- Ky McKeon
3MW’s All Conference Team:
Player of the Year: Grant Williams, Jr., Tennessee
Coach of the Year: Kermit Davis, Ole Miss
Newcomer of the Year: Keldon Johnson, Fr., Kentucky
Freshman of the Year: Keldon Johnson, Fr., Kentucky
1. Terrific Tigers
Tennessee and Kentucky got all the headlines and are currently fighting for a #1 seed in the Big Dance, but it was LSU that captured the outright conference title. The Tigers streaked to a 16-2 SEC record, winning 5(!!!) games in overtime along the way. Tremont Waters was spectacular in his sophomore season, Skylar Mays took a gigantic leap, and 5-star frosh Naz Reid was as good as advertised. The Bayou Bengals ranked 2nd in the SEC in offense and 4th defense under head coach Will Wade, who seemed to be a homerun hire until… uh oh…
LSU’s 1st place run is impressive, but we have to caveat it a bit. The Tigers had the easiest conference schedule in the league, playing Kentucky (at Rupp), Tennessee (at home), and Auburn (at home) just once. And, winning five games in OT is just ridiculous. Still, congrats to LSU and here’s hoping Wade can overcome any trouble with the NCAA (because this whole FBI investigation is a bunch of crap).
2. Kermit the Rebel
Ole Miss wins the award for best surprise season, as the Rebels are set up to earn an at-large bid to the Dance despite being picked by most outlets to finish in the bottom four of the conference. Kermit Davis, the longtime Middle Tennessee coach, did a brilliant job getting Ole Miss to a spot where Andy Kennedy couldn’t. Sure, Kennedy had plenty of 9-9 SEC records and 20-win seasons, but this year’s squad actually notched quality wins, knocking off Baylor, sweeping Auburn, and winning at rival Miss State. Credit Davis and his electric backcourt for reviving Rebel basketball.
3. The Curious Case of South Carolina
In possibly the strangest result of the season in any conference, the South Carolina Gamecocks finished in 4th place in the SEC (11-7) despite going just 5-8 in non-conference play. Frank Martin’s squad dropped games to Stony Brook and Wyoming but somehow managed to take down Florida on the road, Miss State, Auburn, and Ole Miss. Despite their impressive SEC run, USC will not even sniff an at-large bid.
4. Oh No, Vandy
For the first time since the 1950s, a team has gone winless in the SEC. Vanderbilt achieved the unthinkable when it ended the year 0-18 in conference play after being picked as a fringe Tourney team in the offseason and going 9-3 against non-conference competition. The injury to star freshman Darius Garland had a lot to do with this futility, but my goodness - how on Earth does this happen? Vandy has a bright future with talent coming in and rising through the ranks, but this was a season they will want to quickly forget. For those calling fro Bryce Drew’s job - please hush. He is still a good coach and deserves a couple more years to prove his worth.
The SEC tourney is held in Nashville, Tennessee at the Bridgestone Arena (home of the Predators). It’s Vandy’s hometown, but Vandy ain’t winning this tournament.
Best Team and Projected NCAA Tournament Seed
To me, this is a four-team race between Tennessee, Kentucky, LSU, and Auburn. Whoever comes out of the Tennessee / Kentucky semi-final matchup should win the auto-bid. I like LSU a lot, but Will Wade’s suspension and the fact that the Tigers’ record definitely over-inflates their true ability makes me think they won’t make it past the semis.
Kentucky v. Tennessee round 3 is going to be awesome. Gun to my head, I’ll take the Vols, but the Cats were my preseason #1 team for a reason. Both teams are incredibly talented and deep, and both teams can play physical. The status of Reid Travis will be a large factor. Winner of this game also likely receives a 1-seed in the Big Dance unless UNC wins the ACC Tournament (and even then, they still might get it).
Dark Horse Team
UK, Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, Miss State and Ole Miss are locks for the Field of 68. Florida is likely in, but the Gators need a round 1 victory over the feisty Razorbacks. Alabama still has work to do.
Florida has been underachieving all season, but they have the talent to make the championship game if Mike White can figure out what’s wrong with Jalen Hudson. Auburn is another team I like to go far with their athleticism and size. Also, don’t count out Miss State who has an excellent senior leader in the backcourt in Quinndary Weatherspoon - very important in the postseason
(12) Missouri over (13) Georgia
(14) Vanderbilt over (11) Texas A&M
(8) Florida over (9) Arkansas
(5) Auburn over (12) Missouri
(7) Ole Miss over (10) Alabama
(4) Mississippi State over (14) Vanderbilt
(8) Florida over (1) LSU
(5) Auburn over (4) South Carolina
(2) Kentucky over (7) Ole Miss
(3) Tennessee over (4) Mississippi State
(5) Auburn over (8) Florida
(3) Tennessee over (2) Kentucky
(3) Tennessee over (5) Auburn
Tennessee claims the SEC title and a #1 seed in the Big Dance. Kentucky earns a 2-seed. Vandy gets its first “conference” win, upending a Texas A&M that I frankly have disliked wholeheartedly all season. Florida locks in its status as a Tourney team, while Alabama falls short of the Field.