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2022-23 Conference Previews: SEC
With the start of the college season rapidly approaching, the No Ceilings crew preview some of the key conferences and players to watch for the coming season. Up next: The SEC.
The college basketball season is rapidly approaching, but we here at No Ceilings have already kicked off our season in style. After releasing our Preseason Guide and new merch in our No Ceilings store, we could have decided to slow down until early November. However, that’s just not how we roll over here. The crew gathered to preview the biggest conferences in college basketball, along with highlighting some potential mid-major stars. Up next: the SEC.
2022-23 SEC Conference Preview
1. Ignore “consensus” boards and Twitter groupthink. Who is the best NBA prospect in this conference?
Stephen: Woo Pig!!! It’s going to be Nick Smith Jr. for me. He is currently sixth on my board in a class that might rival some of the all-time best. NSJ figures to be one of the best scorers in the conference this season, and he will have a number of teammates to help accentuate his scoring acumen. With Head Coach, Eric Musselman, being renowned for his ability to highlight his players’ strengths, Smith Jr. should be able to dribble-pass-shoot his way to a top pick.
Maxwell: It’s Nick Smith Jr. He’s an excellent shooter with evolving footwork who can make multiple reads as a passer. His length should do him wonders defensively, too.
Paige: Arkansas’s Nick Smith Jr. Wow, is Smith Jr. fun to watch! He has the size, length, playmaking ability, and scoring versatility to be a problem for opponents everywhere on the court. It’s known that the former five-star recruit out of Little Rock, Arkansas is a bucket getter and that certainly won’t change once he gets to Arkansas. I’m expecting a huge year for Nick Smith Jr. and you should too. As of today, he is #4 on my big board.
Evan: You should listen to my much smarter No Ceilings cohorts here, Nick Smith Jr. of Arkansas is the right choice and I also love the selections of South Carolina’s GG Jackson, and Alabama’s Brandon Miller too. However, I’m going to take one of Smith Jr.’s teammates and choose Anthony Black as my answer. I just think his feel for the game is so special and am a sucker for jumbo playmakers who can’t shoot I guess. I also believe he’s a much more capable defender than he gets credit for being. I could easily see Black becoming this year’s version of Josh Giddey or Dyson Daniels and have him as a preseason Top 10 talent on my own draft board. The shooting is the biggest question mark though clearly and I’m hopeful, maybe foolishly, that it will progress throughout the course of the season.
Nathan: Today, I’ll say it’s Nick Smith Jr. As a 6’5” guard, he has all of the tools to be an effective combo in the NBA–comfort level and range on his pull-up jumper, pick-and-roll creativity, and bounce for days. BUT… I’ll throw two other names out there who could challenge for this spot: GG Jackson from South Carolina, and Brandon Miller out of Alabama.
Rucker: It’s Arkansas guard Nick Smith Jr…for now. Smith has the tools to be the first guard taken off the board, not named Scoot Henderson. He’s shifty with the potential to be a dangerous multi-level scorer. The playmaking ability also intrigues me and Smith should have a LOADED Arkansas team that gives him plenty of national spotlight opportunities. Do NOT rule out a Brandon Miller Alabama hype train reaching ludicrous speeds.
Metcalf: My head says Nick Smith Jr. but my heart says Brandon Miller. Plenty of others will wax poetic about Smith, so I’ll give my two cents on Miller. Miller has ideal size for a wing and is a versatile scorer, intelligent passer, and quality defender. He doesn’t have much of a first step, but that hasn’t appeared to have affected him as he’s allegedly been dominating in Alabama’s preseason scrimmages.
Nick: My head says Nick Smith Jr., and my heart also says Nick Smith Jr. He’s an exceptionally well-rounded combo guard prospect who can score from all three levels and who hounds opponents defensively for all 94 feet. I also really buy into Smith Jr.’s passing chops, and he’ll have plenty of chances to excel both on and off the ball for the Razorbacks, as he’ll be able to alternate on-ball responsibilities with Anthony Black. Smith Jr. is a clear Top 5 prospect for me at this point, and I fully expect him to shine at Arkansas.
Albert: Let’s go chalk, Nick Smith Jr. All I’ll say is the dude can pass.
Corey: I’m going to stray from the path (GREAT band btw) here and go with Alabama’s Brandon Miller. I’m a huge fan of Nick Smith, however, I have him ranked slightly behind Miller on my personal board. At a long, rangy, fluid 6’9”, with the ability to play and defend multiple positions, Miller has the physical profile and versatility that every NBA team is looking for. As a scorer Miller has some slick off the bounce creation that he uses to get to his spots in the midrange. The freshman wing can also playmake for his teammates and has shown a patience and poise as the ballhandler in ball screens where he can use his height to see over the defense and make reads all over the floor. Miller is a developing shooter from distance, but he has good form and I trust that he’ll continue to make strides with his consistency. Reports have been positive early on at Bama’s camp as Nate Oats continues to highlight Miller as a standout. The future lotto pick is poised for a big year.
