I apologize for this being so late, I meant to write it right after SEC play had started two weeks ago, but school has been really hectic as graduation nears for me. But, here is my mid-season awards for the SEC.
Unfortunately, the SEC is way down this basketball year, however there have been several bright spots along the way this season.
Player of the Year
Jodie Meeks' 54 points against Tennessee was very impressive. Meeks is a leader on the court and, when he is healthy, he is so dangerous and has stood out as the player of the year in the SEC this season.
Coach of the Year
There have been several good stories this year, but the most impressive has been Coach Trent Johnson down at LSU. He has turned a dysfunctional team into one that plays team basketball, something that has been missing in LSU basketball since the Dale Brown era.
Surprise of the West
It has to be LSU's dominance, the Tigers are 3-1 in the league and the wins have been blowouts including an 83-51 win at Ole Miss. The Tigers have gotten great defensive play from the entire team and Marcus Thornton and Taz Mitchell have just lit up opposing defenses.
Disappointment of the West
Arkansas has disappointed after having a strong non-conference year. The Razorbacks have gone 0-3 in the SEC after beating teams like Oklahoma and Texas earlier this year. All hope is not lost for the Razorbacks and they may be able to turn their conference season around, but its not going to get any easier for the Razorbacks as they face Alabama at home on Wednesday and then travel to LSU for a big match-up on January 31st.
Surprise of the East
How bout the Cat's from Kentucky. Apparently no one told Billie Gillispie that Tennessee was supposed to be the highlight of the East this year. Although they had a disappointing loss to VMI to start the year, Kentucky has really stepped up through the year and led by Jodie Meeks, the Wildcats have a chance to win the SEC East.
Disappointment of the East
No doubt it is Tennessee, a team that was supposed to be the highlight of a down SEC conference has not come through. They got blown out at home vs. Kentucky (of course it helped that Meeks had 54). They have also lost twice to Gonzaga and at Temple. Tennessee needs to step it up if they want to win the SEC East.
Outlook and Predictions
Obviously, the SEC is down for sure this year. However, this is a good year to be down because many of the mid-major teams are strangely absent from Tournament Predictions which means more spots for the SEC. LSU has a big game tonight (1/24) against No. 13 Xavier which could be Coach Johnson's first signature win at LSU. I think the SEC will get four maybe five teams into the tournament this year; LSU, Bama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and possibly Florida.
I think LSU has the best chance to win the West and Kentucky will be able to go on and win the East.
Only time will tell what is going to happen the rest of this year, but, among all the negative, there have been some very positive things that have really gone under the radar this season in the SEC.