As those of you who have been around this blog for some time know, the SEC Hoops Power Poll oftentimes runs a roundtable discussion around the middle of the conference season. This year, the fine Georgia blog A Bulldog in Exile is hosting. My answers to BIE's questions are below; please check back soon for a link to the roundup he'll be posting.
1. What teams are locks, probables and bubble teams for the NCAA tournament? Why?
Locks are Florida, Vandy, and Kentucky, Alabama is probable, while Georgia and Tennessee are bubble teams.
Florida, Vandy, and Kentucky are no-brainers. All are nationally ranked and have RPI's in the top 31. Barring total collapse, all make it.
Alabama has the next highest RPI at 33. The knock on the Tide is their poor out-of-conference showing, but they've really turned it on in conference play, and the committee has been known to ignore early indiscretions for teams that heat up late. Like the first three teams, I think 'Bama likely makes it unless they fall apart, and that's unlikely considering their schedule. If they really want to be sure, a win at Florida would undoubtedly help.
Georgia and Tennessee are tougher to call. Both have RPIs in the 50s, meaning they need to win some key games down the stretch to feel safe. Georgia, I think, is in a situation kind of like South Carolina was in in 2008-2009. They should finish with at least 20 wins, but the quality wins aren't there because of all the close losses in big games. In addition to having a low RPI, that lack of really standout wins may hurt Georgia with the committee. Tennessee is kind of in the opposite position. The Vols have some nice wins, but they also have lots of bad losses, and they've also been underwhelming down the stretch. I think both teams may need an upset or two or a nice run in the SECT to get in the field.
2. What is your story of the year for the conference?
To me it's Alabama. In Anthony Grant's second year, the Tide have bounced back from a lackluster early season to take the SEC by storm. 'Bama fans have to be excited about the direction Grant has this team headed in, especially considering the success he's having on the recruiting trail. Impressions are fleeting, of course, but right now I'm most impressed with Grant out of the league's group of talented young coaches.
Runner-ups for story of the year include the East's dominance, Kentucky's minor struggles to repeat the success it had in John Calipari's first year, and all the problems Mississippi St. has had.
Continue reading after the jump.
3. Who is your player of the year? Why?
In my opinion it has to go to Vandy's John Jenkins. Jenkins leads the conference in scoring at nearly 20 ppg and has tended to show out in big-game situations, such as the recent UK at VU tilt. He's been Vandy's MVP in most of their biggest victories. His defense at times leaves a little bit to be desired, though. Some other players I like a lot are Georgia's Trey Thompkins, Alabama's JaMychal Green, and Florida's Chandler Parsons.
4. Who is the coach of the year? Why?
I'm going with Grant. His team probably won't go too far in March and probably has an inflated record due to how bad the West is, but Grant has done a great job getting his team to bounce back from their early struggles. Lots of teams would have mailed it in after that start, but Grant got his guys to stick with the program and now he'll likely be rewarded with Alabama's first NCAA berth in a few years.
5. What SEC team will go furthest in the NCAA tournament? In one of the other post season tourneys?
Although they've struggled at times during SEC play, I think Kentucky has by far the league's highest ceiling. The 'Cats are loaded with talent and seem to be maturing in recent weeks. If Calipari can channel the team's potential, they can play with anybody and could make a run to the Final Four. Florida and Vandy I'm a little unsure of. Florida is also very talented and could do well, but I could also see it losing an early game to an inferior opponent. Vandy has to prove it can get past the early rounds before I'm a believer. I don't know if I have much faith in any of the other SEC teams doing much in the post-season. The Miss. schools and Arkansas may make the NIT, by the way, but I doubt they go anywhere.
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