A couple of weeks back, the esteemed bloggers of the SEC Hoops Power Poll conducted a five question round table. Here is a samplying of those responses:
1. What teams are locks, probables and bubble teams for the NCAA tournament? Why?
There was nearly universal consensus that Florida, Vandy and Kentucky are locks. Tennessee and Georgia were both either probable or bubble teams, with Alabama being on nearly everyone's bubble.
Florida has reached "lock" status the old-fashioned way- they've earned it. The Gators have rarely passed up an opportunity to win a close conference game, including some road contests that really tested the mettle of Billy Donovan's team. - Dawg Sports
Georgia because of their play against top competition like Notre Dame, Temple, and Xavier as well as wins against Kentucky and Tennessee; Tennessee simply because of the tough schedule they have played and a road win at Pitt. - ACC and SEC Blog
I think it's a darn shame that I can't put Alabama in the lock category yet, but the reason is their really ugly RPI and strength of schedule. I do think that if they win two more games in the SEC, they are certainly locks. It is inconceivable that an SEC team with 13 league wins gets left out of the tournament. That's probably also true of a 12-win SEC team (think Kentucky in 2007-08), but I'm hedging my bets. Bottom line, barring a complete collapse, Alabama is in. - A Sea of Blue
2. What is your story of the year for the conference?
The story of the year answers ranged from my suggestion of Kentucky's head scratching play to the never ending soap opera that is Tennessee's basketball program. However, Alabama's resurgence in conference play and the suckitude of the SEC West got the most mentions.
Got to say Alabama and the way that Coach Grant has positioned them for success. He has done an excellent coaching job and one could say the West is weak but he has done a great job this season in getting it done for Bama. -Leftover Hot Dog
The story of the year is how bad the West Division is. Sorry to be negative, but the West has two very bad teams that could go down as two of the worst ever in LSU and Auburn. The West is symbol of the fall of college basketball - the teams are not good and nobody seems to really care. - ACC and SEC Blog
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. - Garnet and Black Attack
This is a tough one, but the story of the year for us was Tennessee's schizophrenic season. The Bruce Pearl saga has been a constant refrain, and it seems hard to argue that his team hasn't been effected by his off-the-court issues. As discussed, the Volunteers have a completely polarized tournament resume: they've got 12 losses, but have a ridiculous record against RPI Top 50, and in many respects, their results are a microcosm of college basketball this year. - Vanderbilt Sports Line
3. Who is your player of the year? Why?
John Jenkins got the nod from everyone as the player of the year, with Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones and JaMychal Green getting honorable mentions, as well.
I think the legit candidates are Chandler Parsons, John Jenkins, Terrence Jones, and JaMychal Green. I don't know that JaMychal Green will get as much credit simply due to the fact that he plays in the West, though he's probably the most valuable of the foursome. Parsons is a well rounded player, but he doesn't wow you the way Jenkins and Jones do. Terrence Jones seems to be a lock at Freshman of the Year, so I don't think he's going to sweep the awards, but he has been better than the hype with which he came. If Vanderbilt can beat Florida on Saturday, I think Jenkins edges Parsons in the voting. It's hard to go against the SEC's leading scorer, particularly when he elevated his scoring the way he did during conference season despite being the main defensive focus for opposing conference teams. It took Tennessee double and triple teaming him to limit him to his lowest SEC output this season. Will Jenkins and Parsons cannibalize each other's chance to win? - Anchor of Gold
4. Who is the coach of the year? Why?
Anthony Grant, with a bullet.