2. Admittedly, one of the most satisfying parts of analyzing the draft is being able to look back and say “psh, about time you guys took notice of him. I’ve been hyping him up for ages.” Who is the prospect that you are irrationally high on?
Stephen: Julian Phillips out of Tennessee is a player I really want to keep tabs on this year. He is fairly raw on the offensive end, but when you watch his film, you can see what he’s trying to do. The way he sees the game should help him in his ability to work the midrange game, while also being able to get to the rim with some regularity. His size and length should help him to hound ball handlers consistently.
Maxwell: I really like Will Richard at Florida. The transfer from Belmont rebounds like a 4 at 6’5”, he has a strong body to finish inside, and I buy the jump shot being great long-term. He’s tough, he’ll defend, and he makes quick decisions.
Paige: Kentucky’s Cason Wallace. First off, Wallace’s defense is immaculate. At this age, it’s rare to see a prospect’s defense look so polished and NBA front offices should be buying all of the Cason Wallace stock that they can. The former five-star recruit out of Texas is a solid two-way player and he does possess the ability to score from all three levels, but his defense always will pop off the screen.
Evan: Arkansas’s Trevon Brazile. The Missouri transfer should be one of the most exciting players to watch in the SEC this season. He’s a springy athlete who runs the floor like a gazelle, plays with fantastic energy on the offensive glass, and has elite shot-blocking potential. I’m also a buyer of his shooting ability and believe he can become an adequate three-point threat. Look for the sophomore forward to enter the first round discussion by the end of the year.
Nathan: Call me crazy, but I’m still in on Allen Flanigan at Auburn. He’s now a senior, but once upon a time, he was a rising first-round candidate looking to break out onto the scene. A few injuries later, Flanigan should be fully recovered and ready to help the Tigers in a big way. A 6’6” wing with the athleticism, strength, touch, and tenacity to play the position at the next level, I think Flanigan can still rise back up boards and become a sneaky draft sleeper this year.
Rucker: Go Fudge Yourself. I wrote about Alex Fudge the previous year when he was showcasing his defensive talent at LSU. Now the lengthy forward is jumping over to Florida, where he will join a talented Gators team. Fudge needs to take a leap forward offensively because he’s THAT special of a defensive prospect.
Metcalf: I got dangerously excited about Alex Fudge last season and have to believe that we see some meaningful improvement to his offense. Fudge is already one of the best defenders in the country. If he can prove that he can knock down a corner three or attack closeouts or find any way of consistently scoring, he’s a first round talent.
Nick: I was really high on Daimion Collins at the beginning of last season, and I was still impressed with what I saw from him in the limited minutes that he actually got on the floor. He’s truly one of the best big-man athletes in college basketball, and he’s an absolute menace as both a shot-blocker and a transition threat. Oscar Tshiebwe’s return to Kentucky does limit Collins’s path to minutes to a degree, but Collins reportedly spent the stretch run of last season and the offseason bulking up to be able to handle bigger players in the post. If he can add functional strength to pair with his absurd speed and leaping ability, he could work his way back into the first round conversation before the end of the season.
Albert: Will Richard, the transfer from Belmont is my answer. I like his game a lot, he’s really fluid, and he has a nice first step. I hope the three-point shooting percentage takes a leap this season as he did shoot a solid 80% from the charity stripe last year.
Corey: I’m a fan of incoming Tennessee freshman Julian Phillips. Phillips is another smooth wing that showed intriguing flashes last season at Link Academy. Phillips has a clean shooting stroke and I think he showed some real potential as an off ball movement shooter. With Phillips ability to score the rock and defend multiple positions on the other end, I expect the 5 star wing to be a popular riser.
3. Unfortunately, there are two sides to that coin, and they do not have equal probabilities. Which prospect do you like but think has the most likely chance of failing to meet expectations?
Stephen: There’s a contingent of people that are fairly high on Yohan Traore from Auburn. I am honestly struggling to see him being a one-and-done type of prospect. While he profiles as a shooter, the mechanics and consistency aren’t where they should be. His verticality–especially on the second jump–could really hurt his defensive potential. Being an undersized, under-the-rim type of big isn’t necessarily on the top of any scout’s “must haves” for team building.
Maxwell: I can see a world where things get dicey for GG Jackson. He’s still thin and may struggle inside against SEC opposition, his jumper isn’t fully fleshed out, and defenses will be able to allocate a lot of resources to him.
