Predicting the 2014-15 SEC All-Conference Teams
Just about every rational person in the country is picking Kentucky to win the 2014-15 SEC title, but the all-conference teams aren't anywhere near as cut and dry.
Sure, those all-conference teams will be loaded with Wildcats as the 40-0 train preps to leave the station for a second straight preseason, but there are five different teams that could legitimately produce the SEC Player of the Year.
In the sixth week of our second seven-week series of the summer, we took a look at SEC rosters and projected standings to forecast the first, second and third All-SEC teams—as well as a handful of honorable mentions.
In addition to those teams, we also projected Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and Coach of the Year.
In case you'd like to reference them in the discussion, here are the projected SEC standings from early July.
These are the players who won't receive quite enough votes to get onto one of the three all-conference teams, but they will get enough votes to have their names mentioned at the bottom of the press release as "Others Considered":
- Alex Caruso, PG, Texas A&M
- Dorian Finney-Smith, SF, Florida
- Moses Kingsley, C, Arkansas
- Rashad Madden, SG, Arkansas
- Alex Poythress, SF, Kentucky
- Josh Richardson, SG, Tennessee
- Kourtney Roberson, PF, Texas A&M
- James Siakam, PF, Vanderbilt
- Craig Sword, SG, Mississippi State
- Sindarius Thornwell, SG, South Carolina
Andrew Harrison, PG, Kentucky
We can't very well expect Kentucky's entire roster to be SEC Player of the Year, and Harrison seems most likely to cede a lot of minutes to an incoming freshman. Great things are expected of Harrison, but Tyler Ulis is too much of a threat to put him on the first or second team.
Kasey Hill, PG, Florida
Hill only played 22.0 minutes per game last season while serving as Scottie Wilbekin's backup, but he did average 5.7 assists and 2.1 steals per 40 minutes as a freshman.
If he can improve his shooting (40.7% FG, 14.3% 3PT) and cut down on turnovers (2.8 per 40 minutes), Hill will be a star.
Robert Hubbs III, SG, Tennessee
Hubbs fought through shoulder pain for 12 games before electing to have season-ending surgery to repair damage that dated back to high school.
Before the injury, he was rated by 247Sports.com as the third-best shooting guard of the 2013 class. Provided he's healthy enough to handle it, Hubbs will be in Tennessee's starting lineup and might lead the team in scoring.
Jarell Martin, PF, LSU
For someone who was frequently sharing the court with two other excellent forwards, Martin had a pretty incredible freshman campaign. He averaged 15.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per 40 minutes.
Johnathan Williams III, PF, Missouri
As luck would have it, the projected third team in the SEC is made up entirely of sophomores.
As a freshman, Williams averaged 8.9 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per 40 minutes. And now that Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross are out of the picture, he should become the most important player on the team.
If I had any optimism about Missouri's season, he'd be a candidate for first team. Williams could average 15.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG and 2.0 BPG, but he won't get a ton of votes if the Tigers lose 12 SEC games.
Michael Frazier II, SG, Florida
Frazier might be the best shooter in the entire country.
While averaging nearly seven three-point attempts per game, he shot 44.7 percent from beyond the arc and ranked in the top 25 in the nation in effective field-goal percentage and true shooting percentage, according to KenPom.com (subscription required).
KT Harrell, SG, Auburn
Harrell averaged 18.3 PPG last season and didn't even lead the Tigers in scoring. That honor went to Chris Denson before he graduated this summer.
Auburn has a ton of incoming transfers who will have a huge impact on the season, but Harrell is the incumbent who will lead the team in scoring for a squad that is substantially better than it was a year ago.
Dakari Johnson, C, Kentucky
Johnson came on strong in the tournament after Willie Cauley-Stein's injury, and he could be the most valuable big man in the deepest frontcourt in the country.
Rated as the best center in the class of 2013, I suspect we still haven't even begun to scratch the surface of how dominant Johnson is capable of being.
Kenny Gaines, SG, Georgia
If Georgia wins at least 10 games in the SEC for a second straight season, some Bulldog is bound to get recognized on the SEC all-conference teams.
There's a good chance that someone ends up being Charles Mann, but I like Gaines' odds. He shot 37.5 percent from three-point range last season and did a little bit of everything between blocks, steals and the occasional rebound.
