Another Six-Pack with Mark Wise

With the regular season completed and the SEC Tournament about to get underway I thought this might be a good time to check in once again with Mark Wise of the Gator Radio Network/Sun Sports TV/Fox Sports Florida/ESPN Regional and more.

1. Now that the regular season is over how would you assess this team's performance relative to its talent, experience and athleticism?

I have said all year that this team has come much closer to reaching its ceiling than last year. The numbers bear that out; 7 of 9 losses by a total of 23 points. If my math is right that is 3.2, which means one possession. This team is much better at competing night in and night out than last year. From a coach's perspective, the press is much improved. Calathes, Tyus, and Walker far exceeded my expectations.

2. What do the Gators have to do in Tampa to return to the Big Dance?

Win two and you are in. Win one and it depends on fellow bubble dwellers and how they do. Creighton probably did UF and the bubble world harm by losing in the Missouri Valley tournament.

3. Who are your choices for SEC Player and Coach of the Year?

My coach of the year is easy, Jeff Lebo from Auburn. I said last time this award was still there to be had and that is what happened. After starting league play 2-5, the Tigers have won 8 of 9 and earned a bye in the SEC Tourney. Kudos to Lebo!

The Player of the Year I have grappled with all day today. What Meeks has done at UK is phenomenal. If I had to pick first in a game at the "Y" I might choose Marcus Thornton or Devan Downey. But the player who is getting more done with fewer pieces around him is Nick Calathes; so by the slimmest of margins, I pick Calathes (Maybe this will keep me in good graces with your readers!!!)

4. If you were advising Alabama and Georgia in their coaching searches who would you tell them to hire?

Either one of those schools would be well served to choose from this list of young successful coaches on their way up the ladder; Sean Miller (Xavier), Anthony Grant (VCU) or Brad Stevens (Butler). Finally, I would add one name to the mix that might look for life outside the ACC, Frank Haith at Miami.

5. What is a reasonable expectation for what Vernon Macklin will add to this team next season?

Macklin will most importantly fill a major void for this team in terms of size, strength and length. Look for him to be an 8/8 guy. Now watch the dominoes fall. Florida will have Kadji and Macklin at the "5", allowing Tyus to move to the "4". Werner and Parsons will see time at the "3" and "4". Mix in Shipman at the "3" and all of a sudden a team that fought bigger lineups all season becomes one of those teams.

6. Who is going to play in the SEC Tournament Championship Game and who will win the event?

I was ready to anoint Tennessee my runaway choice for the title, but then Bama banked their surprise on Sunday! The league has bunched to the middle and I do believe 10 of the 12 teams could win. My head tells me to stick with the Vols who have the deepest and most talented roster but I won't. Based on who's hot, who's not, and considering all my friends in "Whoville"(Heck why not? The whole season has been Seussical!), I say LSU and Auburn meet in an all West final with LSU winning.

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