Each year, the voters of the SEC Hoops Power Poll do a round table at the end of the season. We have a few questions, each give our answers and then compare those answers. I am hosting the round table, which should appear tomorrow here.
Here are my answers to the questions:
1) Who is the player of the year? Coach of the year? Why?Player of the year: Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Why: It isn't even close. He is leading the conference in FG%...by over 10%. He is nearly averaging a double-double on the season. There is no surprise that in Kentucky's only loss on the season (at Indiana), he 'only' played 24 minutes and was in foul trouble early. Kentucky is a very good basketball team without him. With him, they not only take their style of play to the other team, they impose their will on other teams. Kentucky doesn't need Davis to be great, but they are great because he is the best player on the court anytime Kentucky suits up.
Coach of the year: Cuonzo Martin, Tennessee
Why: Martin has taken a team that looked like they were going fold like fresh laundry and gotten them on the precipice of the NCAA tournament. With all of the non-sense that has gone on in Knoxville over the past year, including the home loss to Austin Peay, it would be easy for Martin to label this a rebuilding year and focus on next. Instead, he has kept a very young team focused on doing things the right way and fighting through adversity. Yes, UT still loses games they should win, but they are definitely playing much better than they should be. Martin is a very big part of that.
2) Who is the breakout player of the year? Why?Breakout player of the year: Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State
Why: Sitting out last year after transferring from UTEP, Moultrie has become an offensive constant for Mississippi State. He leads the conference in rebouding, is second to Anthony Davis in FG% and is playing over 36 minutes per game. He's projecting a first round draft pick. Not bad for a guy who averaged less than 10ppg at UTEP two years ago.
3) What team is the biggest surprise (good or bad)?Biggest surprise: Tennessee Volunteers
Why: Seriously? They were picked to finish 11th in the conference. Now, they are sitting out the Thursday games in New Orleans. With the hearings and the players sitting out and the early season schadenfreude losses and a new coach, it was easy to write them off. They have quietly become a team that has potential to sneak into the NCAA tournament with a strong SEC tourney run.
I'd also give Mississippi State a dishonorable mention for their late season swoon, but if you've watched the Bulldogs for the last several years, you'd know to expect it.
4) Nationally, the SEC is viewed as top heavy, but weak below about team #3. What are your thoughts on the conference's performance in the national view?
Part of the national view is shaped by the awful early season losses by Tennessee (Oakland, Austin Peay and College of Charleston), LSU (Coastal Carolina), South Carolina (Elon and Providence), and Vandy (Indiana State). It also didn't help that Kentucky lost a buzzer beater to a very good Indiana team on national TV.
Overall, that view is right. Outside of Kentucky and Vanderbilt, there is no other team that folks would be terribly nervous about playing on a neutral court. Until Florida gets their crap together, you can't put them in that group. Alabama and Tennessee are dangerous, but green. Arkansas has shown they can do it, but are playing like the Michigan win was their championship game. Ole Miss and Mississippi State are talented, but lack team unity. As for the rest of the conference, you pretty much can say they are safe senior day schedule fillers.
5) What teams will make the NCAA tourney? Any surprise runs forthcoming?Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, and Alabama are locks. I think Mississippi State has to win at least one SECt game to get in. Tennessee has to win at least one, and maybe two, to get in. I'm predicting a UGA upset on Thursday night in New Orleans, spelling an NIT bid and the end of the Stansbury era in Starkville. I think Tennessee gets at least one win and will get a bid to the NCAA, although it is dependent on upsets around the mid-majors and no deep conference tournament runs by teams like Ole Miss, Illinois, Northwestern, NC State, BYU, or Seton Hall.
If Tennessee gets in, watch out. They'll be seeded 11th or so, putting them against a middle of the road Big 10/Big East team or a mid-major at large. Don't be surprised about the Vols making a Sweet 16 run.
As for Florida/Vandy/Alabama, Vandy and Alabama are possible Sweet 16 teams, but it is hard to say they will get there with the inconsistency they have shown. Florida is in trouble and could be a first game upset.
Anything short of a National Championship will be a huge disappointment for Ketucky. As usual.