SEC Power Poll Roundtable Roundup

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The best minds in SEC Basketball blogging have spoken on the pressing issues we're all thinking about. Here's what they had to say in response to the roundtable I hosted a couple of weeks back. Many thanks to all who participated, as well as to all that diligently help make our power poll a success. Be sure to follow the links if you want to see more of what these folks had to say. Cheers!

1. The SEC was very weak last year. Most predicted that it would rebound this year. Has that happened? Why or why not?

From a national perception the SEC is better this year because they have a national title contender, Kentucky. Most people judge conference by their top teams and not necessarily top to bottom.

Looking at it top to bottom, the SEC is marginally better. I am watching Miss State on ESPN and announcers are discussing the Bulldogs NCAA Tournament chances. This is likely the best team in the West and they are a bubble team.

I think the rebound will be slow as long as the most important activity at 10 of the 12 schools between the bowl games and the first Wednesday in February is still football. The ESPN contract will should help, but it may be slow.—ACC & SEC Blog 

The SEC has gotten stronger but it is due in large part to the teams from the SEC East.  Thanks to Kentucky, Vandy and UT the SEC has strength.  Teams like Auburn and LSU drag down the SEC perception of power but compared overall it is better than last year.  Still a ways to go before we can say we are better than the Big East but give it some time.—Leftover Hot Dog  

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? 

Kentucky could have the most talented group of players in college basketball...but I don't think they're the best team.  That's not to say they won't make the Final Four, but at the highest level of competition, I would favor a team with more experience.  A group like Kansas, or even a team like Purdue, that has enough talent to compete with UK but has a significant advantage in experience, seems more likely to cut down the nets.  What happens to UK's guys when they're down five in the last eight minutes of a regional final, and the players you have to count on have never ever been there before?

Plus, and this isn't Kentucky's fault, but the non-conference teams UK beat have turned out to be much worse than we thought at the time:  Stanford is 10-13, North Carolina and UConn are in tailspins, and it's a down year for Indiana and Louisville.  To go 5-0 against that group would've looked incredibly impressive in October (or when UK scheduled those teams)...and it's still impressive in February, but not in a way that makes me think that Kentucky is so much better than any of the other elite teams in college basketball.—Rocky Top Talk 

Absolutely Kentucky has the pieces to win a national title. The collection of talent on that roster is staggering. I would have to say that barring a few upsets they are on their way to a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. There just aren't that many teams capable of matching up to the Wildcats in terms of size, depth, and quickness. As such, the biggest threat to a Wildcats National Championship has little to do with their opponents and everything to do with themselves. As I mentioned in the first question, the inconsistency and inexperience of youth can bite a team at any time. The commonly-held belief is that a senior point guard is the biggest key to a championship (with a stout big man a close second). Kentucky has both a stud PG and C. Will their talent negate their lack of experience? If Patrick Patterson continues to have a somewhat passive offensive role, he must at least be the leader in mental strength that Kentucky is going to need in the postseason.—Anchor of Gold

Read the rest after the jump.

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.—

A Sea of Blue

I suppose my delay in answering these questions has made answering this a little easier. Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt are in their own pool at this point. Next grouping: Mississippi State, Mississippi, then Florida. It really becomes slim pickings after that. The SEC's best shot for a team outside that group? South Carolina, though they would need to rattle off a bunch of wins (kenpom.com only predicts one game left on their schedule as a win: Alabama at home). Even then, they'd still probably need to win two or three in the SEC Tournament. Nobody else really has the resume to get serious consideration. My prediction at this point: SEC gets four teams, with Mississippi and Florida on the outside right now.—Anchor of Gold

4. What is the biggest surprise so far this season? Why?

In order:


Tennessee's reaction to the arrests - Knocking off a very good Kansas team with six scholarship players. Enough said.                              

South Carolina's resurgence - I thought they might have been overlooked a bit, but with UK, Vandy and Tennessee in your division, it isn't hard to get over looked. Devan Downey is a fantastic player and Horn is using his star perfectly.

Georgia's competitiveness - The Dawgs, on paper, aren't a very good team. Yeah, they only have two conference victories, but Georgia has played so much better than anyone could have dreamed in October. Coach Fox was the right hire at the right time.

LSU fail - No one thought they'd win the west, but...damn! They are not a good basketball team.—

A Bulldog in Exile

I don't know that there's necessarily been a surprise. However, I do feel like the team that has overachieved more than any other is Georgia. Everyone, including myself, expected the Bulldogs to be really down coming into this season under new head coach Mark Fox. 

I don't know that there's necessarily been a surprise. However, I do feel like the team that has overachieved more than any other is Georgia. Everyone, including myself, expected the Bulldogs to be really down coming into this season under new head coach Mark Fox. 

What they've found is that Georgia has two great players, Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, and have the ability to beat anyone in the SEC.—

Ghost of Chucky

 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.—A Sea of Blue 

If we're talking strictly about the player who is the most vital to his team's success, I would have to say Devan Downey. It seems though that players are sometimes overlooked if they aren't on one of the elite teams. If that's the case, you can make the case for John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Wayne Chism, and Jermaine Beal. Call me a homer, but if Vandy manages to beat Kentucky in Nashville and the Commodores can somehow finish the season without any letdowns, I could see the Senior PG for the Commodores edging the Kentucky freshmen. Beal has really elevated his game since the start of conference play. Head to head with Wall (conference games only): Beal leads scoring at 17.6 to 16.6, and Assist to Turnover Ratio at 1.8 to 1.3. In terms of hype, Beal is the anti-Wall. If it's strictly determined by stats, I'm not sure you can pick anyone but DeMarcus Cousins. He's averaging a double-double in conference play, and his per 40 minute numbers are through the roof. I'm glad I'm not in charge of making the choice.—Anchor of Gold

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