The League: SEC superlatives
Published: Friday, March 8, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 8:07 p.m.
The Southeastern Conference concludes conference play this season on Saturday.
Florida dominated from start to finish, racing to an 8-0 start in SEC play before wrapping up the league title with a win Wednesday night over Vanderbilt. The Gators (24-5, 14-3 SEC) have won their 14 conference games by an average margin of 23.6 points.
But while Florida was the dominant SEC team in 2013, plenty of other players from throughout the league made their mark.
Here's a look at the best of the SEC in 2013:
Player of the Year: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia, guard
Caldwell-Pope is the most complete player in the SEC, ranked second in the SEC in scoring (18 ppg), eighth in rebounding (8.9) and second in steals (2.1). At 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, Caldwell-Pope has the size, athletic ability and shooting range to excel at the NBA level. Ole Miss junior guard Marshall Henderson deserves some consideration, but while the junior college transfer leads the SEC in scoring (19.2), he also has shot for a low percentage (.378).
Freshman of the year: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky, center
Before going down with a season-ending knee injury in Gainesville against UF, Noel was a dominant defensive force inside for the Wildcats. He still leads the SEC in blocked shots (106, 4.4 blocks per game), while averaging 9.5 rebounds and 2.1 steals.
Coach of the year: Billy Donovan, Florida
Donovan has done more with less this season than at any point in his Florida tenure. Navigating through injuries to Casey Prather, Erik Murphy, Michael Frazier II and Will Yeguete, Donovan has gotten his experienced team to play unselfishly while committing to defense. LSU coach Johnny Jones deserves some consideration for getting the Tigers to overachieve and adapt to his up-tempo style of play in his first season.
Most improved player: Mike Rosario, Florida, guard
Rosario was in Donovan's doghouse last season for missing 25 practices and five games due to various minor injuries. He sulked on the bench behind starters Erving Walker, Bradley Beal and Kenny Boynton. But with Beal and Walker gone, Rosario seized his opportunity to start and has led the Gators in scoring a team-high 13 times this season. The 6-foot-3 Rutgers transfer is tied with Boynton for the UF team lead in scoring at 12.6 points per game.
Best sixth man: Earnest Ross, Missouri, guard
An Auburn transfer, Ross has provided instant offense off the bench for the Tigers throughout the season. The 6-foot-5 junior guard is averaging 10.4 points and 4.9 rebounds for Missouri, while shooting 38.9 percent from 3-point range. Casey Prather and Will Yeguete from Florida both deserve consideration, but various injuries kept them sidelined during the course of the SEC season. Kentucky sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer also has provided offense off the bench (10.8 ppg, 39.8 percent from 3-point range), but is a defensive liability.
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