FOX Sports South All-SEC picks

(With the SEC tournament set to get under way, the FOX Sports South staff weighs in on their regular season conference awards and All-SEC teams.)

CORY MCCARTNEY

Player Of The Year: Jordan McRae, Tennessee

The 6-foot-5 junior has gone from an inconsistent sixth man to an elite player, ranking the top 10 in the conference in six different categories, including scoring (third at 19.4 points per game) and minutes (first with 37.7 per game). Plus, he’s the reason the once 9-8 Volunteers now look NCAA tourney-bound.

Coach Of The Year: Billy Donovan, Florida 

Donovan’s Gators were expected to be good, sitting 10th in the AP’s preseason poll but few expected 14 double-digit wins in the SEC or a perfect home record. Billy D. posted his 15th straight 20-win season and a third outright regular-season crown. 

Rookie Of The Year: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky

Yes, he torn his left ACL on Feb. 12 and is out for the season but no other first-year player had a bigger impact in the league than Noel, who won four straight SEC Freshman of the Week awards. He averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.4 blocks and 2.1 steals a game.

All-SEC Team

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss
Jordan McRae, Tennessee
Phil Pressey, Missouri
Trevor Releford, Alabama


JAY CLEMONS

Player of the Year: Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss

Let’s go with the guy possessing the best combination of scoring dominance and stat-sheet-stuffing prowess. In Ole Miss’s season finale against LSU (a must-win outing for NCAA-resume purposes), Marshall Henderson rolled for 22 points, five assists, five steals and three rebounds in the Rebels’ 81-67 road win.

Coach Of the Year: Billy Donovan, Florida

Count me among the misguided skeptics who thought the Gators would have no shot at routinely posting a top-five ranking and ultimately contending for a national title this season, without the help of Bradley Beal, who left UF after one year to pursue an NBA career. I was wrong about Florida. Who needs a redoubtable breakout star every year when Donovan’s running the show in Gainesville? 

Rookie of the Year: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky

Leading up to his gruesome knee injury on Feb. 12, the Noel-led Wildcats were in position to challenge Florida for the SEC regular-season title. In 24 games with Kentucky, the athletic power forward (and elite NBA draft prospect) averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and a staggering 4.4 blocks per outing.

All-SEC Team

Phil Pressey, Missouri
Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss
Elston Turner, Texas A&M
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
Nerlens Noel, Kentucky

STEVE EUBANKS

SEC Player of the Year: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia

Georgia was a slow-starting team that looked awful early, but made great strides throughout the regular season. But even in their darkest times, one player rose above all others for the Bulldogs. Caldwell-Pope averaged 18 points a game and was one of only 10 players in all of college basketball to score in double digits in every single regular-season game.  

Coach of the Year: Mark Fox, Georgia

Anybody can coach a great team. But it takes a great coach to turn around an average team that starts slow and looks terrible and salvage a season that could have gone from bad to worse at any moment. Fox rallied the Bulldogs from a 2-7 start in mid-December to a respectable 15-16 finish with the final loss coming from a half-court buzzer-beater. It was still a losing season, but with Fox, it could have been much, much worse.  

Rookie of the Year: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky

Even with the injury, no player was as dominant in the minutes he played than Noel. With him, Kentucky was a contender for a SEC title and could have made a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Without him, they will likely be watching March Madness from the couch in Lexington.  

All-SEC Team  

Trevor Releford, Alabama
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
Erik Murphy, Florida
Nerlens Noel, Kentucky 
Patric Young, Florida

ZACH DILLARD

Player of the Year: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia

It’s a bit surprising to me that none of my colleagues made a case for Nerlens Noel in this spot — he was one of the most dominant defensive players in college basketball and was improving dramatically on offense before his season-ending injury — but it’s tough to ignore a healthy Caldwell-Pope, one of the conference’s most dynamic players. The 6-foot-5 sophomore brought it every night on an underwhelming team, and it would be painful to think what Mark Fox’s roster would look like without him. Just take a look at the numbers—averaging 18 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game while keeping his shooting percentages near the top of the league—and know that he’s probably the best Georgia player since Dominique Wilkins.

Coach of the Year: Billy Donovan, Florida

Last season around this time, I wrote that Mike Krzyzewski deserved the ACC Coach of the Year for many of the same reasons that apply to Donovan this season. Just because a coach has a talented team does not equate to the job being exponentially easier. After losing his best player (Bradley Beal) to the NBA, the two-time national title winner turned his experienced squad into a juggernaut of efficiency while taking the league’s crown. There were pitfalls down the stretch, but, as John Calipari said this week, the hardest time to coach is when the target is on your back.

Rookie of the Year: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky

No brainer. If someone wants to try and get creative by throwing in the names of Charles Mann (Georgia) or Archie Goodwin (Kentucky) that’s fine, but there’s no escaping that Noel is one of the most dominant freshman defenders ever. The future NBA lottery pick finished the regular season with 4.4 blocks per game, the highest rate nationally, to go along with 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.

All-SEC TEAM


Phil Pressey, Missouri
Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
Erik Murphy, Florida
Nerlens Noel, Kentucky