Paige: Arkansas’s Jordan Walsh. Now, I really like Walsh. His athleticism at 6’7” and his reported 7’3” wingspan are extremely intriguing, and his shot variety as a scorer is as well. However, I want to see Walsh improve his shooting/scoring efficiency and defensive footwork this year, but I’m not totally buying that he’ll make huge strides in those areas just yet.
Evan: I’m with Albert and Maxwell on this one; it’s GG Jackson for me. I saw sections of draft twitter claiming this kid was the second coming of Chris Weber this offseason and I just don’t agree with that assessment at all. I’m definitely not fully out on Jackson as a prospect or anything, but I don’t yet buy him as a bonafide elite talent in this class either.
Nathan: I think both Chris Livingston and Jordan Walsh are two guys who I could see coming back to school for another year. Livingston has more of a perimeter game already, but I have questions about him defensively and how the rest of his offense translates. And Walsh is one of the most talented athletes coming into college basketball, but he isn’t refined from a skills perspective and could capitalize on more development to shoot even higher up draft boards after a returning year.
Rucker: As much as I’m a MASSIVE Cason Wallace fan, I’m a little cautious that the situation at Kentucky this year might not allow him to spread his wings. Wallace is a stocky combo guard who will defend like his life depends on it. My hope is that Kentucky allows him to get the ball in his hands and be the floor general, but I know there are some pieces on that roster that might not allow that to happen.
Metcalf: Anthony Black. He’s a really unique player and a great passer, but I’m not sure if the defense is good enough to outweigh the shooting inconsistencies. I’m certainly not writing off Black, and he’ll be a huge reason why Arkansas will likely have one of the most fun offenses in the country, but I just need to see it first.
Nick: Chris Livingston. The Wildcats are very thin in terms of perimeter shooters, and Livingston will be leaned on for that shooting rather heavily. I think that he’s a good shooter, but I don’t think that he’s quite good enough to make things work for a Kentucky offense that could get very clogged, very quickly. If Livingston doesn’t knock down enough shots in what is likely to be a highly-contested shot diet or defend well enough on the perimeter, he could end up in hot water pretty quickly.
Albert: GG Jackson plays really hard, has good size, and has really long arms. I’m a little worried about how awkward his game can look at times, though. First off, am I the only person that thinks he runs weirdly? Why does he take such short steps? Just watching him run in the open court was such a strange experience for me. I like the athleticism he plays with but he feels like a guy that’s going to be very reliant on his guards to create opportunities for him. Will the South Carolina guards do that well enough? I’m not sure.
Corey: I’m also going with GG Jackson. I get the appeal with Jackson as a prototypical modern NBA wing, but there was just something missing every time I watched him. He’s got a fantastic highlight tape but when you dig deeper and watch the film in it’s entirety you see a prospect that is really raw on both ends. When you take into account that Jackson reclassified and is a year behind developmentally, he may be in for a very inconsistent year. The question then becomes, does he show enough flashes to keep his name in the lottery conversation?
4. The shiny new thing is always the most enticing to go after, but there is always a ton of value in older prospects. Based on their previous college seasons, which returning player are you most excited to watch and has the best NBA potential?
Stephen: Alex Fudge, baby! He and now-pro Tari Eason, gave teams nightmares when they would both engage on a ball handler at LSU. He now joins Will Richard, Kowacie Reeves, and Colin Castleton on a fiery Florida Gator squad that will be able to clamp down on some of the top scorers in the conference. He was an NBA-level defender as a freshman. If he can do something as a scorer, shooter, or short-roll playmaker this year, then we could see him get drafted following this season.
Maxwell: I still have real estate on Josiah Jordan-James Island. He’s a magnificent defender who hit nearly 39% of his threes over Tennessee’s last ten games. If he can be a reliable catch-and-shoot player out of the corner, there will be a place for him in the NBA.
Paige: Florida’s Colin Castleton. Castleton is a versatile typical big man who can give you trouble in the post and at the rim. Despite not really being an offensive threat outside the paint, Castleton is an elite offensive rebounder that can give your team extra possessions time and time again. Teams could use a player like Castleton that you can trust to get a rebound when you really need one, or a solid big man off the bench that can contribute on both ends of the floor.
Evan: Between losing nearly last year’s entire roster to the transfer pool amid former head coach Will Wade’s firing, there doesn’t seem to be much excitement around LSU basketball this season. However, junior guard Mwani Wilkinson could be a bright spot for the Tigers and new coach Matt McMahon. He’s an awesome defender who plays with great range on the floor and has a nose for the ball. I expect him to get more opportunities offensively this year as well, especially with a roster full of new pieces, giving Wilkinson the chance to showcase more of the tools he has in his offensive arsenal. Hopefully, this will help elevate his draft stock in 2023.
