Where's Jermareo?

Almost everyone was surprised when Alabama's entire starting lineup earned All-Southeastern Conference honors when the Associated Press announced its first, second, and third All-SEC basketball teams (as well as player and coach of the year honorees) earlier this week. It was reported to be the first time since 1966 and only the third time overall a team had all five starters honored (Kentucky in 1949 and '66 the others).

The biggest surprise was probably that Kennedy Winston wasn't a unanimous choice on the AP team. He was unanimous on the SEC Coaches' honor squad announced a day later. What AP voter (each state in the SEC region has a sportswriter or sportscaster vote or two) didn't vote for Winston? He was SEC Player of the Week three times this season, and has been so honored six times in his career. He was All-SEC last year and greatly improved this year–in a season when the SEC appears to be down a notch or two.

Alabama is 23-6, the top seeded team from the Western Division in the SEC Tournament in Atlanta this week with a 12-4 conference record, and the primary reason is Winston. Winston averaged 19.1 points per game, second in the SEC; hit 47 per cent of his field goals, fifth in the league; was good on 81 per cent of his free throws, also fifth in the conference; was first in SEC three-point shooting, 51.5 per cent, and seventh in three-point shots made, 2.2 per game.

No one could complain about LSU's Brandon Bass being SEC Player of the Year, but Winston should have been a strong candidate. For him to be left off the ballot of one or more AP voter is a travesty.

It was also not a surprise that Earnest Shelton (16.4 points per game) was selected to the Coaches first team and the AP second team. Chuck Davis (14.2 ppg, 6.8 rebounds per game) was second team on the Coaches squad and third team by the AP. Ron Steele (7.8 ppg, 4.9 assists per game) was unanimous All-Freshman team by the Coaches and third team All-SEC by AP.

None of those selections is a surprise.

The surprise is that Jermareo Davidson, Alabama's starting center, was third team by the AP. The only place Davidson, a 6-10 sophomore from Atlanta, shows up in the SEC statistics is in rebounding, where he ranked sixth in the conference with 7.8 per game.

Alabama seems to have settled into a seven-man rotation, Jean Felix coming in at the wing and Evan Brock inside. Felix can replace either of the wing players, Winston or Shelton, or take the place of Steele with Winston or Shelton taking over point duties. Justin Jonus can figure into the rotation against certain opponents. Albert Weber, who was Steele's back-up until leaving the team for four games "for personal reasons," is back on the squad but not likely to figure into competition the rest of this season.

With Alabama in the SEC Tournament in Atlanta and looking forward to the NCAA Tournament as perhaps a fifth, fourth or higher seed, the key may be the performance of Davidson, the surprise third team selection on the AP All-SEC team.

Davidson's numbers, aside from a respectable rebounding figure, are modest. (Of course, everyone is not likely to be a high scorer unless the team is a bona fide juggernaut.) Davidson averages 7.8 points per game. He didn't have enough shots to qualify for shooting percentage ranking in the SEC, but hit a very good 57.7 per cent from the field.

Is Davidson the key as to how far Alabama advances in the SEC Tournament, beginning at 1 p.m. EST (noon CST) Friday when Bama takes on the winner of today's South Carolina vs. Ole Miss game? And how far Bama will go when the Tide enters NCAA Tournament play next week?

It is not Davidson's final numbers which are in question. It is the direction he has gone. He has not scored in double figures since getting 16 points against Tennessee on February 9, over a month ago. He pulled down 11 rebounds at Mississippi State in Bama's final regular season game, but that was also the first time for him to hit double figures since he got 14 in the Tennessee game.

In the last month of the season he averaged 4.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

Not to put the blame on Davidson, but he had only four points and four rebounds in a critical loss at LSU that kept the Tide from wrapping up the SEC Western Division championship and crippled Bama's overall SEC hopes. In the loss to Kentucky that ended any faint hopes of the SEC title, he had six points and two rebounds.

That's a long way from the Tennessee game. And really a long way from an excellent performance in a key victory in December. Bama went to North Carolina-Charlotte and came away with a 102-101 overtime win over UNCC as Davidson had 21 points and 13 rebounds.

Davidson, who was on the Freshman All-SEC team last year, has started every game in his Alabama career. Although he has been in a bit of a slump for the last month, he's capable of playing at a high level. If he does, it could be a nice tournament season for Alabama.

TIDE NOTES:

Alabama finished regular season play as the league statistics champion in six categories in SEC games–scoring defense (60.5 ppg), scoring margin (plus 10.8 ppg), free throw percentage (74.5 per cent), field goal percentage (48.8 per cent), field goal defense percentage (39.3 per cent), and three-point field goal percentage (40.7 per cent).

Going into the SEC Tournament, Bama has 23 wins, the sixth most single season wins in school history. Coach Mark Gottfried's teams own three of the top six Crimson Tide all-time single season win totals.


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