With the departures of Murphy Holloway, Reginald Buckner and Nick Williams, the Ole Miss basketball team will have to replace 42 percent of their scoring, 49 percent of their rebounding, 71 percent of their blocked shots and 42 percent of their steals.
A daunting task, but the Rebels are certainly not the only SEC team having to replace key players. Eleven SEC teams will have to replace at least one of their top three scorers. Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and South Carolina do not lose a top scorer, but they are far from the class of the conference. Seven teams lose two of their top three scorers, Ole Miss included.
There were 17 players named to the coaches’ All-SEC first or second team. Only six of those players return for next season. That means 11 of the conference’s best players will not be back for the upcoming season.
The Missouri Tigers stand to lose the most without having foreseeable replacements. The Tigers will lose 37.2 points per game with the departures of Phil Pressey, Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi.
Missouri and Ole Miss played three times last season with Ole Miss taking two of those matchups. Buckner was ejected from the game in Columbia for hitting Bowers in the face and Oriakhi and Holloway were also involved in the dust up, but the mini rivalry that developed between these two teams will likely die down with all of these components moving on.
Florida, who Ole Miss got the better of in Nashville to take home the SEC Tournament title, is also losing a great deal of experienced players. Florida is the only team to lose their top three scorers, as Mike Rosario, Erik Murphy and Kenny Boynton all graduated. They each averaged at least 12 points per game.
Unlike Missouri and Ole Miss, Florida has immediate replacements. They will get two transfers, Eli Carter, a guard from Rutgers who will likely get immediate eligibility, and Damontre Harris who sat out last year after transferring from South Carolina. The Gators also add two five star recruits to their rotation.
Kentucky, as is usual now, will be replacing four players that averaged over nine points. Leading scorer Archie Goodwin and shot blocking center Nerlens Noel declared for the NBA draft. Point guard Ryan Harrow is transferring and Julius Mays graduated.
Kentucky will add eight recruits, led by point guard Andrew Harrison and his twin brother Aaron. This year’s version of reloading is expected to return the Wildcats to the top of the college basketball rankings.
Alabama will only lose Trevor Lacey, who averaged 11.3 points. Tennessee was in line to keep all of their key pieces, but then Trae Golden was dismissed and now the Volunteers have to replace his 12.1 points. Both of these teams will look to be improved and make a run at the NCAA Tournament.
Even lowly Georgia and Texas A&M will lose key players. SEC payer of the year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who led the Bulldogs in points, rebounds and steals, declared for the NBA Draft. Elston Turner graduated from Texas A&M after leading the Aggies with 17.5 points per game.
Ole Miss will have a tall task in replacing the all-time leading rebounder and all-time leading shot blocker in school history, but they aren’t the only school replacing key experienced players.
Ole Miss doesn’t have the high profile recruits of Florida and Kentucky, but they do have two forwards expected to return from injury in Aaron Jones and Demarco Cox. Ole Miss will welcome two 6-foot-9 players in Dwight Coleby and Sebastian Saiz from their recruiting class. There will be bodies to replace the Holloway-Buckner duo, but quality not quantity will be important next year.
With all of the top talent leaving the SEC, it leaves the door open for Marshall Henderson to win player of the year in the conference. Florida and Kentucky may have better players next season, but they may keep each other from being true stars. Henderson is likely to be far away the star of the Rebels next year, and may benefit like Caldwell-Pope did at Georgia this past year.