LAST SEASON: 22-14, 8-8 in SEC
KEY RETURNERS: F Patrick Patterson, 6-9, jr. (17.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg); F Perry Stevenson, 6-9, sr. (7.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg).
IMPACT NEWCOMERS: G John Wall, 6-4 fr.; F DeMarcus Cousins, 6-11, fr.
OUTLOOK: Coach John Calipari's appearance lifted the face of the program. So did the recruiting class haul of Wall and Cousins. They might both be one-and-done players, so you better get what you can out of them this season. They'll be more than complements to Patterson.
2. South Carolina
LAST SEASON: 21-10, 10-6
KEY RETURNERS: G Devan Downey, 5-9, sr. (19.8 ppg, 4.5 apg); F Dominique Archie, 6-7, sr. (10.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg); F Mike Holmes, 6-7, jr. (10.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg).
IMPACT NEWCOMERS: G Ramon Galloway, 6-2, fr.; G Lakeem Jackson, 6-5, fr.
OUTLOOK: Don't underestimate having senior leadership on your team. South Carolina has two of the best, in Downey and Archie. Galloway and Jackson are perfect fits, too, since the backcourt depth was lacking. Don't be surprised when Jackson gets freshman of the year looks.
LAST SEASON: 19-12, 8-8
KEY RETURNERS: G Jermaine Beal, 6-3, sr. (12.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg); F Jeffery Taylor, 6-7, so. (12.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg); C A.J. Ogilvy, 6-11, jr. (15.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg).
IMPACT NEWCOMERS: G John Jenkins, 6-4, fr.
OUTLOOK: With Beal's leadership and Taylor blossoming to go with Ogilvy, Jenkins should be just the chip needed to get the Commodores going. Of course, having that unique homecourt advantage is good for an extra SEC win or two.
LAST SEASON: 21-13, 10-6
KEY RETURNERS: F Tyler Smith, 6-7, sr. (17.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg); G Scotty Hopson, 6-7, so. (9.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg); F Wayne Chism, 6-9, sr. (13.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg).
IMPACT NEWCOMERS: Melvin Goins, 5-11, jr.
OUTLOOK: It's another solid Bruce Pearl club. Goins is looking to take over the point guard position, with that spot being a weakness last year. If Hopson lives up to his McDonalds potential in year No. 2, the Vols could finish higher.
LAST SEASON: 25-11, 9-7
COACH: Billy Donovan, 310-126 in 13 seasons at Florida.
KEY RETURNERS: F Alex Tyus, 6-8, so. (12.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg); G Erving Walker, 5-8, so. (10.1 ppg, 2.4 apg).
IMPACT NEWCOMERS: Nimrod Tishman, 6-5, Fr.; Kenny Boynton, 6-2, Fr.
OUTLOOK: A few years removed from the title-winning teams, Donovan is still trying to reassemble a tourney team. Adding Boynton and Tishman could help. But the East has elevated itself since the Gators won those national championships.
LAST SEASON: 12-20, 3-13
KEY RETURNERS: F Trey Thompkins, 6-9, so. (12.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg), G Dustin Ware, 5-11, so. (7.2 ppg, 3.4 apg).
IMPACT NEWCOMERS: G Vincent Williams, 6-0, fr.
OUTLOOK: Georgia made a coaching change, but don't look for Mark Fox to have an impact in the first year. He's got his work cut out for him in this division, especially with the Bulldogs' lack of backcourt talent and depth. Maybe they'll get going after Fox can recruit for a year or two?
1. Mississippi State
LAST SEASON: 23-13, 9-7
KEY RETURNERS: F Jarvis Varnado, 6-9, sr. (12.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg); G Ravern Johnson, 6-7, jr. (12.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg); G Dee Bost, 6-2, so. (10.9 ppg, 4.3 apg).
IMPACT NEWCOMERS: Renardo Sidney, 6-10, fr.
OUTLOOK: It's bright, considering everyone returns and Sidney is rolled into the rotation. His clearance was big to this team, which boasts the best defender in the league in Varnado. It would be a big surprise if this team didn't distance itself from the pack in the West.
LAST SEASON: 18-14, 7-9
KEY RETURNERS: G Senario Hillman, 6-1, jr. (12.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg); F JaMychal Green, 6-9, so. (10.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg).
IMPACT NEWCOMERS: F Tony Mitchell, 6-6, fr.
OUTLOOK: New coach Anthony Grant has been a success everywhere he's been, and there's little to reason he can't mold Gottfried's talent into a winner. Watch for Green as one of the league's breakout candidates. Don't be surprised if this team catches fire and reaches the NCAAs.
LAST SEASON: 16-15, 7-9
KEY RETURNERS: G Terrico White, 6-5, so. (13.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg); G Chris Warren, 5-10, jr. (19.6 ppg, 4.0 apg).
IMPACT NEWCOMERS: Reggie Buckner, 6-8, fr.
OUTLOOK: Warren is one of the league's best dual-threat point guards. With him back, the Rebs have a shot. White really developed as the season went along. He might be one of the league's better NBA lottery pick prospects, if he continues his upward tick.
LAST SEASON: 14-16, 2-14
KEY RETURNERS: F Michael Washington, 6-9, sr. (15.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg); G Courtney Fortson, 5-11, so. (14.8 ppg, 5.9 apg); G Rotnei Clarke, 6-0, so. (12.2 ppg, 1.9 rpg).
IMPACT NEWCOMERS: F Marshawn Powell, 6-7, fr.; C Anthony Borden, 7-0, fr.
OUTLOOK: Well, it can't be worse than last year. Right? News that Fortson and Stefan Welsh are indefinitely suspended certainly doesn't help the good vibes surrounding this team. John Pelphrey needs to find a way to get some SEC wins to get people off his back.
LAST SEASON: 27-8, 13-3
KEY RETURNERS: G Bo Spencer, 6-1, jr. (11.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg); F Tasmin Mitchell, 6-7, sr. (16.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg).
IMPACT NEWCOMERS: G Aaron Dotson, 6-4, fr.
OUTLOOK: Replacing that production will be tough, but Spencer and Mitchell are both solid, solid players. Look for more from Chris Bass and Storm Warren this season. Coach Trent Johnson's rebuilding project will take place a year into his stay at LSU.
LAST SEASON: 24-12, 10-6
KEY RETURNERS: G DeWayne Reed, 6-1, sr. (13.2 ppg, 3.7 apg); G Frankie Sullivan, 6-1, so. (7.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg).
IMPACT NEWCOMERS: F Kenny Gabriel, 6-8, jr.; C Rob Chubb, 6-10, fr.
OUTLOOK: Got to take note of the veterans gone from this team. Korvotney Barber and Quantez Robertson were difference-makers. Might take Jeff Lebo a year to integrate the old with the new.