SEC Most Valuable Players, Part I

Posted by Greg Mitchell on March 9th, 2015

The regular season has flown by, but before the contenders separate themselves from the pretenders this postseason, it’s time to honor individuals for their valuable play this year. Even the teams that fell short of expectations had most valuable players, so let’s honor each of them below. Today we’ll present the team MVPs from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Tennessee, in no particular order.

MissouriKeith Shamburger

Keith Shamburger was a steady hand in a rocky season for Mizzou (

Keith Shamburger was a steady hand in a rocky season for Mizzou (

Shamburger was a good soldier on a miserable team this season. He ran the point respectably (3.9 APG, 24.4 assist percentage) and acted as the Tigers’ lone ball-handler for a stretch after Wes Clark got injured and Tramaine Isabell was suspended. After spending the bulk of his career at San Jose State and Hawaii, a 9-22 season wasn’t what he expected during his only taste of high-major basketball but his body language remained consistently positive. His signature moment of the season was hitting the game-winner against Auburn on Senior Night.

AuburnCinmeon Bowers

Cinmeon Bowers was Auburn's lone threat down low this season (

Cinmeon Bowers was Auburn’s lone threat down low this season (

It’s hard not to write great things about K.T. Harrell, who ended up being the SEC’s leading scorer this year at 18.1 PPG. But as great as he was, the Tigers featured several perimeter scorers. Other than Bowers, however, who nearly averaged a double-double (12.6 points per game, 9.7 rebounds per game) on the season, Bruce Pearl’s inaugural team on The Plains simply didn’t have any reliable size. He prevented the Tigers from getting eaten alive in the paint and on the glass all season long. The better news is that he should have more help coming next year as Trayvon Reed develops and Horace Spencer and Danjel Purifoy arrive on campus.

Mississippi State – Gavin Ware

Gavin Ware was Mississippi State's most consistent offensive threat this season (

Gavin Ware was Mississippi State’s most consistent offensive threat this season (

Ware was a solid low-post option for Rick Ray this season. He had the worst shooting season of his career and seemed too quick to settle for outside jumpers but the junior posted his best PER (19.8) and was one of the best defensive rebounders in the league. His monster 16-point, 17-rebound game against Auburn helped snap the Bulldogs’ 22-game SEC road losing streak, and he’ll look to pair with a healthy-from-the-jump Craig Sword next year to vault Mississippi State up the standings.

South Carolina – Duane Notice

Duane Notice played well in an otherwise disappointing year for South Carolina (

Duane Notice played well in an otherwise disappointing year for South Carolina (

The Gamecocks’ final result was one of the more disappointing in the SEC considering how things appeared after their impressive early January win over Iowa State. Despite the tough year, Notice was by and large South Carolina’s most consistent scorer throughout the season. He reached double figures 10 times in SEC play and turned the ball over a lot less than he did last season. Neither Sindarius Thornwell nor Notice took the leaps many expected as sophomores, so Frank Martin will be counting on substantial improvement from his two scoring wings next year.

Tennessee – Josh Richardson

Josh Richardson was easily Tennessee's most important player this season.

Josh Richardson was easily Tennessee’s most important player this season.

This was the easiest decision of the entire group as Richardson was Tennessee basketball in 2014-15. He transitioned seamlessly from a valuable role player on last year’s Sweet Sixteen team to the unquestioned leader and go-to scorer/defender of the Vols this year. He played out of position at point guard because the roster required it and he did good work in that role (3.7 APG, 24.7 assist percentage). A season highlight was the 27 points he scored at Vanderbilt in leading Tennessee to a satisfying win over its in-state rival.

Florida – Dorian Finney-Smith

Dorian Finney-Smith lost some games to suspension, but was Florida's most consistent player (

Dorian Finney-Smith lost some games to suspension, but was Florida’s most consistent player (

Finney-Smith led the team in scoring and rebounding and was Florida’s best all-around player this season, highlighted by single-handedly winning a road game at Alabama with two huge blocks and a dunk in the final minute. The knock against Finney-Smith was that he missed time this year due to suspension, but for a team that struggled in so many different areas this season, he was the team’s most effective performer. If next year goes smoothly, he should be able to capitalize on his unique blend of skills and become an all-SEC performer. Jon Horford also deserves mention here. He was a solid role player (6.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG) who always seemed to be the guy answering the tough questions in the press conferences following the  team’s many disappointing losses this year.

Alabama – Levi Randolph

Levi Randolph had a couple of monster outings in what was a great senior campaign (

Levi Randolph had a couple of monster outings in what was a great senior campaign (

After a solid non-conference run and 2-0 start in SEC play, the Tide looked like an athletic and versatile team that could do some damage this season. Instead Alabama went a dismal 6-10 the rest of the way. Levi Randolph was Anthony Grant’s most consistent source of offense, with signature games against Arizona State (28 points) and Ole Miss (32 points) that showcased his ability to attack the basket and shoot from deep. He might not have lived up to the lofty expectations that were placed on him, but he nevertheless ended up having a solid career in Tuscaloosa.

Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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