VAUGHT: Who is SEC's best freshman?

As the Southeastern Conference season winds down, it's time to start thinking about who should be the SEC Freshman of the Year. Clearly, any Kentucky fan is going to make a case for Patrick Patterson. He's been mature beyond his year for the Wildcats and if not for him, UK would not have won 10 games this year. But is he the SEC's top freshman this year?

College basketball analyst Larry Conley doesn't think so — or at least not right now. If the voting had to be done today, he would vote for Florida's Nick Calathes, who is averaging 15.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and a league-best 6.6 assists per game in SEC play.

"I have already been wrestling with this question," said Conley Sunday. "Obviously, there are five solid guys you could make a case for. But I would probably give the edge to Calathes at this point even though A.J. Ogilvy (of Vanderbilt) and Patrick Patterson are both great players, as well."

Patterson is averaging 16.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots per game. Ogilvy averages 14.5 points and 6.4 rebounds.

LSU's Anthony Randolph is another one of Conley's Fab Five freshmen. He is averaging 15.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots for one of the league's worst teams. The freshman leading the SEC in scoring in league play only is Mississippi point guard Chris Warren, who averages 16.8 points, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game.

"I think Ogilvy is really, really good and he's playing better now. Warren has picked up his play, but his team is fading. Randolph just does not have a good team around him. Patterson has been terrific all year," Conley said.

So where would he put Patterson on his ballot?

"Probably second or third. Him and Ogilvy are so close in my mind right now. But a lot could change in the next few weeks. One of them could move ahead of Calathes," Conley said. "It's going to be a tough choice. I want to watch how the various schools lobby for their guy and how hard some schools push their guy. I know how the politics work. But there are three really strong candidates who have all had great years."

He's right, but from what I've seen, my vote would have to go to Patterson. He's just been too consistent and too valuable. Unlike most freshmen, he's been better than advertised — which is hard to do for a McDonald's All-American. Don't be surprised, either, if by the time the season ends, Patterson hasn't moved to the top of most ballots.

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