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What to expect on Kentucky, Arkansas and Auburn's foreign summer tours

Credit: Kentucky athletics

Some of the best teams in the SEC will be back on the basketball court here in the mid-summer, with schools allowed to take foreign summer tours. And boy oh boy, is there a lot to discuss. Auburn was on the floor on Tuesday, taking on the U-20 Israeli National Team, with their next contest on Sunday against the Israeli All Star Team. In addition, Arkansas will be playing games in both Italy and Spain from August 6th-16th and Kentucky will be heading to the Bahamas for a tour of their own from August 8th-14th.

Both Kentucky and Arkansas will also open the 2022-2023 season, expected to be ranked in the Top 10 of the AP Top 25, while Auburn should be in the mix as well. Despite these high expectations, all three teams will be losing key contributors from last year's success and will be eying these foreign tours as an opportunity to see who step up and help replace that production.

Let's take a look at what you can expect from each team as they get set for their foreign tours:

Auburn Tigers

Tour Dates: July 31st-August 10th

Location: Israel

How to Watch: SEC Network

Auburn was the first team to start their international tour, and it got off to a great start with a 117-56 victory over the U-20 Isreali National Team in dominating fashion. Auburn had 13 players see action on Tuesday, with six players reaching double-digits in points, which is a good sign for a team that hopefully is a little more balanced and heading into the season.

Looking ahead to 2022-2023, Auburn falls into the category of a team trying to replace a ton of production, despite only losing two key players from a season ago. Last season, Auburn won 28 games and climbed up to the No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll for the first time in program history, but also lost two of the best players in program history this summer in Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler. There were times last season, where the duo of Smith and Kessler would take over games by themselves and that was all Auburn needed to pull through.

This year, Bruce Pearl does have a lot of returning production in the backcourt, however, those guards also held Auburn back at times last year. There is no doubt guys like Wendell Green, Zep Jasper, and KD Johnson can improve without being as shot hungry as they were a season ago, but that is something Bruce Pearl’s team needs to do in order to be successful. In addition, Allen Flannigan entered last season as a possible future NBA Draft Pick but was coming off an Achilles injury late in the offseason and never looked like his old self. With a full offseason to recover, Flannigan should be the lead ball handler for Auburn this season and I expect to see a better version of the 6’6 point guard.

Also keep an eye on the frontcourt where McDonald's All-American Yohan Traore and Morehead State transfer Johni Broome will replace Smith and Kessler. The pair combined for 38 points and 17 rebounds in the Tigers' opening win. Dylan Cardwell is another player to watch in the frontcourt, especially after the team's game in Israel on Tuesday. Cardwell scored 12 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in the win.

Arkansas Razorbacks

Tour Dates: August 6th-August 16th

Location: Italy and Spain

How to Watch: FloSports

Arkansas will be the other SEC team taking the floor in the upcoming days opening their International Tour, and Hogs fans are excited. The first three years of the Eric Musselman era in Fayetteville couldn’t have gone much better, as the Razorbacks have made the Elite Eight in each of the last two seasons, and this Arkansas roster feels like their most talented group in the Musselman era. Aside from making it to the Elite Eight both times, Arkansas has been able to pick up steam as the season went on and play its best basketball late. One of the main reasons for that, is because Arkansas has undergone a ton of roster turnover in the Musselman era, which shouldn’t be a surprise to many, looking back at how Musselman built his teams at Nevada that thrived through the transfer portal.

That's what makes this foreign tour so interesting. Devo Davis is really the only significant contributor from last year's team returning. Instead, the Hogs will be led by a talented freshman class and loaded group of transfers.