Though Kevin Stallings deserves some credit, I think this has to be Anthony Grant. It's one thing to beat up on the SEC West. But Grant kept Alabama afloat and together when the Tide were 5-6 on December 18. They're 13-2 since then, with wins over Kentucky and Tennessee, and a close loss at Vanderbilt. Their defense and hustle are outstanding - he gets more out of his guys than anybody in the league right now. They deserve a chance to be there in March, well before anybody thought Grant would get them on the dance floor. He's the real thing. - Rocky Top Talk
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. - Garnet and Black Attack
Anthony Grany, Alabama. In his second year at Bama, Grant created a hard-playing and tough group that is clearly the best team in the SEC West. He doesn't have the most talent in the conference, despite being firmly in control of their division. Still, Grant's team plays great defense and has found ways to win in conference play. They're not a lock for the NCAA's yet, but the job Coach Grant has done cannot be stressed enough. - Vanderbilt Sports Line
5. What SEC team will go furthest in the NCAA tournament? In one of the other post season tourneys?
No one thinks anyone from the SEC has a good shot of getting past the Elite 8, but various voters think guard play can carry Vandy, talent can carry Kentucky and coaching/good shooting can carry Florida that deep into the tourney.
The answers were all over the place for other post season tourneys, but there is some consensus that Alabama could win the NIT, should they not make the NCAA.
If Alabama does not end up making it into the NCAA Tournament, they will be instant contenders for the NIT title. So in that scenario, Alabama might have the greatest shot of any SEC teams of winning a post season title. - Anchor of Gold
If guard play wins in March, you have to like the Dores - Jenkins leads the league in points, Brad Tinsley leads the league in assists. And if you like teams on a roll, Vandy is certainly that right now. - Rocky Top Talk
Florida. Billy Donovan seems to have worked out the early season kinks, and the Gators have shown an aptitude for doing what it takes to win basketball games. Could Kentucky get hot and make a run? Sure. But I really have no faith in any SEC team to make it to the Elite 8. It's just a down year for the conference all over. - Dawg Sports
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. - Garnet and Black Attack
Watch what MSU does in the NIT. They could make a run. - Leftover Hot Dog
Bonus question: Does any team not currently in your NCAA tournament discussion have a team that could win the SEC tournament?
As a Georgia Basketball fan, I (normally) love the prospect of a team making a run in the tournament out of no where, something that has happened frequently the past few years. This year as the possible last team in the tourney from the SEC....
No. The SEC currently has a lot of flawed basketball teams. It's always possible for somebody to get hot at the right time (see Georgia, 2008). If anybody has a puncher's chance of coming out of nowhere to win it, it would likely be Mississippi State. Stansbury's team has a lot of talent, and that's why some thought they could really make some noise in the SEC this season. A team with that much talent on the floor is always a little bit dangerous. But I don't think they can put together 3 solid games in a row. – Dawg Sports
If Arkansas - who beat Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Alabama, and lost to Georgia by one - can get the West #2 seed and a bye, I think they'll have a chance. They'd have to beat a good team right away on Friday, but if Rotnei Clark is on who knows. I think they're the only ones capable of even being considered for such a feat. – Rocky Top Talk
I could see Mississippi State winning the SEC Tournament because of the talent level they have and past success in the SEC Tournament. - The ACC and SEC Blog
Yes, Mississippi State could surprise and sneak up on someone if they are not careful. - Leftover Hot Dog
You bet. I think both the teams from the state of Mississippi could win the SEC tournament. The Mississippi St. Bulldogs are incredibly talented, and it certainly is possible for them to put together four straight. With Chris Warren, anything is possible. The Mississippi Rebels have beaten two of the top teams in the SEC, albeit at home, and although a four-game run isn't likely, a similar Georgia team with a great point guard pulled it off just a couple of years back. – A Sea of Blue
I suppose Mississippi or Mississippi State, depending on what you get out of Renardo Sidney in the case of the Bulldogs. The Rebels are statistically the second best team in the West. Mississippi State should be much better than they are. If Sidney gets his head on straight for a few days, they could be a tough team to beat. I would be surprised if either actually cut down the nets in Atlanta this year. - Anchor of Gold
Mississippi State. It seems that over the past few seasons, there's a team that comes out of nowhere to win, or at least play for, the SEC Tournament crown (Mississippi State last year, Georgia in 2008), This year, we think Rick Stansbury's team will be that team once again. The Bulldogs of Mississippi State are loaded with talent, but they have demonstrated poor focus, discipline, and mental toughness all season. Still, a hot streak and swagger could get these guys to a conference championship and the dance. - Vanderbilt Sports Line
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. – A Bulldog in Exile