March 9, 2010 11:04:00 AM
Although the Southeastern Conference tournament begins Thursday, SEC Player of the Year ballots have been submitted to the league, which is why coaches had to answer plenty of "who''d you vote for?" questions Monday on the weekly teleconference.
SEC Player of the Year has been a docket item each Monday for the past three weeks, and even though coaches aren''t allowed to reveal who they voted for, saying who they thought was the best player in the league was a round-about way of saying it''s the University of Kentucky''s DeMarcus Cousins or his teammate John Wall.
The freshmen have been the SEC''s top post player and point guard, respectively, this season. League coaches agree both are Kentucky''s top two players, but from there the question arises about who''s the most valuable.
Looking at numbers, Cousins and Wall are in the top five of every category in the league according to position. From there, however, the debate broadens to valuing one or the other based on positions.
Some argue point guard while some champion post presence.
"You''ve got to have a terrific point guard," South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said. "It eliminates a lot of concern and worries to where if you don''t have one it''s a big concern. When you don''t have one it''s clear."
LSU coach Trent Johnson, who coached a pair of NBA centers in Brook and Robin Lopez at Stanford, values the rebounding and high-percentage opportunities of a dominant post player.
"If you''ve got a point and a post you''re going to be really good," Johnson said. "I''d tend to lean toward DeMarcus, though. I''ve been around my share of bigs, and he does so many things in the post that cause problems. You look at the history of basketball, and I think most guys would pick the post."
Kentucky coach John Calipari who, per league rules isn''t allowed to vote for his players, dodged the question by lauding the achievements of other Wildcats.
"I think we have a bunch of them," Calipari said. "There were times when it was Patrick (Patterson) and there were times when it was Eric (Bledsoe). When you''re a really good team, there''s somebody different as your star. Patrick had to make a choice on whether to come back. I know he had people in his ear telling him to leave. ... They just didn''t want Kentucky to be good. But he came back, played a different position, improved himself in all areas, and our team goes 29-2 because of that and his attitude."
League awards will be announced Wednesday.
No word on Polynice
After finally getting freshman forward Reginald Buckner back to game fitness, the University of Mississippi has another personnel concern with guard Eniel Polynice.
The junior swingman didn''t make the trip for the Rebels'' come-from-behind win at Arkansas, which clinched a share of the SEC West title, after being suspended for "conduct detrimental to the team."
Polynice is averaging 9.8 points, 4.1 assists, and 4.3 rebounds a game for the Rebels, who will face the winner of Tennessee-LSU game Friday in the SEC Tournament.
Polynice had been largely ineffective in Ole Miss'' last four games, averaging 3.25 points on 6-of-21 shooting. Still, with limited depth the Rebels couldn''t afford to open SEC Tournament play without one of their starters.
The Rebels likely need one or two wins in the SEC Tournament to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy was out recruiting Monday morning, but assistant Owen Miller addressed Polynice''s status ahead of the tournament.
"We''re going to meet with him today," Miller said. "Being an assistant, I don''t want to speak too much on that. The decision hasn''t been made on whether he travels this week or not."
Miller said Polynice''s absence was immediately felt Saturday against Arkansas after Chris Warren picked up two fouls and Terrico White was called for three in the first half. Ole Miss (21-9, 9-7 SEC) trailed by 10 at halftime against the Razorbacks.
"We''re a guy short, so we don''t have as much depth, which is an issue," Miller said. "Eniel''s had a good year, but we''ve had a thing: Nobody''s before the team."
Georgia hoping for another title run
Two years removed from an SEC Tournament title, the Georgia Bulldogs want to go from the team that nobody wants to play to the team that pulls another surprise run in the conference tournament.
The Bulldogs did it two years ago, shocking the SEC by winning four games in four days, including two in one day, and earning a berth in the NCAA tournament.
Although current coach Mark Fox wasn''t at the helm of that team, he hopes his squad can turn a season of bright spots and potential into a immediate results.
League coaches have praised the work Fox has done with the program, including the development of Trey Thompkins, who is averaging 17 points per game and is one of the SEC''s top three big men.
Fox hopes a quick turnaround from a 50-48 loss to LSU on Saturday, the team''s second two-point loss in its past four games, will help erase the disappointment at how the regular season ended.
"Our team has had some real peaks and some lows," Fox said. "What we''ve battled is just being consistent. If you can play at that level all the time you''re going to be successful, and that''s something we have to learn how to be. Confidence isn''t something we struggle with but consistency is."
Georgia will play Arkansas on Thursday.