Saturday, November 02, 2019

2019-20 Schedule Preview: February/March

Saturday, February 1 - Arkansas - 5:00 P.M. CT - TV: SEC Network: Arkansas bid farewell to Mike Anderson and hired Eric Musselman from Nevada. Musselman's teams averaged 27.5 wins in his four seasons at Nevada, playing in three NCAA Tournaments. He inherits some talent in Fayetteville, notably Isaiah Joe (13.9 pts, 2.8 rebs, 1.7 asts, 1.5 stls, 41.4% from 3) and Mason Jones (13.6 pts, 3.9 rebs, 2.8 asts, 36.5% from 3) along with experienced returners in Jalen Harris, Desi Sills and Adrio Bailey. Musselman also added a pair of graduate transfers in Jimmy Whitt (SMU), who started his college career at Arkansas, and Jeantal Cylla (UNC-Wilmington). It's an intriguing roster. If Musselman can fit it all together, Arkansas should finish higher than the 11th place prediction in the preseason poll. Alabama has lost five straight to the Razorbacks.

Tuesday, February 4 - Tennessee - 6:00 P.M. CT - TV: TBD: The Vols lost a quartet of players (Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield, Jordan Bone and Kyle Alexander) that averaged a combined 56.1 points last season and were instrumental in putting the program back on the map. Replacing them will be a challenge, and expectations from Vol fans should be tempered as a result. However, with Jordan Bowden (10.6 pts, 3.5 rebs, 1.9 asts, 37.8% from 3) and Lamonte Turner (11 pts, 3.8 asts, 2.8 rebs, 1.3 stls) returning for their senior seasons, the Vols will have a solid base to build around. Beyond those two, it will be up to returning role players to expand their production and an incoming class that is the sixth-ranked class in the league per 247. Most importantly, Rick Barnes is back for his fifth season despite reports that he strongly considered taking the UCLA job this past summer. Assuming Turner and Bowden get consistent help from their teammates, Tennessee should once again be in the mix for the NCAA Tournament.

Saturday, February 8 - at Georgia - 5:00 P.M. CT - TV: SEC Network: Georgia fans are as excited as they seemingly can get about basketball with a top ten national class enrolling this season. Leading the way is five-star guard Anthony Edwards. 247 ranked Edwards as the second best prospect nationally. Being from the state of Georgia, Tom Crean securing his commitment was a big step towards building Georgia into a contender. In what is likely one season in Athens, Edwards should be a star. The pressing question is will Edwards have enough help? The top candidates to fill that role appear to be returning players such as Rayshaun Hammonds (12.1 pts, 6.1 rebs, 1.6 asts), Tyree Crump (9.1 pts, 1.7 rebs, 1.5 asts), Donnell Gresham (transfer from Northeastern; 9.7 pts, 4.9 rebs, 3.1 asts, 1.1 stls, 37.9% from 3) and Amanza Ngumezi (6'9, sophomore) could take a step forward after limited minutes as a freshman. If Edwards gets consistent help from the upperclassmen, Georgia's a potential tournament team (you can say this about nine other teams in the league this season).

Wednesday, February 12 - at Auburn - 6:00 P.M. CT - TV: ESPN2: The second meeting with Auburn. Alabama has lost three straight at Auburn by an average of 20 points. Just making the game competitive in that building would be a step forward.

Saturday, February 15 - LSU - 3:00 P.M. CT - TV: TBD: The second meeting with LSU. I'm sure the Bama student section will make LSU freshman Trendon Watford feel right at home. For those of you that just started following Alabama basketball, Watford was the top player in the state in the 2019 class. His decision to leave the state for LSU was not a popular one with Tide fans, particularly in the wake of the allegations against LSU head coach Will Wade. For what it's worth, I think Avery screwed that recruitment up and Coach Oats simply didn't have enough time to form a relationship with Trendon and his family. That likely won't lessen the student backlash against him though.