Karl Towns Jr., PF, Kentucky
We'll discuss the merits of Towns on the Freshman of the Year slide.
1st Team No. 5: Chris Walker, PF, Florida
It's kind of scary to think about how unstoppable Florida could have been last season if Chris "Sky" Walker had been eligible to play all season.
Had the Gators been able to regularly employ the seventh-best player in the class of 2013, could they have joined Wichita State on the list of undefeated teams entering the 2014 NCAA tournament?
We'll never know.
But because they will have Sky Walker from day one this year, they should remain one of the best teams in the country.
He only played 87 minutes last season, but Walker was still able to make his mark. Despite not getting to play against any early-season, nonconference cupcakes, Walker averaged 15.6 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per 40 minutes.
Against one of the toughest opponents Florida played all season, Walker had seven points, three offensive rebounds and a blocked shot in just six minutes of action against UCLA in the Sweet 16.
Get ready for him to explode as a sophomore.
1st Team No. 4 and SEC Defensive Player of the Year: Jordan Mickey, PF, LSU
While we were all busy obsessing over Julius Randle, Jordan Mickey was having himself one heck of a freshman season.
Though he shared the frontcourt spotlight with Johnny O'Bryant, Mickey finished the 2013-14 season with 12.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG and 3.1 BPG. He led the SEC in blocks per game and was fourth in the conference in rebounds per game.
He didn't quite crack the top 20 in points per game, but it's safe to assume his scoring average will increase now that O'Bryant's 15.4 PPG have moved on to the NBA.
Not only is Mickey an exceptional shot-blocker, but he's the rare breed of swatter who can actually average better than 30 minutes per game.
Mickey didn't foul out of a single game last season and only committed four fouls in seven of LSU's 34 contests.
If it's not foul trouble that keeps an elite shot-blocker from staying on the court, it's usually that he doesn't have the conditioning and endurance to log significant minutes anyway. But Mickey averaged 32.5 minutes per game last year, playing at least 30 minutes in 28 of 34 games.
If LSU makes the NCAA tournament—and that's a big "if"—Mickey could have a shot at SEC Player of the Year.
1st Team No. 3: Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
Most impressive about Bobby Portis' freshman season is that he played exceptionally well while serving as the team's only regular big man.
Jacorey Williams (6'8") played 9.2 minutes per game, and Moses Kingsley (6'10") averaged 11.3 minutes as a freshman. Other than that, Portis (6'10") was the only player on the roster taller than 6'7".
Even though he was the singular interior player opposing teams needed to focus on, it didn't stop him from averaging 12.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG and 1.6 BPG.
Imagine what he could have done in Jordan Mickey's position, where defenses were forced to make sure that Jarell Martin and Johnny O'Bryant didn't also kill them in the paint.
1st Team No. 2: Aaron Harrison, SG, Kentucky
For most of last season, Aaron Harrison was an average shooter, at best. When the SEC tournament began, he was shooting 30.6 percent from three-point range.
But he exploded in the final eight games before the NCAA championship game, hitting 51.1 percent of his next 45 three-point attempts.
And it wasn't like he was just draining triples during the early stages of blowout wins. Harrison became a stone-cold assassin during crunch time.
It took all of three weeks for Harrison to go from overhyped freshman to Robert "Big Shot Bob" Horry.
Whether Harrison will be Kentucky's leading scorer and most important player during the 2014-15 season is anybody's guess.
After his performance at the end of last season, though, it makes more sense to count on him to fill those roles than anybody else.
SEC Player of the Year: Jarvis Summers, Ole Miss
If you can't seem to remember seeing Jarvis Summers play a single game last season, chances are you're not alone.
Heaven knows that 95 percent of Ole Miss media attention has been dedicated to Marshall Henderson over the past two years.
But relative anonymity doesn't make Summers any less deserving of this award.
He shot 42.3 percent from three-point range and averaged 17.3 PPG last year. Summers also had more than 115 assists for the third consecutive season, putting him in pretty good shape to finish his college career with at least 1,800 points and 500 assists.
Those numbers hardly put him in the same conversation as Oscar Robertson, but it's a pretty impressive combination nonetheless.
