Sports

Downey selected to first team

South Carolina's Devan Downey was a first-team All-SEC selection by the league's coaches, making it the second straight year the Gamecocks have had their point guard selected to the first team.

Downey, a redshirt sophomore from Chester, was the team's leading scorer with 18.3 points and ranked among the nation's leaders with 3.2 steals per game. He's already broken the school single-season steals record and should break the steals-per-game record.

Downey followed Tré Kelley as a first-team selection and also made Rivals.com first-team All-SEC. Despite his last three games, where he combined for 19 points and slipped from first to third on the league scoring charts, Downey received enough votes to make the first team.

Another Gamecock, forward Mike Holmes, made the all-freshman team after exploding during the season's second half. Holmes averaged 8.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in 19.7 minutes per game, starting 10 and posting three double-doubles. He was the first USC freshman to get that many in one season since the Gamecocks joined the SEC.

Vanderbilt's Shan Foster, the league's scoring champion and driving force behind the No. 18 Commodores, was named SEC Player of the Year while Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado was a unanimous pick for SEC Defensive Player of the Year. The coach of the year award was split between Tennessee's Bruce Pearl and Kentucky's Billy Gillispie while the freshman of the year was likewise split between Florida's Nick Calathes and Kentucky's Patrick Patterson.

• DANCING SHOES: Some SEC teams enter this week's tournament with a lock for the NCAA tournament but most are in wait-and-see mode.

USC, Georgia, Auburn, Alabama and LSU enter Thursday's games with the same goal -- win four games and get the league's automatic pass to the NCAAs. Of the five, Alabama and Auburn have a shot of winning enough games to finish with at least a .500 overall record, qualifying them for the NIT.

No. 4 Tennessee is a lock for the NCAAs and could get a No. 1 seed, with or without a win or two this weekend. Vanderbilt and Mississippi State are also considered in the NCAAs no matter what.

The bubble teams are what's left. Florida, Kentucky, Arkansas and Ole Miss enter this weekend needing to win as much as possible in a last gasp of impressing the selection committee.

Kentucky (18-11) seems to be in considering the Wildcats finished 12-4 in the league and have won 11 of 13. A couple of wins wouldn't hurt, though.

Arkansas (20-10) has the supposed magical 20-win mark from a big conference, but has dropped five of eight. Plus, its only big non-conference win was over Baylor.

The Rebels, after beginning 13-0, are resembling last year when a 20-win season still got them the NIT. Ole Miss is 21-9 and has played well lately, winning its last three, but was 2-6 before. Two or three wins this weekend would be a big help and add to the resume, which includes wins over NCAA-bound Winthrop and Clemson.

Florida, two-time defending national champion, is sucking wind after losing three straight and five of seven. The Gators have only won three times since February began and despite being 21-10, really need to make a run through the tournament to have a chance. Florida has played in the last four SEC tournament finals, winning the last three.

• MILESTONES: Alabama coach Mark Gottfried only needs three more wins to reach 200 for his Crimson Tide career. Arkansas' John Pelphrey got his 100th career win last week and has already set a school record for most wins by a first-year coach.

• WOODEN WATCH: Four SEC players made the list for the Wooden Award, given to the country's top player. Mississippi State's Jamont Gordon, Tennessee's Tyler Smith and Chris Lofton and Vanderbilt's Foster were named.

The award will be presented on April 12 in Los Angeles.

• CHOPPING BLOCK?: With LSU's John Brady already out of the picture, the SEC tournament may be the last appearance for some other SEC coaches. USC's Dave Odom is set to retire as soon as the Gamecocks' season is over -- which without winning the tournament, will be this weekend -- and he could be joined by a few others.

Georgia's Dennis Felton could be on the way out after he had to discipline his best players and either suspend or kick them off the team. Auburn's Jeff Lebo has never had a great season and it remains to be seen if the Tigers will pull the trigger.

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