Conference season is upon us. I hesitate to say "at last," because that implies things get easier from here on. Things most certainly do not.
But with the rising level of play is the opportunity to see some of the country's best players play, a lot. This year's SEC is exceptionally rich in skilled big men, and still features a who's who of top backcourt guys. But unlike in many recent campaigns, just before which the NBA had burgled a crop of the league's best players and its best prep prospects, this year's league season is full of experienced talent, and welcomes one of the deepest freshmen classes in recent memory.
Given this wealth of basketball talent, and in my continuing effort to prove everything is graded by ranking everything that I can, I present the inaugural SoB SEC Player of the Year Rankings.
Obviously, with no league games yet played, these are based solely on non-conference games against, often, patsies. Surprise breakouts and fading hoop dreams always reveal the truth in conference games.
SEC Player of the Year Rankings
(1.) Chris Lofton, Jr., Tennessee: The Volunteers' heart and soul just keeps putting up remarkable results. It's not just the five 30-point games he's already had, it's UT's 12-2 record against solid competition. He still doesn't look like a pro, but he sure plays like one.
Numbers: 22.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 50 FG%, 82% FT, .47% 3FG
(2.) Glen Davis, Jr., LSU: Much preseason hay was made about the slimming of 'Big Baby.' Turns out, it was for good reason. Nimbler and quicker, Davis has willed the Tigers to a 10-3 record. His team hasn't really coalesced around him yet, but it's not for lack of his trying.
Numbers: 19.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 52% FG, 71% FT
(3.) Randolph Morris, Jr., Kentucky: Not much in basketball tops watching the maturation of a quality big man. Always endowed with talent, the quietly efficient Morris is on the verge of stardom. His drop-step fadeaway is becoming his signature move, and his rebound numbers -- previously a definite sore spot -- are actually increasing game to game. The question before him is whether facing tougher interior competition will bring out his best.
Numbers: 16.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg
(4.) Ronald Steele, Jr., Alabama: It would be almost impossible to talk about the SEC's best player and not include the core of the team with the league's best record (13-1). Richard Hendrix is coming along nicely, aided no doubt by Steele's crafty passing and leadership. After a fast start, the injuries and time off slowed him down. But he was outstanding against Oklahoma, and his if his scoring dips, expect his assist totals to rise.
Numbers: 10.9 ppg, 4.7 apg, 2.2/1 a-to, 44 FG, 95% FT
(5.) Taurean Green, Jr., Florida: I expect Green's name to rise up this list. Similar to the way Jason Gardner at Arizona was the best college player on a team of great NBA players, because of his intangibles and grit, so too Green gets the nod on the list over his NBA darling teammates. Too many Gators have missed time to judge who is the best among them, and like an Oscar contender, sometimes the ensemble nixes out the awards. For my money, Green is who makes Florida tick.
Numbers: 13.9 ppg, 3.9 apg, 46% 3FG, team ranked #3.
Others on the cusp: Joakim Noah (Florida), Bam Doyne (Miss.), Tre Kelley (S. Carolina), Richard Hendrix (Bama)