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SCS.com Jonathan's Journal SCS.com

By: Jonathan
SouthernCollegeSports.com Editor
Contact Jonathan

Jonathan's Journal Jonathan hands out regular season awards to college basketball's best and worst of the season. Included are the top players, coach, and conferences of 2003 - 2004. Also inside is the weekly look into SEC hoops....

[ Updated February 26 ]

HANDING OUT HONORS....

With the regular season nearly complete, it's time to hand out some awards for this season's accomplishments (and failures). Keep in mind, these awards have nothing to do with the official SCS.com all-American teams and other postseason features that will be released once the season is officially complete. With that said, my opinions on what has transpired so far this season...

....NATION'S TOP THREE PLAYERS

Jameer Nelson Jameer Nelson
St. Joseph's
Nelson is the best player on one of the top two teams in the country. The senior scores 20 points a game yet still finds a way to dish out nearly 6 assists a game. And he has yet to let the Hawks lose this season.
Ryan Gomes Ryan Gomes
Providence
Everyone has heard the story of Gomes' being passed on by UConn, and the junior has proved himself. Led by the 19.6 points per game of Gomes, the Friars are in the race for their first Big East title since 1994.
Ike Diogu Ike Diogu
Arizona State
Diogu is easily overlooked on a disappointing Sun Devils team, but this guy is just a sophomore and is dominating the PAC 10. The nation's tenth-leading scorer averages 22.5 points and 8.9 rebounds a game.

....COACH OF THE YEAR

Mike Montgomery Mike Montgomery
Stanford
The Cardinal haven't lost all season and have beaten some big name teams (Gonzaga, Kansas, Arizona, etc.). Even when Stanford was down big like at Oregon a couple weeks ago, it was the Cardinal who found a way to win in the end. Honorable mention goes to Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon (1st year head coach), Oklahoma State's Eddie Sutton (2 returning starters), and Mississippi State's Rick Stansbury (1 returning starter).

....BIGGEST SURPRISES

Mississippi State Mississippi State
Bulldogs
Coach Rick Stansbury's team returned just one starter from last year's team but has themselves ranked in the top ten nationally. The transfer of Baylor star Lawrence Roberts has provided a boost to this two-loss team hunting an overall SEC championship and a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Oklahoma State Oklahoma State
Cowboys
The Cowboys lost three starters and nearly 35 points per game in scoring from last year's team. But like MSU, coach Eddie Sutton's team has benefitted from the transfer of a former Baylor player, guard John Lucas. OSU has a chance to win the Big XII regular season championship and possibly grab a top seed in the Tournament.
Southern Illinois Southern Illinois
Salukis
This team may not seem like much of a surprise since they've had NCAA Tournament success in the past. But, following the departure of the team's two best players and head coach Bruce Weber, the Salukis had a lot to prove in '03 - '04. And that's what SIU has done, going 23-2 to date and claiming a five-game lead in the MVC.

....BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS

Kansas Kansas
Jayhawks
New head coach Bill Self and KU aren't far behind in the Big XII race, but perhaps it's the games this team has lost that make them such a disappointment. A December loss at Nevada hurts but probably not as much as the one to Richmond on their home court. Road defeats at the hands of Iowa State and Nebraska also sting.
Michigan State Michigan State
Spartans
MSU was picked by many as a preseason Final Four candidate, but the Spartans got off to a rough start, losing seven of their first twelve. Since Big Ten play began, coach Tom Izzo's team has come around some and is actually leading the league. State looks nothing like a Final Four team, however.
Missouri Missouri
Tigers
Like Michigan State, the Tigers were projected as a Final Four contender this year but stumbled early and often. Also like MSU, Mizzou has rebounded to have a decent season and actually knocked off Oklahoma State this week. An NCAA bid is still a possibility, but the Tigers have definitely underachieved in '03 - '04.

....TOP CONFERENCES

ACC ACC Five teams in the ACC are currently ranked in the top twenty-five. It appeared at one time that Duke would run away with the title, but NC State is hanging tough. Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina are all quality teams that will be around .500 in league play. Florida State, Maryland, and Virginia (and even Clemson) are no pushovers...how many can they get into the Tourney?
Big East Big East Connecticut was everyone's preseason favorite, but Pittsburgh currently holds a slim lead on the Huskies. Providence is tied with UConn for second, and you can't forget about Syracuse, the defending national champs. Seton Hall and Boston College look like Tourney teams, and others like Rutgers and Notre Dame are sitting just on the outside right now.
Everyone Else Everyone Else Past the ACC and Big East, there are a plethora of other conferences fairly even for third place. The SEC has been up and down but has only two top 25 teams right now. The Big XII hasn't been as good as expected with the slide of KU and Mizzou. CUSA has five teams within two games of the league lead. The Big Ten and PAC 10 have been less than impressive this season.