Nathan: Oscar Tshiebwe is by no means the type of prospect that the draft community wants to hype up. He’s an undersized center who doesn’t have a knockdown perimeter stroke and relies on rebounding to carry a lot of his statistical profile. But Tshiebwe was still an incredibly efficient scorer around the basket because of how big of a lob and dunk threat he is, and no player is better at cleaning the glass on both ends. NBA teams need bigs off the bench who can provide quality minutes and production, and I still believe Tshiebwe gets plenty of looks around the league and ultimately gets drafted.
Rucker: I’m foaming at the mouth to see what Will Richard can do at Florida this year. After impressing as a freshman at Belmont last year, Richard announced he would transfer to the Gators. At 6’4” with the ability to score in bunches, Richard could be a name that starts to make some legit noise if the Gators hit the ground running this season.
Metcalf: Jacob Toppin really caught my eye on doing a rewatch of his final few games. The athleticism is evident, and I think he will turn into a good enough shooter. What stunned me, though, was the extraordinary potential of his defense. His footwork, awareness, and versatility quickly got me thinking that he could make an NBA rotation.
Nick: I was stunned that Oscar Tshiebwe returned to school after his dominant season last year, and I fully believe that he will continue to dominate this season. His translation to the NBA is a bit more difficult to see in terms of potential dominance, but Tshiebwe’s absurd rebounding ability and scoring efficiency will be more than enough to earn him a rotation role somewhere in the NBA–especially if he can continue to develop as a defensive playmaker and generate turnovers like he did last season.
Albert: I really like Allen Flanigan’s athletic ability. The question is will he ever shoot is well enough? He’s so fun to watch in transition and I’m always going to believe in him as a shooter because every lefty I’ve ever known was a good shooter. I hope he rewards me for my belief because the tools are there.
Corey: I think this could be the year that Jacob Toppin earns enough minutes to find himself on draft radars. He’s clearly an NBA level athlete with good size and he’s been putting in work as a jump shooter. If Toppin can space the floor, get easy points off cuts and in transition, keep the ball swinging, and show versatility on defense he should hear his name called at some point in June.
5. Whether it’s Anthony Edwards dropping 37 points against Michigan State or Austin Rivers ripping the heart out of UNC fans or De’Aaron Fox vs. Lonzo Ball, fans are provided with mesmerizing matchups and performances every season. Which matchup, whether team vs. team, player vs. player, or player vs. team, are you most looking forward to?
Stephen: I gotta go with my Razorbacks against Kentucky. The Hogs should have the advantage with strong Guard and Wing play, but Kentucky has Oscar Tshibewe, Jacob Toppin, and Daimion Collins in their Frontcourt. Is the combination of Smith Jr., Anthony Black, Jordan Walsh, and Ricky Council IV enough to offset that interior advantage? I can’t wait to see it!
Maxwell: Arkansas’s Anthony Black vs. Alabama’s Brandon Miller. Two long dudes who defend and make plays going at it? Sign me up!
Paige: Arkansas vs. South Carolina. I want to see how GG Jackson can stand out playing against three other touted prospects like himself. Smith Jr., Black, and Walsh might prove to be too much to handle for GG and a not so highlighted South Carolina squad, but this game will be very intriguing, to say the least.
Evan: Arkansas vs. Anybody. I want to see this Razorbacks team as much as I can this season.
Nathan: I want to see how ugly a game between Kentucky and Florida gets this season. Both not only have talented wing and forward defenders but also capable big men down low and fun guards in Cason Wallace and Will Richard. The defense is going to be crazy good all over for both squads if everyone comes together, and it could lead to a lot of transition play with high leapers being set up every trip down the floor. Give me up-and-down hoops with a huge side of defense any day!
Rucker: Arkansas vs Kentucky. I need Cason Wallace and Nick Smith to go at it for three overtimes.
Metcalf: Arkansas vs Kentucky. I really want to see the Cason Wallace vs Nick Smith matchup, and Kentucky has some serious athleticism on the wings and in the post that should create a really fun matchup.
Nick: Arkansas vs. Kentucky. I was tempted to just list the Nick Smith Jr. vs. Cason Wallace matchup here, but there are just too many exciting prospects on both teams outside of those two guards for me to select that matchup alone. Oscar Tshiebwe and Daimion Collins as a frontcourt pairing could give Arkansas serious problems, and I’m fascinated to see how Jordan Walsh looks against Kentucky’s size and athleticism.
Albert: Give me Arkansas vs. Kentucky, please. Cason Wallace vs Nick Smith Jr. all day. Also, I love me some Jordan Walsh; that man replaced his arms with ladders.
Corey: I’ve been circling the calendar for the January matchup between Vanderbilt and Alabama. I’m not so much interested in the game story itself but more so as an opportunity to scout Brandon Miller in person, as catching a game in Nashville sounds like a most excellent opportunity.
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