Prather, Randle, Clarkson Emerge as Favorites for SEC POYPosted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on January 7th, 2014
Conference play finally gets underway tonight, so there’s no better time than now to look at which players have emerged as the top contenders for SEC Player of the Year. The following list definitely omits a number of worthy candidates, but as with any list, debate is encouraged through social media and in the comments section. Also, overall team success was definitely a factor, but not a definitive one. Here are the players who have set themselves up in the non-conference season for a run at SEC POY:
Casey Prather, Florida (17.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 28.5 PER, 61.4% eFG, 94.2 dRTG)
If you’d have asked a Florida fan before the season which Gator would have the biggest impact this year, Prather might’ve been the fifth or sixth player mentioned. But he’s easily topped that list thus far for Florida, turning himself into one of the best players in the SEC. The senior is playing 12 more minutes per game this year, and has built on the solid peripherals that he posted in his junior season. Prather’s emergence has been key for a team that had many important players either suspended or injured to begin the season. The big pluses of his talent (getting to the rim and playing defense) are generally sustainable attributes that should help Florida win a lot of games in SEC play. Florida is the conference’s highest-ranked team right now and Prather has been their best player. For those reasons, he deserves to be at the front of the POY discussion.
Julius Randle, Kentucky (18.1 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 28 PER, 56.6% eFG, 94.7 dRTG)
Randle has been as good as advertised, and since we’ve been numb to the sensational freshman (especially at Kentucky), it bears repeating that he’s averaging a double-double per game. He’s compiled these numbers despite being the focus of opposing defenses in every game he’s played at the collegiate level. Even greener statistical pastures should lie ahead with the continued development of his talented teammates on the perimeter. James Young and the Harrison twins finished off Louisville two weekends ago, but it was Randle dominating an excellent defensive team inside that got the Wildcats going. The game against Michigan State in the Champions Classic is also worth mentioning. The Spartans flustered him early, but Randle still found a way to get to the free throw line 15 times, score 27 points, and bring Kentucky back into the game.
Jordan Clarkson, Missouri (19.3 PPG, 4.1 APG, 26 PER, 53% eFG, 84% FT).
Clarkson was bandied about quite a bit leading up the season, and the Tulsa transfer has not disappointed. He’s second in the SEC in both points per game and assists, and has reached those numbers with solid efficiency. What really cinches Clarkson’s candidacy is that Missouri is winning games. The Tigers enter conference play with the fewest losses (one) of any SEC team, albeit having done so against a weaker schedule than Florida or Kentucky. He’s also been at his best when Missouri has needed him most. He had 20+ points in wins against UCLA and NC State, and nearly willed the Tigers to a win over Illinois with a superb 25 points. He also prevented a demoralizing home loss to Southern Illinois early in the season, fending off the Salukis with 31 points.
There’s Still Time to Make the Jump
These eight players have had excellent seasons in their own right, and will certainly be heard from as we enter conference play.
- Jordan Mickey, LSU (14.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.6 BPG, 90 dRTG)
- Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky (8.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.1 BPG, 87.3 dRTG)
- Johnny O’Bryant, LSU (14.6 PPG, 7.5 TRB, 1.0 BPG, 93.6 dRTG)
- Jordan McRae, Tennessee (18.9 PPG, 2.6 APG, 28.4 PER, 53.2% eFG%)
- Trevor Releford, Alabama (18.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 26.6 PER, 62.9% eFG%)
- Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee (13.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 25.4 PER, 96.1 dRTG)
- Jarvis Summers, Ole Miss (17.8 PPG, 3.2 APG, 26.4 PER, 64.2% eFG%)
- Chris Denson, Auburn (19 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.9 APG, 27.9 PER)