Wednesday, February 19 - Texas A&M - 6:00 P.M. CT - TV: SEC Network: The Virginia Tech basketball program had never been to three straight NCAA Tournaments before Buzz Williams arrived. With the resources he'll have in College Station, the future could be very bright for that program. What about the present? Well, Buzz will have some talent to work with in year one. Savion Flagg (13.9 pts, 7.7 rebs, 2.3 asts, 19.6 pts over the final nine games), TJ Starks (12.3 pts, 3.5 asts, 2.2 rebs, 1.2 stls), Wendell Mitchell (13 pts, 4.2 rebs, 2.3 asts, 1.8 stls), Jay Jay Chandler (8.3 pts, 3.2 rebs, 1.3 asts, 1.3 stls) and Josh Nebo (8.1 pts, 5.3 rebs, 2.3 blks) is not a bad core of players. If Buzz can develop any kind of depth, this team could be better than expected (12th in the preseason poll).

Saturday, February 22 - at Ole Miss - 7:30 P.M. CT - TV: SEC Network: The Rebels were a surprise team in the league last season and it resulted in first year coach Kermit Davis being named the SEC Coach of the Year. That success could continue in year two as the program returns Breein Tyree (17.9 pts, 2.9 rebs, 2.8 asts, 1 stl, 37.5% from 3), who should be one of the top players in the league this season. Other notable returners include Devontae Shuler (10.3 pts, 4.2 rebs, 3 asts, 1.7 stls, 40.2% from 3), Blake Hinson (8.3 pts, 2.9 rebs, 1.1 asts) and KJ Buffen (6 pts, 4.4 rebs, 1.2 asts). The x-factor for this team could prove to be newcomers. There are several, but the two that have received the most buzz are Khadim Sy (a top five juco prospect) and Austin Crowley (a four-star freshman). The core is there for the Rebels to be successful again if the newcomers can provide the necessary depth.

Tuesday, February 25 - at Mississippi State - 8:00 P.M. CT - TV: SEC Network: The second matchup with the Bulldogs as well as DJC's favorite road trip. Alabama has lost in their last two trips to Starkville.

Saturday, February 29 - South Carolina - 7:30 P.M. CT - TV: SEC Network: Maybe the strangest team from a win/losses standpoint in 18-19 was South Carolina. The Gamecocks started the season 5-7 in the non-conference before regrouping and finishing strong in conference play with an 11-7 record. Their non-conference struggles kept them out of the postseason, but it was a reminder that, love him or hate him, Frank Martin is a pretty good coach. While the program did lose two of its top three scorers (Chris Silva and Hassani Gravett), it does return some promising talent. Silva will be hard to replace, but A.J. Lawson (13.4 pts, 4.3 rebs, 2.9 asts, 1.1 stls) is a legit NBA prospect that could prove to be one of the best players in the league. Also back is Keyshawn Bryant (9 pts, 3.8 rebs, 1.4 asts), a potential breakout player; Maik Kotsar (6.7 pts, 4.7 rebs, 1 stl), a steady role player; Justin Minaya (7.4 pts, 5.6 rebs) and T.J. Moss (6.3 pts, 1.9 rebs, 1.9 asts), two promising young players that only played in a combined twelve games last season due to injury. Martin also brings in a promising batch of newcomers and transfers that adds up to the best collection of talent the program has had since that Final Four team from a few seasons ago. The preseason poll has the Gamecocks at 10th, but that seems low given the talent and Martin's track record.

Tuesday, March 3 - Vanderbilt - 7:30 P.M. CT - TV: SEC Network: The second matchup with the Commodores. If Vandy does prove to be a bottom-tier team in the league this season, playing them twice could be good for the conference record. It could also present issues for Alabama's resume should they lose one or both games.

Saturday, March 7 - at Missouri - 1:30 P.M. CT - TV: SEC Network: The season ends with the second matchup vs the Tigers. As I mentioned in my earlier preview of Missouri in the January post, I do believe this team is being undervalued by some. Alabama has won in its last two trips to Columbia.    

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