I have been extremely negligent in keeping up with my SEC Power Poll duties this year. I blame John Calipari for winning so many games, that's all I want to talk about.
But in an attempt to right a badly listing ship, you will find below the response to the SEC Power Poll Round Table, which is hosted at Garnet and Black Attack. There, you will find links to the other round table responses for other participating blogs.
Away we go:
1. The SEC was very weak last year. Most predicted that it would rebound this year. Has that happened? Why or why not?
It has happened, but perhaps not to the extent man SEC fans, and even neutral college basketball observers, expected. Kentucky, of course, has returned to its more or less traditional spot at the top of the conference after a five year hiatus. Tennessee is still competitive, Vanderbilt continues to be strong and Florida is beginning to improve in the East. The West is far more unsettled, with Mississippi St. and Ole Miss the only real threats to make the tournament. LSU was expected to be down a bit this year, but nobody expected them to be without a conference win at this point in the season.
The SEC ranked dead last of the big six conferences last year on Kenpom.com, and is fifth this year. So is the SEC better? Yeah, a little.
2. The national buzz on the conference is definitely focused on Kentucky, who have lived up to their preseason billing as the conference's best team and a national contender. Do the 'Cats have what it takes to win a national title? Why or why not?
Let's look at what Kentucky does have:
- They are
theone of the tallest team in the NCAA;
- They have great guard play, always a big plus in the NCAA tournament;
- They are the best offensive rebounding team in Division I;
- They have outstanding depth;
- They have at least three and maybe four first-round draft picks in the lineup;
What Kentucky does not have:
- Experience -- They are the youngest team in the top 25.
Is Kentucky's lack of experience enough to wipe out all the things they do have? I don't think so, but it is a significant concern.
3. In addition to Kentucky, which other teams will make the NCAAs? Will we see any surprises here, i. e., will anyone--barring an SECT surprise--other than Kentucky, the Tennessee Volunteers, the Vanderbilt Commodores, the Florida Gators, the Mississippi Rebels, and the Mississippi St. Bulldogs make it?
Of all the ones mentioned, Florida seems the most likely to not make the tournament. I'll take them first, and then look at the rest of the teams not mentioned:
- Florida has to get to at least nine wins and beat either Tennessee, Vanderbilt or Kentucky in their last six games. If they fail to defeat one of the aforementioned, they will need a win or two in the SECT to get in in addition to nine SEC regular-season wins.
- If South Carolina wins out in the regular season, they will get in without doubt. If they get to nine wins pre-tournament, they will likely get in if they win their first game. Otherwise, they would need eight wins and get to the finals of the SECT.
- If Arkansas gets to eleven conference wins, and wins a game in the SECT, or wins ten and gets to the finals in the SECT, I think they'll squeak in. That seems hard to imagine, but the the Committee will take into account the difference in Arkansas since Courtney Fortson has returned. They have a very real chance to pull that off, too, because the only really unlikely game they have left is Tennessee on the road. The rest of the tough teams they get at home. Unlikely, but doable.
- The least likely of all, but still possible, is Alabama. It would take a seven game winning streak to do it, and that could start now or later, but they need seven in a row somewhere in their next five conference and the up to four games in the SEC tournament. I don't think breaking it up will be good enough, they need seven in a row.
- None of the other teams really have a path to the NCAA tournament other than an SECT victory.
- Ole Miss is one bad loss away from the bubble, but they have a very favorable schedule from here on out with 4/6 at home.
4. What is the biggest surprise so far this season? Why?
The biggest surprise to me is LSU being so bad. I knew they would be down, but I never would have imagined them winless in the SEC halfway through the season.
5. Who is the player of the year so far? Why?
DeMarcus Cousins. His statistics per forty minutes are simply outrageous, and he is the cornerstone of Kentucky's success. Cousins is #1 in the nation in OR, #12 in DR, #2 in fouls drawn/40 minutes, and #2 in the nation in points/40 minutes.
But Cousins will not win the SEC POY. Devan Downey will. Book it. Downey doesn't have nearly the kind of overall production that Cousins does, but he will be player of the year in the SEC.