Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Casting our ballots: SEC
By Andy Katz
A quick look at the player and coach of the year races in the SEC:
Player of the Year
Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins leads the SEC in scoring at 19.4 points per game.
Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins couldn’t get free for a potential game-winning 3-point shot Tuesday at Kentucky. But Jenkins still led the Commodores with nearly 20 points a game this season.
Since preseason SEC player of the year Trey Thompkins had to deal with a high ankle sprain early on and simply hasn’t been consistent or dominant enough for Georgia, the award has been wide-open all season. The conference has plenty of candidates for potential player of the year with Kentucky’s Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones having fabulous freshman campaigns, Alabama’s JaMychal Green leading a Crimson Tide revival, and Florida’s Chandler Parsons doing a little bit of everything for the conference champion Gators.
But my choice would be Jenkins.
He’s come through time and time again for the Commodores this season, leading the SEC in scoring (19.4 ppg) and 3-pointers made (86) while shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc.
The sophomore guard played all 40 minutes and scored 32 in a memorable win against Kentucky the first time the teams played in Nashville. He was great in big games against Alabama (20), at Georgia (21-point second half) and at Mississippi State (21). The award could go to a number of players, but Jenkins seemed to shine the most when his team needed him most.
Coach of the Year
Billy Donovan’s Florida team was the SEC favorite in the preseason. And in the end, the Gators will have at least a share of the title.
The Gators were a frustrating team early on. The home blowout loss to Ohio State early on can be excused, but a neutral-court loss to UCF and home losses to Jacksonville and South Carolina? Huh? But there were still some highs, like beating Florida State on the road, knocking off Xavier in Cincinnati, and Kansas State in South Florida.
Then the Gators really found their stride around mid-January. Donovan had to help mold a team that hadn’t won anything since the Gators took the national title in 2007. This crew of seniors and juniors were living in the shadow of the back-to-back national championships. Yet they found a way to win a highly competitive SEC East, and after crushing Alabama on Tuesday night, will at the very least take a share of the overall title.
The team predicted to win doesn’t always equate to the coach of the year award. And Alabama’s Anthony Grant is certainly a worthy candidate after turning an ugly nonconference season into an 11-4 record in the SEC. But Donovan did his best coaching job since winning the title in 2007 and deserves the honor.
Click here to find out who our panel of 15 experts voted for in each of the nation's 10 best conferences.