Cloninger: Personal picks for All-SEC

Posted by David Cloninger on March 10, 2014 

“And find I'm king of the hill,
Top of the heap.”
---------------------------------------- FRANK SINATRA

The SEC should announce its all-conference teams tomorrow, putting a nice bow on the regular season before the SEC tournament begins on Wednesday. The AP will have a team, and the coaches will have a team.

The AP will do two teams of five players each and an honorable mention. The coaches will select two teams of however many players each because ties aren’t broken. I’ll stick with the AP model, from what I’ve seen this season.

Lot of factors, besides the numbers. What did they do for their team (i.e., team finish)? Who are the backbones of their teams? Who had the best all-around games (not just points)? Who had phenomenal seasons, regardless of their team’s records?

First team
Jabari Brown, Missouri
Casey Prather, Florida
Julius Randle, Kentucky
Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
Scottie Wilbekin, Florida

Second team
Chris Denson, Auburn
Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss
Charles Mann, Georgia
Jordan McRae, Tennessee
Trevor Releford, Alabama

Honorable mention
Alex Caruso, Texas A&M
Michael Frazier, Florida
KT Harrell, Auburn
Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
Jordan Mickey, LSU
Johnny O’Bryant, LSU
Rod Odom, Vanderbilt
Bobby Portis, Arkansas
Jarvis Summers, Ole Miss
Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
Brenton Williams, South Carolina

Very difficult to separate players this year. Florida is the best team in the league and maybe the country, but all of Gators play so well together that it’s tough to single out one. Kentucky has all that talent, but who are the best players beside Julius Randle? Georgia didn’t light up any statistical categories, but the Bulldogs finished tied for second in the league.

The coaches will also choose all-defensive and all-freshman teams. My choices:

Defensive
Alex Caruso, Texas A&M
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Jordan Mickey, LSU
Julius Randle, Kentucky
Trevor Releford, Alabama
Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee

Freshman
Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
Jordan Mickey, LSU
Bobby Portis, Arkansas
Julius Randle, Kentucky
Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
Johnathan Williams, Missouri
James Young, Kentucky

The AP will pick a Player, Coach and Newcomer of the Year (i.e., freshman or a transfer) while coaches will choose all of those plus a Defensive, 6th Man and Scholar-Athlete of the Year. I don’t have access to the GPAs like the coaches do so I won’t pick a Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

SEC 6th Man of the Year: Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida
Finney-Smith has only started two games this year but averages 9.4 points and 6.9 rebounds for a senior-stocked team that dealt with a lot of depth issues early in the year. While Georgia’s Nemanja Djurisic and Arkansas’ Alandise Harris are certainly candidates, Finney-Smith played and played a lot for an 18-0 team in league competition.

SEC Defensive Player of the Year: Jordan Mickey, LSU
Mickey is fifth in rebounding and first in blocks. A natural choice.

SEC Freshman of the Year: Julius Randle, Kentucky
Can’t deny the big man his prize. Kentucky’s leading scorer (and 10th in the league), SEC’s first in rebounding, fourth in field-goal percentage. He doesn’t chart in the league’s top 10 in blocks, but that’s not his fault – he’s got Willie Cauley-Stein to do that for him.

SEC Coach of the Year: Mark Fox, Georgia
Look, Billy Donovan did an amazing job with Florida this year. Playing 18 league games and winning them all? That’s very, very impressive. What made me go in another direction is this – Florida was supposed to be real good and is real good. I didn’t expect 18-0 good, but I expected good. Georgia lost an NBA lottery pick and had a whole lot of nothing coming back. The Bulldogs took that nothing and finished tied for second in the league, and that was in a year where Fox also had to overcome the death of his father and fight rumors of his seat getting hot. Full disclosure – I fully expect Donovan to win. But I would have voted for Fox.

SEC Player of the Year: Julius Randle, Kentucky
Tough choice, but Randle’s credentials just rise above everyone else. Jabari Brown led the league in scoring but Missouri finished 9-9. The Gators kind of cancel each other out. Georgia’s kids finished tied for second but hardly anybody is in the stat sheets. Tennessee did finish fourth, but it may not be good enough for the NCAA tournament. Randle’s stats rise above and while Kentucky didn’t sniff the grand 40-0 it talked about so vividly in the preseason, the Wildcats still had a strong season. What I’m hoping is that the voters don’t do what they’ve been known to do – award Randle one award (like Player of the Year) and give the Freshman of the Year prize to someone else. He’s the best player, he’s a freshman, he should win both. It shouldn’t be split just to give somebody else a plaque (like in 2010, when freshman John Wall was Player of the Year, yet somehow lost Freshman of the Year to DeMarcus Cousins).

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