THIS WEEK IN SEC HOOPS

SECIn-state rivals Alabama and Auburn tipped off the SEC's midweek action with a down-to-the-wire battle on the plains. The Tigers led at halftime, but the Tide roared back in the second period with their NCAA berth possibilities on the line. With Saturday's victory over Mississippi State, Alabama had moved themselves back into contention for the Tourney, but a loss at Auburn would end that.
*SEC STANDINGS*
EAST
Kentucky 10-3 20-4
Florida 7-6 16-8
South Carolina 7-6 20-7
Vanderbilt 7-6 18-6
Georgia 6-7 14-10
Tennessee 5-8 13-11
WEST
Mississippi State 11-2 22-2
LSU 7-6 17-7
Alabama 6-7 14-10
Arkansas 4-9 12-12
Auburn 4-9 13-11
Mississippi 4-9 12-12
It was 'Bama who made the plays late and got the job done, though, moving the Tide to 6-7 in the SEC with just three league games remaining. It was a similar situation in Gainesville Wednesday. South Carolina led the Gators most of the way, but in the end, it was Florida, who themselves had slipped towards the bubble in recent weeks, who turned up the pressure late and came away with the victory. Division leaders Kentucky and Mississippi State both picked up easy wins over their opponents Wednesday. UK knocked off Tennessee by 32 points, while MSU secured the SEC Western Division title with a 26 point win over LSU. The only other league game of the midweek saw Vanderbilt pick up another big road win, this one coming in Oxford against the Rebels.

Each of the twelve SEC schools take to the floor at some point this weekend. Saturday's action gets tipped off with two mid-afternoon games. Mississippi will travel to Alabama as the Tide looks to roll on. UA could move back to .500 in league play with a victory, while UM's roll has been reduced to spoiler this season. Another team trying to assure themselves of a spot in the Tournament, the Florida Gators, will head out on the road Saturday.
*SEC WEEKEND SCHEDULE*
SATURDAY
Mississippi at Alabama 3:00 CDT JP*
Florida at Arkansas 3:00 CDT JP*
Georgia at South Carolina 6:30 CDT
Auburn at Tennessee 6:00 CDT FSN/SS*
Mississippi State at Vanderbilt 7:00 CDT
SUNDAY
Kentucky at LSU 3:00 CDT CBS
Times CDT     (*) Regional TV
Billy Donovan's club will visit Arkansas. Just last weekend, the Razorbacks upset South Carolina in Fayetteville. Saturday's remaining three games take place after dark. Auburn will visit Tennessee in a game that means little in the conference race. The Tigers' and Vols' only chance at the NCAA Tournament is to win the SEC Tournament title. Georgia, a team that is playing their best basketball of the season, will travel to division rival South Carolina. The Gamecocks have fallen off in recent weeks and would like to gather a little momentum prior to Tournament play. The final game of the evening has Mississippi State visiting Vanderbilt. The Commodores have won three in a row, and each victory has come over an SEC West opponent. MSU is looking to remain a game ahead of Kentucky in the overall league race. Speaking of the 'Cats, Tubby Smith's team will visit LSU on Sunday. The Tigers have been battling injuring problems as of late and have lost three straight games since a road win over Florida.

  • The Mid-Week's Top Player: Kennedy Winston....The Alabama sophomore followed up a 31 point performance against Mississippi State with 27 against in-state rival Auburn. The Alabama native also pulled down 7 rebounds and dished out a couple of assists. Honorable mention goes to Vanderbilt guard Mario Moore. The sophomore had 17 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and a blocked shot in a win over Mississippi.
  • On the Rise: Vanderbilt....The Commodores have quietly hopped right back up into a tie for second place in the SEC East. This latest run has been thanks to two road wins over Alabama and Mississippi sandwiched around a home victory over LSU. Vandy gets another chance for a huge win this weekend when the 'Dores host SEC West champ Mississippi State.
  • On the Slide: LSU....The Tigers have been hampered by injuries, most notably to star center Jaime Lloreda. Since a road win at Florida just over two weeks ago, the Bayou Bengals have lost three straight games and are now just a game over .500 in SEC play.
  • NEW Tourney Time Projections:
    NCAA: Mississippi State, Kentucky, South Carolina, LSU, Vanderbilt, Florida
    NIT: Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Auburn
    HOME: Arkansas, Mississippi
  • Top to Bottom: (1) Mississippi State, (2) Kentucky, (3) South Carolina, (4) Vanderbilt, (5) LSU, (6) Florida, (7) Alabama, (8) Georgia, (9) Tennessee, (10) Auburn, (11) Arkansas, (12) Mississippi
  • Weekend Predictions: Alabama over Mississippi, Florida over Arkansas, South Carolina over Georgia, Tennessee over Auburn, Mississippi State over Vanderbilt, Kentucky over LSU
      -Last Week's Predictions: 3-3 (.500)   |   SEC Season: 25-12 (.676)
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