Those that want to participate in this round table that have their own blogs should answer the questions on their sites and then post links to their answers to the comments section of this post. Others can just answer the questions in the comments section. After everyone has had time to put up answers, I'll post a collection of some of the best answers here at Garnet and Black Attack.
1. What were the biggest surprises in the SEC over the first half of the season?
Most people expected South Carolina to be better this year, but their sudden emergence as a probable NCAA tournament team after stirring victories over Florida and Kentucky has taken the conference by storm. That's probably the biggest surprise, so far. Tennessee's slow start and Ole Miss's ability to weather a slew of injuries have also been surprising.
2. Who is the SEC Player of the Year over the first part of the season?
I'm going to say it's a three-way tie between David Huertas of Ole Miss, Devan Downey of South Carolina, and Jodie Meeks of Kentucky. All three players are playing great basketball and, perhaps more importantly, their teams couldn't survive without them. Huertas has helped keep Ole Miss from folding, Downey's late-game heroics have helped the Gamecocks get their fast start, and Meeks has carried Kentucky offensively. If I had to pick between the three right now, I'd probably pick Meeks, but with Kentucky sliding, it might be Downey by the end of the year.
3. Is the SEC really this down? Why or why not? What can the conference do in the postseason? Is there any hope for a Final Four team? Where does the conference go after this year?
Barring an unexpected run of luck, I don't think that there is an SEC team that has the tools to go to the Final Four. Most teams have a glaring weakness or two; for example, Florida lacks post presence, South Carolina lacks post presence and shoots free throws poorly, and Kentucky has ball-handling issues and lacks a point guard. Tennessee seems to have all the tools, but the Vols have been dissappointing so far. Maybe LSU can make a run, but I doubt it. All of these teams are capable of winning a game or two in the NCAAs if they get a favorable seed, but none will do well once they get deeper into the tourney and have to take on one of the power teams from the other conferences. In that sense, the league is down, as it lacks an elite team. That said, I think the league is deeper than most give it credit for, with a number of teams that are decent and that have potential. Moreover, as many of the teams are very young, there's great potential for a strong conference next year.
4.Which teams will make the Big Dance?
Right now, I would say LSU, Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina, and maybe Kentucky if they can stop the bleeding. Mississippi State has an outside shot if they can go on a late tear. Ole Miss, Auburn, and Arkansas could make the NIT.