The SEC Hoops Power Poll is convening one last time this season for a year-end roundtable. Our apologies if you're not a Florida or Kentucky fan and would rather the 2010-2011 basketball season recede from memory as quickly as possible, but we just love talking about hoops so much that we had to do this. Plus, we couldn't let the big network pundits have the last word on an exciting SEC basketball season. So, without further ado, let's get to the roundtable questions and my answers. Remember to check out the responses at the other blogs and to stay tuned for the roundup. And please feel free to weigh in with your own responses.
Let's talk post-season awards. Who deserves SEC Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, and why?
I'm going to go blue on this one and say Brandon Knight and John Calipari. Knight had a phenomenal year, and like all truly great players, he saved the best for last, with an impressive run in the NCAA Tournament, where he looked like anything but a young freshman. His game winner against Ohio St. will be remembered for a long time among Kentucky fans.
I think you also have to give a lot of credit to Calipari. He coached his team up over the course of the season and matched strategical acumen with some of the game's best coaches during the post-season. He also has to get credit for the remarkable development of unheralded big man Josh Harrellson as well as his continued ability to punch in the nation's best recruiting classes year after year.
Which program was the most pleasant surprise? Why?
Alabama. Despite low expectations and a slow start, Anthony Grant's team dominated the Western Division. Although Tide fans are probably still angry about their NCAA Tournament snub, they should be happy about the season and the program's direction.
Which program had the most disappointing season? Why?
The obvious answer here is Mississippi St., who failed to make the post-season after entering the season as the clear favorite in the West. However, I'm going to go with Vanderbilt. Why? The Commodores had another terrible finish, losing five of their last eight and bowing out to 12-seeded Richmond in the NCAA tournament. The 'Dores have become a regular in the league's upper echelon and the national top 25, but they've been unable to take the next step with a strong post-season finish. What has to make coach Kevin Stallings all the more upset was that this team, more than any of his previous ones, had all the talent and experience necessary for a deep run. The good news for him is that most of it will be back next year.
Which coach's seat is hottest going into 2011-2012? Will he survive to see another season?
I'm going with Darrin Horn. My guess is that you're not surprised. That said, I doubt that either Horn or the league's other embattled coach, LSU's Trent Johnson, will be fired after next season, at least not unless one or both totally flop, which is a possibility, of course. Both will need to win big by the following year, though, or they're gone.
The league will have two new coaches next year: Arkansas's Mike Anderson and Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin. What do you see in their futures?
Anderson is a dream hire for Arkansas. A few years ago, all the big names turned the Hogs down, and they had to settle for John Pelphrey, a talented coach but one who hadn't yet coached at the highest level. Pelphrey failed to win big at Arkansas, and when he was shown the door, this time Arkansas got their first choice. A coach who has won at the highest level, look for Anderson to bring Arkansas back into the national spotlight sooner than later. The West is there for the taking, and I expect it will be Anderson and Alabama's Grant doing battle over it.
Martin is in for a tough haul. The Vols may be facing sanctions, and if so, he'll likely be in the unenviable position of having to match the production of a big winner with one hand tied behind his back. If he can get through the first few years, he may be OK, but I think there's a good chance that he'll be gone fairly quickly and Tennessee will later go after a bigger-name coach.