This time of year, we generally do a round-table Q&A discussion for the SEC Power Poll voting blogs. This year, the Georgia Sports Blog will be hosting the round table, and I'll update this post with a link to the final round-up as soon as it is available.
Here are my answers to the round-table questions:
1) Who is the player of the year? Coach of the year? Why?
Player of the year: Anthony Davis
Why: 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 freshman shot blocker in a season, and affects the game in so many ways that his true value is difficult to accurately discern.
Coach of the year: John Calipari
Why: Coach Cal has taken freshmen and underclassmen and created a basketball team that may be the best out of the SEC in a decade. He continues to manage these pampered high-school kids that are used to starring roles and convincing them to accept supporting roles in a way that no other college coach has been able to do. He is an underrated bench coach, primarily due to his polarizing past, and it's about time he was recognized after three outstanding seasons in Lexington.
2) Who is the breakout player of the year? Why?
Breakout player of the year: 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.
3) What team is the biggest surprise (good or bad)?
Biggest surprise: Tennessee Volunteers
Why: Who could have imagined that a Tennessee team decimated with lost players, probation, and an awful public embarrassment by their former basketball coach could come back and beat two of the top three SEC teams multiple times, and win 8 of their last nine league games en route to securing a first-round bye in the SEC tournament?
Even if the Vols don't make the NCAA Tournament, their season has been remarkable, and one of the great stories in all of college basketball this year.
4) Nationally, the SEC is viewed as top heavy, but week below about team #3. What are your thoughts on the conference's performance in the national view?
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.
5) What teams will make the NCAA tourney? Any surprise runs forthcoming?
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. That latter would surely qualify as a surprise.