March 7, 2012

SEC Hoops Power Poll Blogger Round Table

The voters of the SEC Hoops Power Poll do a round table at the end of the season. Below are our selected collective thoughts. 

1) Who is the player of the year? Coach of the year? Why?
Player of the year:  Anthony Davis, Kentucky - Unanimous pick
Anthony Davis is the player of year, perhaps not only for the conference but for the nation. His game-in, game-out performance is simply phenomenal; he's averaging nearly a double-double, and he has a simply unbelievable .66 FG%. As if those stats didn't say enough, he tends to play his best in big games, such as his 28-point, 10-11 (!!!) shooting performance in the recent game against Vanderbilt. Just an astoundingly good player who has the look of a Final Four MVP. - Garnet and Black Attack

Davis has distinguished himself in the SEC by being the single most important player on a team of superior players.  Without Davis, the Wildcats would be a very good NCAA caliber team.  With him, they are almost unbeatable.  Even if Davis doesn't score a point, he is worth about 8-10 points defensively with the way he blocks, challenges, and changes shots.  He is the all-time SEC leading shot blocker in a season, and affects the game in so many ways that his true value is difficult to accurately discern. - A Sea of Blue

Coach of the year:   John Calipari, Kentucky 

I don't know if Calipari's one and done strategy will pay off in the long run with Coach K like multiple national championships or Tom Izzo like Final Four appearances, but the one thing he has done is mold four new and very talented players into an already loaded roster and made them better as the season has gone on. This is his best coaching job in his first three seasons as the Wildcats are considered near locks to make it back to the Final 4. An impressive feat in today's world of roster turnover. - ACC and SEC Blog

Cuonzo Martin, Tennessee 
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. - Georgia Sports Blog

Anthony Grant, Alabama
The argument against him is that Alabama was supposed to be good all along, but I've been impressed by how Grant was able to pull the Tide through a disappointing stretch and get his team in gear for a tourney run. You could also easily go with John Calipari here, who has managed to pull off the difficult feat of exceeding expectations with a team that was expected to challenge for a national title, but I feel Grant has had the tougher job this year, and he's done well with it. - Garnet and Black Attack

2) Who is the breakout player of the year? Why?
Breakout player of the year: Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State
The junior ranks 4th in the SEC in scoring at 16 ppg and is also pulling down nearly 11 rebounds per night. Moultrie coming off a transfer year from UTEP where he averaged 10 and 9 ppg in his first two seasons so the fact that he has raised his scoring and rebound average in a tougher league impresses me. - The ACC/SEC Blog

Patric Young, Florida
I think a lot might say Arnett Moultrie, which is my second choice, but Young was totally over matched as a freshman and has the chance to be dominant in the future at UF.  He had a better "breakout" than Moultrie did, since Moultrie is older and had contributed at UTEP. - And The Valley Shook

Justin Hamilton, LSU
Hamilton, an Iowa State transfer, has been one of the conference's more steady big men, and he's made a major difference for an LSU team that struggled last year without him. He's qualifies as a great breakout player in my book. - Garnet and Black Attack

Jeffrey Taylor, Vanderbilt
Why:  Taylor has become an extremely dangerous perimeter player, and combined with his remarkable athleticism and improved ballhandling, may have played his way into the 2012 draft lottery.  Taylor keeps proving to everyone that he still has plenty of room to improve, and considering the outstanding player he has become, that's saying something. - A Sea of Blue
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. - Georgia Sports Blog


I think you could say both LSU and Tennessee.  I don't think anyone thought they would be fighting for the 5th spot in the league at any point in the season, least of all the final week.  Combined they are 11-3 in February, which is definitely shocking since they had 22 combined losses going into February. - And The Valley Shook

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?
A Sea of Blue:
I think the national view has been accurate this year.  Alabama has disappointed, as has Mississippi State.  Vanderbilt has not been as good as advertised, and Florida, despite showing some great early prowess, seems to have peaked too early, plus suffered a key injury that may have them stumbling into a lower seed in the NCAA tournament.

The SEC had high hopes this year, but outside of Kentucky, you'd have to say it was a bit disappointing, if not a total bust.


ACC/SEC Blog:
With Kentucky being so dominant, the SEC will always be in the news. But after that Florida and Vanderbilt have been very inconsistent and the West is largely mediocre again. I look at it how ACC Football was in the early 2000s when FSU was competing for national titles every year and a Clemson or Georgia Tech may have a good season here or there but largely the league was mediocre.

The reason is simple. The fan support just isn't there for basketball in the SEC. The league does have a chance to get better by being able to spend more money on new coaches (and more importantly fire any coach) than any other conference. But until that money turns into wins the SEC will not be in the B1G/Big East/ACC yearly debate for best conference.

Garnet and Black Attack:
I think the SEC is underrated. It's not the best conference, but it's solid. Yes, the top three teams are head and shoulders above the rest, and Kentucky is head and shoulders above Vandy and Florida. That said, Alabama, Mississippi St., LSU, and Tennessee are all solid teams. I could see 'Bama or MSU surprising and making it into the Sweet 16 or so, and LSU and UT are good threats to win the NIT. That's not bad depth at all.

And The Valley Shook:
I think that is actually a fair view.  In fact, I think the national view is correct with the SEC this year.  It's an OK league that will get a decent amount of teams into the tournament, but didn't have the kind of year in out of conference play to support it as one of the top 3 leagues.

Georgia Sports Blog:
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?
Everyone has Kentucky (duh), Vandy and Florida as locks. There is a consensus that Alabama will make it as well. We all agree that Mississippi State and Ole Miss have to make runs in the SECt to get a bid. A couple of us think Tennessee will make it with a couple of wins.

And The Valley Shook:
Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Alabama, and Mississippi State.
Surprise: Kentucky will not only lose the SEC tournament, they will lose before the finals.

Garnet and Black Attack:
Kentucky, Vandy, Florida, and Alabama are more or less locks, although 'Bama could miss out if it totally collapses in the last couple of games. Mississippi St. has a good chance if it wins a few games down the stretch. LSU might have a chance if it makes the finals of the SEC Tournament or so. Past that, I don't see anyone making it without winning the SECT. Tennessee has the look of a team that might be able to pull off the surprise and do that. In March, I'm going to go out on a limb and say Vandy makes a run to the Elite Eight. They're playing really well right now and have the kind of balance and depth that oftentimes serves a team well in the Tournament.

ACC/SEC Blog:
Kentucky, Florida, and Vanderbilt are in. I feel pretty good about Alabama too. After that I think Miss State or Ole Miss has a chance if they can win get to the Finals in the SEC Tournament and the small conference tourneys go to form and don't take away their spots. I am still waiting for the Vandy we thought we would see all season long, but I don't see a run considering Stallings recent NCAA history.

A Sea of Blue:
Making the grade:  Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Mississippi St., Alabama, and going out on a limb here and predicting a couple of SECT wins, I say Tennessee sneaks in.

Many thanks to the participating bloggers and to Garnet and Black attack for hosting the poll this season.
TD 

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