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SEC Season Recap

April 17, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



SEC Season Recap

by Rainer Sabin

If there were one word to describe the Southeastern Conference this season, it would be strange. In a league that was defined by parity and saw the emergence of schools that don’t claim a rich basketball tradition, it was Kentucky, ironically, that swept through its 16 SEC games with an undefeated record and maintained its position as king of the hill.

Despite receiving challenges from Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi State, the Wildcats proved that they were the team to beat in a conference that was considered by many analysts as one of the nation’s best. Using a suffocating defense and an offense that was predicated on unselfishness and the timely pass, Kentucky showed how far they had come from last season when it earned the moniker, “Team Turmoil.” Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the spectrum, Arkansas endured its worst season in 16 years. Under new coach Stan Heath, the Razorbacks posted a 9-19 record and landed in the cellar of the conference standings. With four incoming freshmen, Arkansas hopes for a rebirth as soon as next season. Georgia is hoping for the same after Jim Harrick was forced out when an internal investigation by the school’s athletic department revealed that former player Tony Cole’s accusations of academic fraud were bona fide.

Conference Tournament Recap

When it was all over, there was no surprise. Eleven teams had come to New Orleans, but only one seemed likely to take home the crown-Kentucky. And the Wildcats did not disappoint. In the SEC Tournament championship, Kentucky extended its winning streak to 23 games with a 64-57 victory over Mississippi State and made a little history in the process. Kentucky won its 24th SEC tournament championship and became the first team since the 1952 Wildcats to go undefeated in the conference. With Georgia absent from the four-day event and Florida losing to LSU in the second round, Mississippi State emerged as Kentucky’s biggest obstacle. But the Bulldogs were unable to overcome the Wildcats, who proved they were the SEC’s best.

NCAA Tournament Recap

No. 1 Midwest Region: Kentucky – Beat IUPUI 95-64, Beat Utah 74-54, Beat Wisconsin 63-57, Lost to Marquette 83-69 in Elite Eight.

No. 2 South Region: Florida – Beat Sam Houston State 85-55, Lost to Michigan State 68-46 Second Round.

No. 5 East Region: Mississippi State – Lost to Butler 47-46 in First Round.

No. 8 South Region: LSU – Lost to Purdue 80-56 in First Round.

No. 10 East Region: Auburn – Beat St. Joseph’s 65-53, Beat Wake Forest 68-62, Lost to Syracuse 79-78 in Sweet Sixteen

No. 10 Midwest Region: Alabama – Lost to Indiana 67-62 in First Round

After reviewing both divisions, it is time to hand out this season’s awards:

Player of the Year: Ron Slay, Tennessee

It is hard to argue that Slay does not deserve this honor. Without the 6-8 center, Tennessee would be nestled at the bottom of the SEC East standings and only dreaming of a tournament bid. Kentucky has Keith Bogans, Marquis Estill, and Jules Camara. Georgia has Ezra Williams and Jarvis Hayes. Mississippi State has Mario Austin and Derrick Zimmerman. Tennessee has Ron Slay.

Coach of the Year: Tubby Smith, Kentucky

After last year’s tumultuous campaign, Tubby Smith has established an esprit de corps like no other at Kentucky this season. A well-orchestrated offense, a stifling defense, and players who are unselfish—Tubby has it all and it shows. The Wildcats won all 16 of their conference games and have not lost since December. This pick was easy.

Freshman of the Year: (Tie) Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson, Florida

One of the best backcourts in the conference was comprised of two freshmen. Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson were brilliant from the outset and were the main reason why Florida’s inside-outside attack was so formidable. Both players finished the season averaging 12.8 points per game, second on the team in scoring, and first among SEC freshmen in point production.

Defensive Player of the Year: Marquis Estill

He didn’t lead the SEC in blocks or rebounds, but his presence was always felt. Estill’s ability to create havoc inside the paint and alter shots helped make Kentucky’s defense so stifling.

2002-2003 All-SEC Team

G Keith Bogans, Kentucky
G Marquis Daniels, Auburn
F Jarvis Hayes, Vanderbilt
F Matt Bonner, Florida
C Ron Slay, Tennessee

SEC East

Kentucky (32-4, 16-0 SEC)

Starters Leaving: 2
Key Players Leaving: Keith Bogans (Graduating), Jules Camara (Graduating)
Key Players Staying: Gerald Fitch, Cliff Hawkins, Chuck Hayes, Erik Daniels, Marquis Estill
Leading Scorer: Keith Bogans, 15.7 points per game
Leading Rebounder: Chuck Hayes, 16.9 rebounds per game
Assists Leader: Cliff Hawkins, 3.8 assists per game

Florida (25-8, 12-4 SEC)

Starters Leaving: 2
Key Players Leaving: Matt Bonner (Graduating), Brett Nelson (Graduating), Justin Hamilton (graduating)
Key Players Staying: David Lee, Matt Walsh, Anthony Roberson
Leading Scorer: Matt Bonner, 15.2 points per game
Leading Rebounder: David Lee, 6.8 rebounds per game
Assists Leader: Justin Hamilton, 3.6 assists per game

