SEC expert picks 2022-23: Bold predictions, most overrated and underrated teams, top players

SEC expert picks 2022-23: Bold predictions, most overrated and underrated teams, top players

The SEC built its brand in large and awesome football stadiums thanks to Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia all winning national championships in the past quarter-century. It’s a great football league. And the amount of money that sport has created for its members has allowed every school to invest heavily in other sports — most notably the sport of men’s basketball.

That investment is paying off.

The SEC finished as the second-best men’s basketball league last season, according to KenPom.com, and it projects as a top-two league again this season. That’s a byproduct of the schools hiring great coaches who are enrolling elite talent. To wit, nine of the best 25 prospects from the Class of 2022 are set to compete in the SEC this season. And those nine freshmen are at six different schools. So the talent is spread around the league in a way that will have five-star recruits playing against each other often.

CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm has seven SEC schools projected to make the 2023 NCAA Tournament, which would be the most since 2017. Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Auburn and Alabama (at least) all look like legitimate Final Four contenders. So the league is strong and will only get stronger when Texas and Oklahoma eventually make their way over from the Big 12.

CBS Sports SEC Preseason Player of the Year

Oscar Tshiebwe | C | Kentucky

Tshiebwe is the first consensus national player of the year to return to college since North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough did it in 2008, which makes him the only sensible option to be named SEC Preseason Player of the Year. The 6-foot-9 center averaged 17.4 points and 15.1 rebounds last season while shooting 60.6% from the field. He’s the classic example of somebody who is awesome at this level but somewhat flawed for the modern-NBA. In a different era, he might now be a pro anyway. But the amount of money Tshiebwe can make at Kentucky via his name, image and likeness rights made it a no-brainer to return to UK, where he’ll try to lead John Calipari’s Wildcats to their first trip to the Final Four since 2015.

Four more players to watch

Colin Castleton | F | Florida: Castleton is the Gators’ leading returning scorer and rebounder after averaging 16.2 points and 9.0 boards in 28 games last season. The 6-11 super-senior has played the past two years at Florida after starting his college career at Michigan.

GG Jackson | F | south carolina: Jackson is the No. 6 prospect in the Class of 2022, according to 247Sports. He was listed as the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2023 and committed to North Carolina before reclassifying and enrolling at South Carolina.

Nick Smith | G | Arkansas: Smith is the No. 3 prospect in the Class of 2022, according to 247Sports. He’s a 6-4 scorer who projects as a one-and-done lottery pick.

Santiago Vescovi | F | Tennessee: Vescovi is the Vols’ leading returning scorer after averaging 13.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 35 games last season. The 6-3 guard has shot 39.7% from 3-point range on 6.1 attempts per game through three seasons at Tennessee.

CBS Sports SEC Preseason Freshman of the Year

Nick Smith | G | Arkansas

Smith is the highest-rated freshman entering the SEC and projects as the best player on an Arkansas team with Final Four aspirations. That makes him the most obvious pick for the league’s preseason FOY — but there’s certainly competition in the form of GG Jackson (South Carolina), Cason Wallace (Kentucky), Chris Livingston (Kentucky), Julian Phillips (Tennessee), Brandon Miller ( Alabama), Anthony Black (Arkansas), Jordan Walsh (Arkansas), Jaden Bradley (Alabama) and Yohan Traore (Auburn). Each of those players are five-star recruits, according to 247Sports. If you’re wondering why the SEC could be — and perhaps should be — a top-two league this season, that’s a good place to start. The incoming talent is top-shelf.

CBS Sports SEC predicted order of finish

SEC most overrated team

Texas A&M

According to KenPom, Texas A&M is the team we’ve most overrated. I’m personally a believer in the Aggies, which is why I have them 19th in the Top 25 And 1. I think they’re going to be really good and make the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Buzz Williams. But Texas A&M is ranked just 45th at KenPom and projected to finish ninth in the SEC. So each of us having the Aggies in the top five of the league standings is a reach relative to what Ken Pomeroy’s computer is spitting out.

SEC most underrated team

Missouri

According to KenPom, Missouri is the team we’ve most underrated. We have the Tigers projected to finish 11th in the SEC but KenPom has them listed as the eight-best team in the league and 41st nationally. If that ranking holds, Mizzou would have a chance to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, which would be an incredible achievement for Dennis Gates in his first season after replacing Cuonzo Martin.

SEC expert picks

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