First, with the freshmen, Arkansas signed the No. 2 recruiting class in all of college basketball coming in, headlined by Nick Smith, who could be one of the better players in the sport this season (unfortunately Smith may not be available for this tour due to injury). In addition, Arkansas will bring in two other McDonald's All Americans in wing Jordan Walsh and Anthony Black, who has garnered early reviews from Musselman as a big-time lead guard. Arkansas also brought in several transfers with high-upside. I'm most curious to watch forward Trevon Brazille from Missouri and guard Ricky Council IV from Wichita State. Both players are extremely athletic and should help Arkansas capitalize on second chance points at the rim with their size. Brazille came on strong late, averaging 10.4 points and 8.2 rebounds in the Tigers final five games of the regular season, while Council was the AAC Freshman of the Year. Oh, and another transfer who has flown a bit under the radar is Jalen Graham, an All-Pac 12 forward from Arizona State.

As mentioned above, we got unfortunate news Thursday that Smith might not be available for the foreign tour due to an undisclosed injury. Still, it will be fun to see arguably the deepest and most talented roster in college hoops playing on this tour. Most importantly, it will be fascinating to see how Musselman puts lineups together, and who has emerged on a team that can legitimately go 12-13 deep with good players.

Kentucky Wildcats

Tour Dates: August 8th-14th

Location: Bahamas

How to Watch: SEC Network

Maybe the biggest story in college basketball this week was the news that Kentucky and Gonzaga have scheduled a home-and-home between these two schools, starting this season in Spokane. Besides the fact that it adds to a loaded UK out of conference schedule which already included home games against Kansas and Louisville and neutral site affairs against Michigan, Michigan State and UCLA, it was the first of what should be many big headlines for the Wildcats in August.

That's because the Wildcats will take the floor next week in the Bahamas and there will be plenty of faces worth watching for. This Kentucky team poses a nice mix of veteran experienced players and youngsters, which is how a lot of great college basketball teams of the past have been successful. The inside outside duo of Sahvir Wheeler and Oscar Tshiebwe will both be back and will definitely remember the sting of losing in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Tshiebwe will become the first National Player of the Year to return to school after winning the award since Tyler Hansborough in 2009. Wheeler was also really impressive for Kentucky last season, leading the country in assists per game for the second season in a row with 6.9 assists per game. There aren’t many pure passers in the sport better than Wheeler, and this Kentucky team has plenty of personnel that Wheeler can find using his elite court vision. In addition, Kentucky will bring back Jacob Toppin who has been their most consistent player in each of the last two seasons and has a chance to be an NBA first round pick if he could take advantage of finally getting the opportunity to start at the four spot.

There are a handful of players to watch for Kentucky in the Bahamas, one of them being Iowa transfer C.J Fredrick, who didn’t play last season due to a leg injury. The last time we saw Fredrick on the basketball floor, he was a major contributor for an Iowa team that won 22 games and finished with a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Fredrick shot 47.4 precent from three in 2021, following a season where he shot 46.1 percent in 2020. Fredrick has established himself as one of the premier shooters in the country and should make a significant difference for this Kentucky team if he can stay healthy. In addition, Daimion Collins should see a much more significant role as a sophomore, after only averaging 2.9 points in 9.0 minutes per game as a freshman. Many other players in Collins' shoes would have transferred, after not playing much as a former Top 20 Freshman out of High School.

With Kentucky also bringing in one of the better freshman classes headlined by Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston, this roster will once again be one of the more talented rosters in the country, and there should be some serious payback given out for the way each of the last two seasons in Lexington have ended.

Like Arkansas, what will be most interesting to see is how Calipari divides up the minutes down in the Bahamas. We know that Tshiebwe, Wheeler and Toppin have all but locked up starting spots, and now it'll be fascinating to watch who else starts alongside them and where minutes are split. Wallace and Livingston are both high-upside freshmen with loads of talent, while Fredrick is a sharp-shooter that will desperately needed to replace the production of Kellan Grady.

Calipari once again has a team good enough to get back to the school's first Final Four since 2015. The road begins in the Bahamas on Monday.

Follow Zac Krull on Twitter - @ZKrull_


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