SEC basketball has become the story of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. South Carolina earned its first trip to the Final Four in program history. Four of the five SEC programs to make the tourney won a game, and three advanced to the Elite Eight.
With so many strong performances, sorting through the list of standout SEC players is difficult. Several known stars have improved dramatically. Other underrated players — especially on Elite Eight squads — helped push their teams over the hump.
Here’s how a 2017 all-tourney team made up of SEC players looks:
G: Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
Stats: 25.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.5 APG
When Thornwell signed with the Gamecocks as part of Frank Martin’s first full recruiting class, it was a key building block for South Carolina. If the tournament ended today, Thornwell would be the tourney’s most outstanding player. In his senior year, Thornwell’s tournament scoring average is best among all players who played more than one game, while his 50 percent shooting from the field and 42.3 percent from 3-point range are both well above season averages. If South Carolina wins the national title, it will be on Thornwell’s back.
G: De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
Stats: 21.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.8 APG
Fox had an all-around quality tournament, but his spot on this list boils down to one performance. All eyes were on Memphis, Tenn., as Kentucky and UCLA faced off in a battle of potential top-five NBA draft picks (Fox and Lonzo Ball). Fox held Ball to 10 points on 10 shots, and torched him for 39 points on just 20 shots in a dominant Kentucky performance. For the tournament, he shot 50 percent from the field.
G: PJ Dozier, South Carolina
Stats: 15.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.5 APG
Dozier developed into a great secondary scorer alongside Thornwell as the regular season went on. However, he showed off his versatility in the tournament. He scored double-digits in all four games, despite fouling out while guarding some of the best scorers in the nation against Duke. He then dropped 17 points on just 11 shots against Florida to help the Gamecocks advance to the Final Four. Like Thornwell, Dozier’s two-way ability makes him a no-brainer for this list.
F Justin Leon, Florida
Stats: 10.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 51.7 percent FG, 44.4 percent 3-point FG
A low-usage game in the first round against Eastern Tennessee drove down his overall stats, but Leon was a highly-efficient wing that Florida desperately needed. Leon hit double-figures just six times during SEC play. He scored 14 points on eight shots and grabbed 10 rebounds against Virginia’s fierce defense. Leon later added 18 points, including three 3-pointers, against South Carolina in the Elite Eight. Tournament runs are built out of unexpected contributions, and Leon’s were especially important.
F Moses Kingsley, Arkansas
Stats: 16.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.0 BPG
Arkansas only played two games in the NCAA Tournament, but Kingsley had a dominant showing against Seton Hall’s highly-regarded front line. The senior dropped 23 points on just 13 shots, and added 4 blocks. His dominance was the key difference in a narrow win over the Pirates. Granted, he struggled against North Carolina in the Round of 32. Now that the Tar Heels are headed to the Final Four, that’s not a huge deal.
Honorable mention –
G Kevaughn Allen, Florida
Stats: 14.8 PPG
Allen had a dominant 35-point performance against Wisconsin in the Sweet 16, but shot just 3-for-21 for 11 total points in the first two rounds.
G Matthew Fisher-Davis, Vanderbilt
Stats: 22.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG
Fisher-Davis had a great game with 22 points on 15 shots in the opener against Northwestern. Unfortunately, his dumb intentional foul up with his team up 1 point in the closing seconds will live in infamy.
F Bam Adebayo, Kentucky
Stats: 10.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG
Adebayo obliterated Northern Kentucky to the tune of 15 points and 18 rebounds in the first round, but barely contributed against UCLA and struggled against North Carolina.