Meeks loses grip on top SEC honor

John Clay
John Clay

Random notes:

■ As late as two weeks ago, not only did Kentucky's Jodie Meeks appear a rock-solid cinch to win Southeastern Conference Player of the Year honors, he was generating national player-of-the-year talk.

Now, Meeks is a long shot for the national trophy. And suddenly there is plenty of competition for conference honors as well. The top three:

1. Marcus Thornton: He's the best player on the conference's best team. Louisiana State has already clinched the overall league crown, thanks in large part to the 6-foot-6 senior. Thornton is second in the league in scoring (conference games only) at 23 points per game, and ranks in the top 20 among league rebounders at 6.2. Considering that the Tigers have run away with the regular-season hardware, you would think Thornton will get plenty of consideration.

2. Devan Downey: The South Carolina point guard is tied for third in the league in scoring at 19.9 points per game. He leads the league in steals, averaging 3.1 per contest. He's fourth in assists at 4.4. Plus, he's the catalyst behind the Gamecocks' turnaround.

3. Nick Calathes: The Florida sophomore might be the league's best all-around player. He's first in assists (6.2 per game), first in three-point percentage (45.2), tied for third in scoring (19.9), third in steals (2.0) and 17th in rebounding (6.2). His problem is that Florida hasn't done a bit better, the Gators sitting at 8-6 in the conference, in definite bubble trouble.

On the plus side, Meeks has had easily the two most dominating games in league play — the school-record 54 points at Tennessee and the 45 at Arkansas. He tops the SEC in scoring (25.8) and is first in three-pointers made (49). He's also the iron man who has played more conference minutes than anyone else in the league, and he's provided the one essential thing his team desperately needed — scoring.

On the down side, the Cats have also lost six of their last nine games. You wonder how much that might hurt in the balloting.

■ Did you see Mike Casey's comments on Billy Gillispie? The Rupp-era Cat, and school's 13th leading scorer, told the A Sea of Blue blog, "First of all, I think he's in over his head. I think he has no clue as to what's going on in the game ... . If we lost, we came out fightin' mad; we weren't going to lose two in a row. It's beyond me why (Mitch) Barnhart and (Lee) Todd put up with it."

■ It is disheartening to hear Gillispie talk about softening the schedule next season, especially when Ken Pomeroy's rankings rated UK's non-conference schedule as 243rd in the nation this season. If it gets any softer, it'll be liquid.

■ Looks to me Kentucky has as much chance of earning the top seed in the East as Gillispie does of getting a Jeannine Edwards Christmas card. UK would need to win its remaining two; South Carolina would have to lose its remaining two; and then Alabama would have to beat Tennessee on Sunday.

If Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky were to all end up 10-6, however, the Cats would end up with the No. 2 seed. All three would be 2-2 against the other two. Tennessee would get the nod with an 8-2 division record. Kentucky would be the No. 2 seed with a 7-3 division mark. South Carolina would wind up third at 6-4.

And you thought the stimulus package was confusing.

■ The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi sees the silver lining in news that the bad economy might force some jails to let prisoners out early. Wrote Mike, "More recruits for SEC schools."

■ Speaking of the economy, some schools are cutting SEC Tournament ticket prices by two-thirds. The only league member to sell its allotment of 1,100 tickets? You got it. Kentucky.

■ I'd love to see what Dancing With the Stars judge Len Goodman would say about "Boogie Man."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader