The Player of the Year race in the SEC is still taking applications. Nerlens Noel of Kentucky should be in the discussion.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – You think John Calipari has had a tough job at the University of Kentucky this season. Here's an even tougher assignment:
Try picking a Player of the Year in the Southeastern Conference.
You can't do it. You can't find one. You can't imagine one. You're going to have to draft one.
Nobody has earned it.
There's not one guy in the league that makes you stand up and say, "I've got to have that guy on my team."
There's not one guy in the league that reminds you of Anthony Davis, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley or Dominique Wilkins.
They've handed out the Player of the Week award 17 times. One guy – Trae Golden of Tennessee – has won it more than once.
Marshall Henderson of Mississippi?
Don't even think about it.
Maybe Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel would have won it more than once if he had not injured his knee against Florida. He was starting to play like the one guy who could make people stand up and say, "I've got to have that guy on my team."
That's one reason I'm giving Nerlens Noel my player of the year vote. Without him, Kentucky has become Georgia or Vanderbilt. The Wildcats have won three and lost three.
Noel delivered one of the most unforgettable individual performances in the SEC this season at Ole Miss. He was averaging 10.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 5.5 blocks in league play. He's my player of the year.
Trevor Releford, Alabama – solid in every way, even if he's rarely spectacular. Top five in points, field-goal percentage, steals and minutes.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia – flunked Shot Selection 101, but he's still a remarkable talent who has led a late-season rally by the Bulldogs.
Jordan McRae, Tennessee – How can you neglect the only guy voted SEC player of the week twice?
Noel, Kentucky – I've made my case.
Patric Young, Florida – I refuse to leave the league champions off the first team. Young puts the fiber in this group of Gators.
Elston Turner, Texas A&M – That 40-point performance against Kentucky was remarkable, but the guy is almost as much of a chucker as Henderson.
Murphy Hollowell, Mississippi – Nice, blue-collar player, but I don't see a "Wow" factor.
Johnny O'Bryant, LSU – Like his game. He'd be drawing more love on a better team. But that's not his fault.
Erik Murphy, Florida -- The Gators love to shoot the three -- and it helps when you've got a 6-foot-10 forward who's a 46 percent three-point shooter and a decent rebounder.
Phil Pressey, Missouri – The 7-assist average is nice. The 38-percent shooting percentage isn't nearly as dazzling.
ALL FRESHMAN TEAM
Noel, Kentucky – He's first and foremost, just as he was expected to be.
Michael Carrera, South Carolina – When the Gamecocks start to improve, he'll be a big part of it.
Alex Poythress, Kentucky – UK fans are disappointed in his play, but there's not another freshman in the league that can match his scoring and rebounding numbers.
Michael Frazier, Florida – He's shooting nearly 49 percent from the three-point line. Florida needs him healthy to make an NCAA run.
Kevin Bright, Vanderbilt – Two-time SEC freshman of the week who had made 12 of his last 18 three-pointers until he had a lost night against Florida.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Noel, Kentucky – You'll have to convince me why I'm wrong.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Noel, Kentucky – You can't convince me that I'm wrong.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Billy Donovan, Florida – He's overcome injuries and expectations. Sure, the Gators have good talent, but it's not like they're overloaded with first-round draft picks. He's three games better than the rest of the league.