Marching toward madness: Ranking the SEC's top 10 players
It’s the beginning of the end of the SEC regular season. March is here, and it’s time to look around and start to get our bearings before what promises to be an unforgettable SEC and NCAA Tournament season.
The top 10 SEC players of 2018-19 are:
10. Chris Silva, South Carolina
A horrible nonconference performance probably knocks Carolina out of the NCAA conversation, but the Gamecocks still an absolute bear to play. Silva is the biggest link to Frank Martin’s surprising Final Four squad from 2017. He won’t win many beauty contests as a player, but he produces (14 points, 7 rebounds a game) and if there was a stat for effort, he’d always be at the top of the rankings. As it is, he’s also possibly the most foul-prone player in the NCAA.
9. Jordan Bone, Tennessee
He might be the most improved player in the SEC, and his steady demeanor and outside shooting have been pivotal to Tennessee’s emergence this season. Not since Dec. 9 has Bone scored fewer than 8 points in any game (he only averages 13), and only once all season has he had more than 4 turnovers in a game. Point guard play is key in March, and Bone gives Tennessee reason for confidence down the stretch.
8. Terence Davis, Ole Miss
Breein Tyree is the scorer and gets the attention, but all Davis does is whatever the Rebels need. At 6-4, he leads the teams in rebounding and assists and scores around 15 points per game. He’s also fifth in the SEC in steals. If the undersized Rebels make March noise, Davis will be at the middle of it.
7. Keldon Johnson, Kentucky
Since their embarrassing opening loss to Duke, Kentucky has mostly learned to play defense. A big part of that has been the emergence of Johnson, who is getting better every time out, particularly on the backboard. Add in the fact that he’s probably Kentucky’s best player at creating his own offense, and his 3-point shooting ability and open-court play make him a key to UK’s late-season resurgence.
6. Daniel Gafford, Arkansas
While Arkansas’ season hasn’t been what many would have hoped, but it’s not Gafford’s fault. Not only does he lead the SEC in rebounding, and average nearly 17 points per game, but his 66% shooting demonstrates that Gafford has rarely forced anything offensively. If Arkansas’ shooters can get hot, the league’s top offensive rebounder is a nice complementary weapon. But if they don’t, they won’t feed Gafford enough to carry the Razorbacks.
5. Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi State
The Bulldogs have been hit and miss all season, but Weatherspoon has consistently been a highlight. Weatherspoon improved his scoring average by about 4 points per game from last season to 18.6, making him second in the SEC to Grant Williams. His 3-point numbers improved by about 10 percent, which has forced opponents to honor him as a shooter or a slasher. Weatherspoon is on pace to become just the third 2,000-point scorer in MSU history.
4. Admiral Schofield, Tennessee
The Admiral has been the best supporting actor in this SEC season. The 4-year progression of his game has continued, as he’s averaging nearly 17 points per game, and continues to shoot the 3-pointer at a nearly 40% rate. Only twice this year has Schofield been held to single-digit scoring. His consistency has been an area of significant improvement.
3. Tremont Waters, LSU
On an LSU team filled with exceptional athletes, Waters is the guy who maintains floor spacing and offensive continuity. Statistically, he’s almost exactly the same player he was last year. He scores about 16 points per game and is a close third in assists in the SEC rankings. He also leads the conference in steals, and wildly outplayed Ashton Hagans of Kentucky head-to-head. Yes, LSU found a way to beat Tennessee without him. But with him, the Tigers seem to find another gear.
2. P.J. Washington, Kentucky
The February version of P.J. Washington is the best player in the SEC, but we have to account for the fact that the November version of P.J. Washington didn’t have much to offer. First, he found himself in the post, and became one of the league’s most imposing interior scorers. Then he became a 46% 3-point shooter. Kentucky’s offense can bog down, and when it does, the Cats go through Washington and he rarely fails to deliver. His overall numbers aren’t amazing, but he’s the best player on what suddenly looks like the Kentucky team everybody expected.
1. Grant Williams, Tennessee
Last year, Williams put up the SEC Player of the Year numbers, but Admiral Schofield was the heart and soul of Tennessee’s team. This year, it might be Jordan Bone, but none of that changes the fact that Williams has been the league’s big dog. He leads the SEC in scoring, is fifth in rebounding, and takes and makes far more free throws than any other player in the league. Other players come and go, but Williams has done the league’s dirty work phenomenally well for the second consecutive season.