Tuesday, February 22, 2011

SEC Hoops Blogger Round Table

Each year, the voters in the SEC Hoops Power Poll do a round table where we answer a few questions.  Feel free to give your answers in the comments.

1. What teams are locks, probables and bubble teams for the NCAA tournament? Why?

Locks: Florida, Vandy, Kentucky
Florida, Vandy and Kentucky could lose out and still make the tournament.  That is just how strong they are.  Of course, they won't lose out.

Probables: Tennessee, Georgia
A week ago, I'd have to put Georgia in the bubble and Tennessee in the locks.  While the Vols are still a pretty good bet, they cannot go 2-6 to end the season and feel good about their chances.  The problem is that their schedule is brutal, having to go on the road to face Vandy and South Carlina and having Kentucky at home to end the season.  Only Mississippi State at home is a game they can feel confident about winning.

The Dawgs are in a much different place.  They have South Carolina and LSU in Athens, both winnable games.  They have a very tough road game this week and a toss up game against Alabama on the road to end the season.  By my view, the Dawgs just need to win the games they are supposed to and they get in.  Slip up and win another road game and you can move them up to the lock category.  Lose to LSU or South Carolina and you have to make a two game run in the SEC tourney to be assured a spot. 

Both Tennessee and Georgia have RPIs in the 30's.  Only one team from a major conference has gotten a snub with a sub-35 RPI.  That makes both Tennessee and Georgia fairly strong probables, as long as they stay in the 30s.

Bubble: Alabama
Yes, I know they are 10-2 in the conference and 14-0 at home.  The NCAA tourney won't be played at Coleman.  Alabama is a bubble team due to Auburn and LSU.  They have four games against these teams and that is just killing their RPI.  Well, that and losses to teams like St. Peters.  The human aspect of that is hurting thier chances as well.  That selection committee is looking at the SEC West like it is the SEC East of football.  Alabama has to win two more to move into the probable range.  Their RPI won't go up after they play Auburn (as a coincidence, this will be the first athletic match-up since Al from Dadeville ran his mouth).  They just about have to beat Mississippi and Georgia to have a fighter's chance.  Of course, if they beat Florida on the road, that will probably move them up.

Alabama is currently 77th in RPI.  No team has gotten in as an at-large with a sub-75 RPI.

2. What is your story of the year for the conference?

Gosh, the easy (and simplest to have fun with) would be Bruce Pearl's invite list, right?  However, I am going with Kentucky's head-scratching play.  Coming in, they seemed to be a lock for running away with the SEC East.

Clearly that hasn't happened.  They are young, but Calipari had a young team last year, and they performed much, much better.  I don't know if the Enes Kanter thing is that big of a deal, or if Calipari just isn't getting through to them.  Either way, the yelling incident was a symptom, not a cause.  The team is, on paper, as talented from players 1-9 as they were last year, but you are not getting production out of the players like you would expect.  

Makes you wonder if Calipari is just better at coaching one star teams.

3. Who is your player of the year? Why?

John Jenkins.  He leads the conference in scoring (22.2ppg) and minutes played and is second in free throw percentage. No team lives and dies by the play of their top player like Vandy does.

My Runner Up was Terrence Jones, FWIW.

4. Who is the coach of the year? Why?

Anthony Grant.  He had taken a team that took two overtimes to beat UA-Huntsville and lost to some very bad teams in the early season match-ups to a team that is 10-2 and on the cusp of an NCAA tournament bid.  I didn't look for a backup, but I did think about making Tony Jones my coach of the year.

5. What SEC team will go furthest in the NCAA tournament? In one of the other post season tourneys?
The simple answer is Florida.  Whatever gremlins that lead to inexplicable losses to Jacksonville and South Carolina seem to be far behind them.  They are playing like a team that could make a regional final easily.  If they get and stay healthy, it could be a deep run for the Gators.

I have to say that if Georgia or Tennessee or Alabama don't make the NCAA tournament, they could well book an NIT final four berth.  Mississippi State has the talent to go that deep, but God knows they have to pick it up if they plan on actually, you know, playing past the SEC tournament. 

Bonus question: Does any team not currently in your NCAA tournament discussion have a team that could win the SEC tournament?
Yes, Mississippi State and Mississippi both have the teams that could do it.  I have to say the Rebels are in a better position, as they are better on the road and have shown they can go on runs where they put together back to back strong games.

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