Tyler Dawgden at the Georgia Sports Blog has been gracious enough to host a Power Poll Roundtable. He'll post the responses on his blog next week. Here are my answers to his questions.
1) Who is the player of the year? Coach of the year? Why?
Anthony Davis is the player of year, perhaps not only for the conference but for the nation. His game-in, game-out performance is simply phenomenal; he's averaging nearly a double-double, and he has a simply unbelievable .66 FG%. As if those stats didn't say enough, he tends to play his best in big games, such as his 28-point, 10-11 (!!!) shooting performance in the recent game against Vanderbilt. Just an astoundingly good player who has the look of a Final Four MVP.
I'll go with Anthony Grant for coach of the year. The argument against him is that Alabama was supposed to be good all along, but I've been impressed by how Grant was able to pull the Tide through a disappointing stretch and get his team in gear for a tourney run. You could also easily go with John Calipari here, who has managed to pull off the difficult feat of exceeding expectations with a team that was expected to challenge for a national title, but I feel Grant has had the tougher job this year, and he's done well with it.
2) Who is the breakout player of the year? Why?
Tough question. I guess you could call Davis a breakout player in a way since he's a freshman, but he was the second-ranked prep in the nation last year, so it's not like he's shocked anyone. Another, more unheralded player I like a lot is LSU's Justin Hamilton, a transfer from Iowa State. Hamilton has been one of the conference's more steady big men, and he's made a major difference for an LSU team that struggled last year without him. He's qualifies as a great breakout player in my book.
3) What team is the biggest surprise (good or bad)?
One reason I like Hamilton so much is that he's helped LSU to be such a pleasant surprise. The Tigers were supposed to struggle again this year, but they're now a solid NIT squad with an outside (very outside, but still) shot at March Madness. Other than that, things have panned out more or less as expected. Tennessee underachieved early in the season, but now they're playing more like I expected them to.
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 SEC is underrated. It's not the best conference, but it's solid. Yes, the top three teams are head and shoulders above the rest, and Kentucky is head and shoulders above Vandy and Florida. That said, Alabama, Mississippi St., LSU, and Tennessee are all solid teams. I could see 'Bama or MSU surprising and making it into the Sweet 16 or so, and LSU and UT are good threats to win the NIT. That's not bad depth at all.
5) What teams will make the NCAA tourney? Any surprise runs forthcoming?
Kentucky, Vandy, Florida, and Alabama are more or less locks, although 'Bama could miss out if it totally collapses in the last couple of games. Mississippi St. has a good chance if it wins a few games down the stretch. LSU might have a chance if it makes the finals of the SEC Tournament or so. Past that, I don't see anyone making it without winning the SECT. Tennessee has the look of a team that might be able to pull off the surprise and do that.
In March, I'm going to go out on a limb and say Vandy makes a run to the Elite Eight. They're playing really well right now and have the kind of balance and depth that oftentimes serves a team well in the Tournament.