We continue our look at the “most” significant performances in the SEC basketball season with the performances by newcomers and head coaches. Since we have five players on each of our “most” teams, we will choose the five most outstanding coaching jobs in the league this year.
A reminder: the stats I use will be each player’s stats in SEC games only since that is the truest measure of how they produced against similar competition.
MOST OUTSTANDING ROOKIES
RAMAR SMITH, TENNESSEE: The freshman guard from Detroit had an impressive debut season in the SEC, averaging 13 points and 3.1 assists against SEC teams. He is part of what is by far the best freshman class in the league.
WAYNE CHISM, TENNESSEE: Wouldn’t you love to have five percent of this kid’s future? Chism is a 6-9 forward with three-point range and plenty of physicality in the post. He averaged 9.9/5.3 in SEC play and is going to be an All-SEC candidate next year.
DOMINIQUE ARCHIE, SOUTH CAROLINA: Archie is the highlight of a very difficult season in Columbia. The 6-7 wing man from Augusta, Georgia had solid numbers in the SEC with 9.6 points and 5.1 rebounds. His play was needed with Tre Kelly serving as an almost one-man gang much of the season.
PATRICK BEVERLY, ARKANSAS: Stan Heath did pretty well for the Razorbacks bringing this kid in from Chicago. Beverley outscored all SEC newcomers with 14.6 points a game and was second in minutes played (36.6) among all SEC players.
DUKE CREWS, TENNESSEE: This 6-7 forward from Virginia joins the two guys mentioned earlier in a superb freshman class. His productivity is solid with averages of 7.1/4.3 and blocked 21 shots in conference play.
THE MOSTEST OUTSTANDING FRESHMAN: Patrick Beverley
MOST OUTSTANDING COACHING PERFORNMANCES
ANDY KENNEDY, OLE MISS: Nobody at the start of the year was picking Ole Miss and its first-year head coach to finish atop the Western Division standings. The Rebels were a tough, competitive team every time out and managed to split their 16 conference games despite facing superior talent almost every time out.
KEVIN STALLINGS, VANDERBILT: He started the season on the hottest seat of any SEC coach having guided the Commodores to just one NCAA Tournament appearance in seven years. Despite losing talented forward DeMarre Carroll, Stallings got his team the number two seed in the ultra-competitive SEC East. Bid #2 is on the way.
JEFF LEBO, AUBURN: He has the youngest team in the SEC without a single senior on the roster, but he managed a solid 7-9 record. Lebo’s team went into a late-season slump after getting routed by the Gators, but pulled it together to finishing strongly. They would have won the West if not for two late turnovers in the season finale’ against Ole Miss.
BILLY DONOVAN, FLORIDA: When you are the defending National Champs and return all five starters you are supposed to be good and the Gators were. But that doesn’t mean it was easy. Florida had to cope with the pressure of expectations, the inability to “satisfy” critics and the stress of taking everyone’s best shot night in and night out. With all that they won three more SEC games than a year ago and those three wins represent the gap between Florida and the next best teams in the league.
BRUCE PEARL, TENNESSEE: Admit it, you really do like the guy with his passion and enthusiasm. Pearl took the SEC by storm last year, but may have done a better job in year two up in Rocky Top. Tennessee had to play three freshmen extensively which is never easy. Add to that the injury to super shooter Chris Lofton and the Vols’ 10-6 SEC mark is awfully impressive.
THE MOSTEST OUTSTANDING COACH: Andy Kennedy
THE MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMERS
MARK GOTTFRIED, ALABAMA: Are you kidding me, fifth in the Western Division with that talent? No one in the SEC except Florida can match the talent of Alabama’s starting five. Yes, I know about Ronald Steele’s injury and Jermareo Davidson traumatic off-season, but please.
RANDOLPH MORRIS, KENTUCKY: Morris is the most talented offensive big man in the league and has an NBA body with well above average athleticism. So why isn’t he dominant? His averages of 15.3/7.3 in SEC play are not awful, but where is the effort? Where is the passion?
JOHN BRADY, LSU: The Tigers have gone from the NCAA Final Four to the NIT bubble in less than a year. Brady is guilty of expecting Tack Minor to return from injury better than he was before. That didn’t happen. Still, LSU is a dangerous team in Atlanta and don’t be surprised by an upset or two.
RONALD STEELE, ALABAMA: Steele suffered a high ankle sprain and should be given credit for playing through the pain. But it wasn’t smart. Instead of missing two or three weeks to get healthy, Steele instead had a miserable season, averaging just 7.2 points in SEC games while shooting just 34 percent from the field. From a pre-season All-American to second team All-Alabama is not a positive step.
FRESHMAN CLASS, FLORIDA: All the national pundits thought the Gators had done very well on national signing day, but the evidence isn’t there yet. In SEC play Florida’s only productivity came from Marreese Speights who contributed 2.5/1.3 while averaging 3.6 minutes in 14 games. Dan Werner played in all 16 conference games but scored just six points. Brandon Powell and Jonathan Mitchell combined for a total of eleven points. The quartet played just 195 minutes (12.2/game) and scored 52 points (3.25).
THE MOSTEST DISSAPPOINTING PERFORMER: Mark Gottfried
And there you have it!