in 2016-17 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. This year’s team returns over 75 percent of the scoring from last season, including senior Khaalia Hillsman who averaged 16.4 points per game and was six nationally in field goal percentage last year. Junior Anriel Howard is a double-double machine who has the potential to be a special player in the SEC.
The Wildcats are by far the most difficult team to predict on this list. The mass defection of players that occurred in 2016 – Kentucky lost a total of 11 if you count players and recruits –will hit hard now this season as the stars that carried the squad last year have departed. If the new pieces fit then Kentucky will head to the NCAA Tournament for the ninth year in a row. If the four high school recruits and a couple of transfers don’t work out, however, then Kentucky is in trouble.
LSU will automatically be better in 2017-18 than the Lady Tigers were last year if they can figure out how to put the ball in the basket from three-point range. The team was last in the nation in that category, finishing so far behind everyone else that the second worst team (Davidson) had nearly double the number of attempts and scores. Playing 1940s basketball is not an effective way to win in the modern era.
If you want a team from the bottom half of the rankings that could be considered to finish much higher than Alabama wouldn’t be a bad shout. The Crimson Tide returns every player from last season in a sport where experience is both desired and crucial. This depth will allow head coach Kristy Curry to keep her best players fresh, with Hannah Cook and Jordan Lewis the two key names on the squad.
The Gators have a new head coach in Cameron Newbauer and a new attitude to go along with it. Florida though is already down at least one player who was going to feature this winter as Santa Fe College transfer Corey Staples torn her ACL within the first week of practice. SEC Co-Freshman of the year Delicia Washington will be expected to carry much of the Gators offensive load.
Junior Caliya Robinson will be the cog that drives the Bulldog’s wheel in 2017-18. She filled up the stat sheet for Georgia last season and – crucially – she got better as the season wore on. Robinson averaged almost 16 points and over eight rebounds per game over the last 10 outings and if she can reproduce that form for a full season then Georgia will be a team on the rise.
The Commodores finished under .500 last year and they need to find new leaders following the graduation of Marqu’es Webb and Minta Spears. The team does return leading scorer Rachel Bell (11.3 ppg) and second-leading scorer Christa Reed (9.1ppg) and those two players have to be strong out of the gate for Vanderbilt this winter.
The Tigers are coming off of back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances but the team lost a couple of key players from its starting five in 2016-17. The Tigers have four freshmen that are expected to play big minutes, while the three returning starters, including seniors Jazmine and Jessica Jones, will have to play big minutes while head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy finds the best player combinations to use.
- Ole Miss
The Rebels had a winning record last season (17-14) but the team fell away badly in SEC play (6-10.) This could be a group that surprises if leading scorers Shandricka Sessom and Madinah Muhammad can take the next step in their games, but the two players will need to find a supporting cast that can handle the physicality and grind of the SEC better than last year’s squad.
Can new head coach Mike Neighbors pick Arkansas up and exceed expectations this season? Given that the Razorbacks are at the bottom of almost every poll you will find, the only way they can go is up. Early signs are good with Devin Cosper scoring 31 and newcomer Raven Northcross-Baker adding 17 as Arkansas poured in 82 on Northeastern State in a preseason exhibition game
2018 SEC COACHES PRESEASON ALL-SEC TEAMS
First Team All-SEC
Raigyne Louis, LSU
Victoria Vivians, Mississippi State
Morgan William, Mississippi State
Sophie Cunningham, Missouri
A'ja Wilson, South Carolina
Jaime Nared, Tennessee
Mercedes Russell, Tennessee
Khaalia Hillsman, Texas A&M
Second Team All-SEC
Caliya Robinson, Georgia
Taylor Murray, Kentucky
Shandricka Sessom, Ole Miss
Teaira McCowan, Mississippi State
Cierra Porter, Missouri
Jordan Frericks, Missouri
Tyasha Harris, South Carolina
Anriel Howard, Texas A&M
Danni Williams, Texas A&M