With the non-conference season in the books it’s time to move forward and look towards conference play. The SEC had an interesting non-league slate that saw a slew of tough schedules without many marquee wins. The Cats came away with one big win (Louisville), and two decent wins (Boise State and Providence), while Florida came away with a couple big ones against Kansas and Memphis. After that, though, the conferences best win was probably Mizzou’s road win at NC State (or their home win vs. UCLA, depending on how much you value home/road).
Anyways, as much as the SEC may have struggled in the non-conference, there are still a plethora of good players capable of challenging the current, clear-cut favorite in Julius Randle. Let’s take a look a some of his main competitors:
Jordan Clarkson, Mizzou: The 6’5” transfer from Tulsa has been the main reason for Mizzou’s early season success thus far. A lot of people thought going into the season that Missouri would take a step back this season (I was not one of them), but Clarkson’s strong play has pretty much eliminated any thought of that. On the year he’s averaging 20 points per game on 50% shooting, 4.6 assists, and 3.6 rebounds. Clarkson hasn’t “shied away” in any of their big games yet either, as he’s put up 21, 25 and 21 against UCLA, Illinois and NC State, respectively.
Casey Prather, Florida: No one on Florida benefitted more than Prather after enduring the Gators early season roster issues. The extended minutes for him allowed Prather to blossom into a star of sorts. On the year he’s averaging 17.8 points per game and 5.7 rebounds on 62.4% shooting (!). For those of you that don’t know, 62.4% from the field as a 6’6” guard on 10+ shots per game is ridiculous. If he keeps up that pace for the entire season and if Florida heavily contends for the SEC title, it could end up being a two man race between Prather and Randle for SEC POY rights.
Jordan Mickey, LSU: Here’s a freshman in the SEC that isn’t getting much pub. He wasn’t a top recruit by any means but my god is he doing well for an LSU squad that has serious hopes of an NCAA tournament berth after a solid non-conference portion. Mickey contributes on both ends of the floor, as he is averaging 13.5 points per game, 8.1 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game (good for 2nd in the SEC). He’s an interesting player to keep an eye on because LSU isn’t getting many national looks due to their lack of a great win, but they don’t have any bad losses so if they can make a run at the SEC title than Mickey would get a serious look at the award.
Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss: Do I think Henderson is a good player? Yes. Do I think Marshall Henderson is insanely overrated? Also yes. But nevertheless, Henderson is going to score enough points in SEC play for him to warrant consideration for SEC POY (disclaimer: this is me projecting that he’ll be a candidate based on the media’s tendencies. In no way, shape or form is near my faux ballot). He’s scoring nearly 19 points per game in just 26 minutes of action, but if he wants to stay in the race he’s going to need to help his team win more games to get a potential NCAA berth. He’s also going to need to turn in better performances that the one he did last weekend in a loss to Mercer where he was just 5 of 16 from the field with 4 turnovers.
Fringe candidates: Willie Cauley-Stein, Jabari Brown, Johnny O’Bryant, Trevor Releford, Jordan McRae