OK, so caught up in the increasingly frustrating Kentucky season, we let the regular features slack a little bit. We're catching up now, and just in time.
This is the week we finally punish Glen Davis for his team's terribleness, while rewarding strong performances for top league teams. Much has changed for a few teams on the rise since we last took stock, while for others, the ebbs have taken their toll (See also Bradley, Ramel).
As you read, do keep in mind the growing disparity between the preseason games, their results, and the statistics for only the SEC games.
For reference, here are last round's rankings. (Results are through games of Friday, Feb. 22)
SEC Player of the Year Rankings(1.) Derrick Byars, Sr., Vanderbilt What is the biggest sign that a player is his team's, and the league's, most valuable performer? How his team does when he is shut down or plays poorly. Using this case, there is little doubt that Byars is the SEC's most crucial player. To wit, in wins over then-No. 1 Florida and South Carolina, Byars averaged 23 points. In losses to Tennessee and Mississippi State, that number falls to 7.5 ppg. Vanderbilt's inability to capitalize on their successes could hurt Byars' chances with the AP vote, but it's not because he doesn't fit the MVP bill.
Numbers: 16.4 ppg (18.7 SEC), 4.8 rpg, 50% FG (SEC), 40% 3FG (SEC)
(2.) Corey Brewer, Jr., Florida: So two weeks ago, I was trumpeting Joakim Noah as the Gators' representative for SEC MVP. My thesis was that, as a "glue guy," Noah was the most important member of the vaunted champs' rotation. While that is still to some degree the case, recent close games have shown me that it may in fact be Brewer who comes through when the games gets toughest. Long, agile and deadly on defense, Brewer has improved as the season has gone on. his scoring has increased, and he's now second in the league in steals. More intangibly, it's also Brewer who seems to be coming up big in clutch situations, like his 16 points and 7 rebounds at Kentucky. So Brewer's the choice ... this week.
Numbers: PPG 12.8 | APG 3.2 | RPG 4.6 12.8 ppg (12.9 SEC), 4.6 rpg, 1.9 stl, UF is SEC regular season champs
(3.) Chris Lofton, Jr., Tennessee: After a slow return from injury, Lofton has come back as the Vols' main man. Back to the wall, the Lofton-led Vols have won 4 of 5, with Lofton leading the charge. An OT win over Alabama showed the guard's worth -- 20 points (6-of-22 FG) out of his team's 69. Doesn't get much more valuable than that. Only that injury time away slots Lofton this low.
Numbers: 20.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 47% FG, 42% 3FG
(4.) Randolph Morris, Jr., Kentucky: The league's most erratic "good" team fittingly relies most heavily on their erratic star center. For all his warts, Morris is still among the best low post threats in the league when he's motivated, a fact immensely frustrating to Big Blue Nation. Randy posted his ninth double-double of the year in Tuesday's win over LSU, and similar efforts against Florida, Tennessee and Alabama might have the Wildcats chasing the SEC title rather than fretting about SEC tourney seeding. Still, Morris is the key player for the league's No. 2 team.
Numbers: 15.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.9 bpg (#3 SEC)
(5) Glen Davis, Jr., LSU: Davis' worthiness for the SEC MVP award is not in doubt. He's the league's leading rebounder, among the leaders in scoring and it's clear leader in frustration. His team's inability to win close games has crushed their hopes for a big follow-up to last season's Final Four. Now slowed by a right quad injury, it's a shame that LSU's lasting image of Davis will probably be him wincing as a teammate throws away another late turnover.
Numbers: 18.1 ppg (19.6 SEC), 10.6 rpg (#1 SEC)
Others on the cusp: Tre' Kelley (South Carolina), Joe Crawford (Kentucky), Jermareo Davidson (Alabama), Jamont Gordon (Miss. St.), Joakim Noah (Florida)