SEC Player of the Year: The ContendersPosted by DPerry on March 7th, 2013
At this time last year, we weren’t having this discussion. Kentucky was cruising to a perfect 16-0 record in SEC play, and the only real speculation was over whether Anthony Davis would sweep the National Player of the Year awards. In 2013, the competition for the SEC’s top honor mirrors the landscape of the league approaching Selection Sunday: lots of candidates, but lots of flaws. Let’s take a look at the contenders:
- Jordan McRae, Tennessee. If you told me back in November that a Volunteer would be the league’s best player, I would have assumed Jarnell Stokes. The sophomore forward took a while to round into form, however, allowing McRae to step in and excel for the Vols. McRae is averaging 19.5 points per game in conference play and has been especially strong over the past few weeks as UT pushes for an NCAA Tournament berth. He put the team on his back in a resume-making win over Florida, racking up 27 points and seven rebounds. McRae has shown massive improvement in his junior season, with big jumps in his shooting percentages to prove it.
- Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss. Marshall Henderson is the most one-dimensional player you’ll find on this list. He doesn’t rebound, he has a negative assist/turnover ratio, and he doesn’t excel on the defensive end. Despite all this, his scoring is lethal enough to keep him in the discussion. The junior shooting guard hasn’t made many friends in the SEC with his oncourt antics, but it’s hard to ignore his 19.6 points per game. Some voters will be put off by the unimpressive shooting percentages, however, which could ultimately keep him from taking home the award.
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope presents an interesting dilemma. His value to Georgia can’t be overstated, leading his team in scoring, rebounding, and steals. His 44% shooting from the field is impressive, given that opposing defenses can key solely on him. The Bulldogs suffered some awful losses in the non-conference season, but have surprisingly put together a .500 record in SEC play. However, voters have historically been unable to ignore candidates from outside the top tier of teams, with no winner coming from a team finishing below fourth in the conference standings.
- Phil Pressey, Missouri. Phil Pressey is the only contender who isn’t a wing scorer. The preseason POY pick has had an up-and-down season, but despite some poor shooting and turnover numbers, he’s still the conference’s premier play-maker. His 7.1 assists per game leads the league by a healthy margin. Missouri has won four of its last five games, and in their sole loss (at Kentucky in overtime), Pressey was clearly the best player on the court, scoring 27 points and dishing out 10 assists.
- Player X, Florida. The best player in the SEC probably wears the blue and orange. But how do you decide which one? Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario, and Erik Murphy are all capable scorers, but don’t put up gaudy totals. Patric Young is a beast on the block and shoots over 60% from the field, but his other numbers don’t jump off the page. Scottie Wilbekin averages five assists per game to just two turnovers. Each starter would be the star if they played for another SEC team (with a few exceptions), but Florida’s balance will probably preclude any Gator from SEC Player of the Year glory.