Georgia (19-8, 11-5 SEC)

Starters Leaving: 1
Key Players Leaving: Jarvis Hayes (Junior declared for NBA Draft)
New Coach: After Jim Harrick resigned, former Western Kentucky coach Dennis Felton took over.
Key Players Staying: Ezra Williams, Chris Daniels, Steve Thomas
Leading Scorer: Jarvis Hayes, 18.8 points per game
Leading Rebounder: Chris Daniels, 7.1 rebounds per game
Assists Leader: Rashad Wright, 5.5 assists per game
Other News: Rocked by scandal, the Georgia basketball program has yet to be punished by the NCAA. It is a period of transition in Athens right now and Felton will have to put the pieces of the program back together again.

Tennessee (17-12, 9-7 SEC)

Starters Leaving: 2
Key Players Leaving: Jon Higgins (Graduating), Ron Slay (Graduating)
Key Players Staying: Brandon Crump, C.J. Watson
Leading Scorer: Ron Slay, 21.2 points per game
Leading Rebounder: Ron Slay, 7.8 rebounds per game
Assists Leader: C.J. Watson, 5.5 assists per game

South Carolina (12-16, 5-11 SEC)

Starters Leaving: 2
Key Players Leaving: Chuck Eidson (Graduating), Tony Kitchings (Graduating), Chris Warren (Graduating)
Key Players Staying: Kerbrell Brown, Rolando Howell, Carlos Powell
Leading Scorer: Carlos Powell, 12.6 points per game
Leading Rebounder: Rolando Howell, 6.3 rebounds per game
Assists Leader: Chuck Eidson, 4.5 assists per game

Vanderbilt (11-18, 3-13 SEC)

Starters Leaving: 0
Key Players Staying: Matt Frieje, David Przybyszewski, Russell Lakey, Mario Moore, Brian Thornton
Leading Scorer: Matt Frieje, 17.9 points per game
Leading Rebounder: Brian Thornton, 5.7 rebounds per game
Assists Leader: Russell Lakey, 3.4 assists per game

SEC West

Mississippi State (21-10, 9-7 SEC)

Starters Leaving: 3
Key Players Leaving: Mario Austin (Junior Entering NBA Draft), Michal Ignerski (Graduating), Derrick Zimmerman (Graduating)
Key Players Staying: Timmy Bowers, Branden Vincent, Winsome Frazier, Ontario Harper
Leading Scorer: Mario Austin, 15.5 points per game
Leading Rebounder: Mario Austin, 7.7 rebounds per game
Assists Leader: Derrick Zimmerman, 5.5 assists per game

Auburn (22-12, 8-8 SEC)

Starters Leaving: 2
Key Players Leaving: Derrick Bird (Graduating), Marquis Daniels (Graduating)
Key Players Staying: Marco Killingsworth, Brandon Robinson, Kyle Davis
Leading Scorer: Marquis Daniels, 18.4 points per game
Leading Rebounder: Marco Killingsworth, 6.4 rebounds per game
Assists Leader: Marquis Daniels, 3.3 assists per game

LSU (21-11, 8-8 SEC)

Starters Leaving: 3
Key Players Leaving: Ronald Dupree (Graduating), Collis Temple III (Graduating), Torris Bright (Graduating)
Key Players Staying: Jaime Lloreda, Darrel Mitchell, Xavier Whipple, Antonio Hudson
Leading Scorer: Ronald Dupree, 15.8 points per game
Leading Rebounder: Jaime Lloreda, 9 rebounds per game
Assists Leader: Torris Bright, 4.7 assists per game

Alabama (17-12, 7-9 SEC)

Starters Leaving: 2
Key Players Leaving: Erwin Dudley (Graduating), Kenny Walker (Graduating), Terrance Meade (Graduating)
Key Players Staying: Maurice Williams, Kennedy Winston, Earnest Shelton
Leading Scorer: Maurice Williams, 16.4 points per game
Leading Rebounder: Erwin Dudley, 9.5 rebounds per game
Assists Leader: Maurice Williams, 3.9 assists per game

Ole Miss (14-15, 4-12 SEC)

Starters Leaving: 2
Key Players Leaving: Emmanuel Wade (Graduating), Derrick Allen (Graduating), Trey Pearson (Transferring), David Sanders (Graduating)
Key Players Staying: Justin Reed, Aaron Harper
Leading Scorer: Justin Reed, 15.4 points per game
Leading Rebounder: Justin Reed, 5.2 rebounds per game
Assists Leader: David Sanders, 3.1 assists per game

Arkansas (9-19, 4-12 SEC)

Starters Leaving: 3
Key Players Leaving: Dionisio Gomez (Graduating)
Key Players Staying: Jonothon Modica, Eric Ferguson, Kendrick Davis
Leading Scorer: Jonathon Modica, 11.5 points per game
Leading Rebounder: Dionisio Gomez, 6.6 rebounds per game
Assists Leader: Eric Ferguson, 3.2 assists per game

     

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