Truly, Summers was the heart and soul of this team last year. If the Rebels hadn't wasted so many possessions by letting Henderson shoot from anywhere on the court, Summers could have absolutely paced them to a tournament bid.
This year, he'll get that chance as the primary returning player on a roster otherwise filled with a ton of transfers.
Summers finished ninth in the SEC in points scored last season, but every other player in the top 10 has either graduated, transferred out of conference or left early for the NBA.
He could absolutely be the SEC's top scorer and the best player on a team that returns to the NCAA tournament after a one-year hiatus.
SEC Freshman of the Year: Karl Towns Jr., PF, Kentucky
Widely regarded as one of the few players in the country who could rival Jahlil Okafor for the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA draft, Karl Towns Jr. will be the best player in the best frontcourt in the country.
Towns is one of the most versatile big men in the game today. He has great hands and can finish with either one inside—be it on an effortless dunk or a pretty hook shot.
And for a man his size (7'0", 248 lbs), he can handle the ball well and has impressive range out to and beyond the three-point line.
Towns isn't overwhelmingly athletic, but he is very skilled. I like to think of him as a stronger version of Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky.
He might not lead the Wildcats in a single statistical category this year, but fans and NBA scouts alike will be drooling over his talent.
Should he (or some other Wildcat) win the award, it would be Kentucky's sixth consecutive SEC Freshman of the Year. Julius Randle won the award last year, carrying on the lineage of DeMarcus Cousins, Terrence Jones, Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel.
SEC 6th Man of the Year: Devin Robinson, SF, Florida
If you're betting on which team is most likely to win SEC Sixth Man of the Year, Kentucky is the obvious choice.
But how do you settle on any individual player from that roster when you can choose from Tyler Ulis, Willie Cauley-Stein, Marcus Lee and Trey Lyles?
Instead of struggling to decide which of Kentucky's bench players is most valuable, it might be easier to pick the best player off the bench for the second-best team in the conference.
247Sports rates Devin Robinson as the fourth-best small forward and 18th-best overall player in the 2014 class, but he probably won't even start on a Florida roster that includes Kasey Hill, Michael Frazier II, Dorian Finney-Smith, Chris Walker and Jon Horford.
Instead, Robinson will be the first man off the bench for the Gators. At 6'8" with three-point range and the athleticism and speed to play above-average defense, he's the type of guard/forward package who could average at least 25 minutes per game without starting a single one.
SEC Newcomer of the Year: Keith Hornsby, SG, LSU
Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss have incoming transfers out the wazoo, but it's a shooting guard for LSU who should have the biggest individual impact.
Two years ago with UNC-Asheville, Keith Hornsby averaged 15.0 PPG, 3.1 APG and 1.4 SPG. He shot 37.9 percent from three-point range and made 92.5 percent of his 107 free-throw attempts.
He now joins an LSU team that lost every noteworthy guard from last year's roster.
Shavon Coleman and Andre Stringer each averaged better than 25.0 minutes per game last season and both graduated this summer.
Anthony Hickey played extremely well as a freshman, but he decided to transfer to Oklahoma State. Even reserve shooting guard Malik Morgan left town to play for Tulane.
The only returning guards on the roster are two sophomores—Tim Quarterman and Henry Shortess—who combined to score 86 points last year.
With a frontcourt made up of Jarell Martin, Jordan Mickey and Elbert Robinson, how well Hornsby plays in his first season in LSU's backcourt should be the deciding factor in whether the Tigers make the 2015 NCAA tournament.
SEC Coach of the Year: Bruce Pearl, Auburn
Auburn won't win the SEC.
But the Tigers haven't finished a season above .500 since 2008-09. In each of the past five seasons, they have finished in 10th place or worse in the SEC—failing to win so much as seven conference games in any of those years.
To be named SEC Coach of the Year, Bruce Pearl doesn't need to come in and immediately lead Auburn to a .700 winning percentage and its first NCAA tournament appearance in more than a decade. He just needs to get the Tigers out of the gutter.
But if he does fulfill our expectations by leading them to the Big Dance, it would only further ensure that he wins this award.
If we're wrong and Auburn is still a year or two away from really competing, look for Billy Donovan to win the award for the fourth time in the past five years. Despite losing four starters to graduation, Florida is still expected to be one of the 10 best teams in the country.
Other conferences covered in this series:
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.