2018-19 SEC preview: Will Mississippi State or South Carolina prevail?

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NASHVILLE, TN – MARCH 03: Texas A&M Aggies guard Chennedy Carter (3) dribbles the ball as m2 guards during the third period between the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs and the Texas A&M Aggies in the SEC Women’s Tournament on March 3, 2018, at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN. (Photo by Steve Roberts/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN – MARCH 03: Texas A&M Aggies guard Chennedy Carter (3) dribbles the ball as m2 guards during the third period between the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs and the Texas A&M Aggies in the SEC Women’s Tournament on March 3, 2018, at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN. (Photo by Steve Roberts/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Texas A&M Aggies
Last season: 26-10 (11-5, T-4th) 
Predicted finish this season: 6th

Key returners (last season’s stats)
G- Chennedy Carter, 5’7, SO- 22.7 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.6 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 44.3%FG, 38.3% 3pt, 33.1 MPG, First Team All-SEC selection, All-Freshman, SEC and NCAA Freshman of the Year

Biggest losses (last season’s stats)
C- Khaalia Hillsman, 6’5- 14.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 60.2% FG (15th in NCAA), 32.6 MPG, Second Team All-SEC selection (graduated)
G- Danni Williams, 5’10- 14.2 PPG, 38.6% 3pt, 36.4 MPG (transferred-Texas)
F- Anriel Howard, 5’11- 12.1 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 44.1% FG, 33.6 MPG (grad transfer- Mississippi State)

Newcomers
G- Shambria Washington, 5’7, (College of Central Florida/ Ocala, FL), JR- Ranked #81 in 2018 JUCO class, #22 point guard
F- Cheah Rael-Whitsitt, 5’11, (Miami Dade College/ Ann Arbor, MI), JR- Ranked #81 in 2018 JUCO class, #9 small forward
G- Aaliyah Wilson, 5’11, (Arkansas/ Muskogee, OK), R-SO- Ranked #30 in 2016 class, #6 shooting guard. Averaged 4.8 PPG and 2.9 RPG at Arkansas in 2016-17
C- Ciera Johnson, 6’4, (Louisville/ Duncanville, TX), R-SO- Ranked #13 in 2016 class, #2 center. Averaged 4 PPG and 2.3 RPG at Louisville in 2016-17
C- Anna Dreimane, 6’5, (Colorado State/ Riga, Latvia), R-SO- Immediate eligibility still under review by NCAA. Played limited minutes at Colorado State
F/C- Aja Ellison, 6’3, (Maryland/ Voorhees, NJ), R-RS- Played limited minutes at Maryland

Head Coach- Gary Blair, 16th season
Think the game has passed Gary Blair by at all? If so, the recruitment and eventual signing of Chennedy Carter proves that the 73-year-old vet still has a little something left in the tank. Texas A&M posted a 20+ win season for the 13th time in a row and although Carter was the one that stole headlines, the Aggies roster had a plethora of talent. I’ll get into the specifics during the overview portion of this page below, but Blair has proven that he can still attract top talent and compete with the elite teams in the country. This season he will be tested as Carter is the only returning starter but if there is anything you should know about Texas A&M, it’s that you can never count out Gary Blair.

Key non-conference games
Nov. 14– Syracuse (neutral site game in White Plains, NY)
Dec. 15-  Oregon State (Lahaina, Maui, Maui Jim Maui Classic)
Dec. 19- v. Southern Cal

Outlook
Can Chennedy Carter average 30PPG? Excuse me: will she score 30PPG; that’s the better question (my guess? Yep). Taking the basketball world by storm last season, Carter poured in 816 points last season, already putting Kelsey Plum’s all-time NCAA record of 3,527 points on notice (for context, Plum scored 712 points her freshman season). It is impossible to discuss this team without mentioning what it lost. Danni Williams, Anriel Howard and Khaalia Hillsman all leave huge holes to fill and as good as Carter is, she needs some help.

One of those holes very well might be filled by transfer Ciera Johnson. One of the most coveted player out of high school, Johnson has a true back-to-the-basket game and has a really big frame. She is a Gary Blair post player and he will deploy her plenty. Aaliyah Wilson is another newcomer that will have a chance to come in and contribute right away. A physical guard who finds her way to the rim, Wilson can serve as a nice counter to Carter, especially if she can knock down the outside shot with consistency. As a whole though, this team is Carter’s to run and how she goes, the team will go. The non-conference schedule doesn’t have a ton of premier talent but every once in a while a team has a player so good that you can’t count them out for any reason. The Aggies have one of those players.

Best Case Scenario-  Carter scores 34 PPG a game, the newcomers are immediately comfortable in their roles and the Aggies finish in 3rd place. Come SEC tournament time, Carter is on a hot streak and A&M makes a run to the finals, earning them a 2-seed in the NCAA tournament.

Worst Case Scenario- Carter scores 30 PPG but the next leading scorer only averages 10PPG. The team runs hot and cold as they fight to figure things out all season. They finish tied for 7th in the conference and have to hit the round come NCAA tourney time.

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