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Player of the Week

Jamal Murray Kentucky Wildcats

Jamal MurrayJamal MurrayWhile LSU's Ben Simmons may have been the center of everyone's attention, it's a different SEC freshmen that deserves Player Of The Week status.

Jamal Murray has been Kentucky's best player through the first five games. His college debut against Albany had their head coach, Will Brown, calling Murray the best player in the nation.

In the bright lights of the Champion's Classic matchup with Duke, it was Murray's second half performance that helped the Wildcats to an 11-point victory.

On a loaded UK roster, Murray ranks in the top five in points (13.6 PPG), rebounds (4.4 RPG), assists (3.6 APG) and steals (1.6 SPG). The talent is there and he's shown comfort playing both on and off the ball. At 6'5", Murray is a guard that just about every NBA team could use next season.

Who's Hot

Ben Simmons LSU Tigers

This kid is the real deal. Although the Tigers have struggled in their two games against decent competition (more on that below) it hasn't been because of Simmons' play. Simmons followed up a 21-point and 20 rebound performance against Marquette with a double-double--in assists and rebounds--in the team's next game against NC State. He's among the nation's best passers and athletes and it appears that he could suit up right now for an NBA team and be productive. There were numerous NBA scouts in Barclay's Center for both games and needless to say Simmons looks every bit like a future number one pick.

Vanderbilt Commodores

Besides a close call with a stingy Stony Brook team, Vanderbilt has had their way with opposing teams to begin the year. Through five games they have an average margin of victory of 28.2 points and they have showed no signs of slowing down. They have been the most impressive team in Maui and face off with #5 Kansas tonight (10 PM EST on ESPN) in a true test of their skills. Wade Baldwin IV has been great so far and Damian Jones has held down the paint. If Kevin Stallings team can keep this up they will surely be able to go toe-to-toe with any of the nation's top teams and could keep Kentucky from gaining another conference title.
HONORABLE MENTION: Stefan Moody (Ole Miss), Kevin Punter and Armani Moore (Tennessee)

Who's Not

Mississippi State Bulldogs

The Bulldogs have not got off on the right foot to begin the year. Some of that has to do with the foot of freshmen guard Malik Newman who has been dealing with turf toe early this season. Mississippi State suffered a rough three-game losing streak in which they dropped games to Southern, Miami and Texas Tech. Despite inspired play from Gavin Ware (19.8 PPG and 6.8 RPG) the Bulldogs have yet to look like the team many projected them to be in the preseason. Ben Howland needs thing to kick into gear the next couple weeks as an intriguing game against Florida Stare (12/16) looms in the horizon.

LSU Tigers

The Tigers were a hot pick as a team with the potential to unseat Kentucky as SEC Champs. After five games the Tigers haven't even looked like a NCAA Tournament team. They were able to overcome slow starts against their first three opponents simply because they had more talent, but that wasn't the case in the Fan Duel Legends Classic. Yes, they hung around and competed to the final whistle in losses to Marquette and NC Stare, but neither of those teams were projected to finish in the top five of their conferences. The freshmen trio of Simmons/Antonio Blakeney/Brandon Sampson is accounting for 54 percent of LSU's points right now. Johnny Jones needs other players to chip in if they want to reach the goals they set for themselves this season.

TOP 5 SEC PROSPECTS

1. Ben Simmons (LSU)

Simmons entered his freshmen season with a level of hype and expectation that hasn't been seen since Harrison Barnes was the first freshmen voted to a Preseason a all-Americn team. In his debut Simmons had a decent outing, putting together an 11 points, 13 rebounds and five assists outing against McNese State. Simmons is officially listed as a "Point Forward" by LSU and he is at the best with the ball in his hands. LeBron James comparisons have been tossed out, but a better Lamar Odom seems to be the best way to project Simmons' game. He is definitely worth all of the accolades and for general managers, he sits atop the race to become the 2016 number one overall pick.

2. Skal Labissiere (Kentucky)

Labissiere was a bit of an unknown throughout his high school career as he didn't play much organized basketball after coming to the United States from Haiti. However, while playing in high school showcase games and events last summer, Labissere showed the talent to attract Big Blue Nation to come calling. John Calipari has shown that he can develop raw talent, so Labissiere will surely get better as a Wildcat. His ability to stretch the floor is going to be critical for UK this season and is a skill that will be very valuable in the NBA. If he can have a defensive impact like Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein or Anthony Davis before him he could possibly challenge Ben Simmons for the top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

3 Jamal Murray (Kentucky)

Another "International Man of Mystery", Canadian Jamalal Murray reclassified into the 2015 class and has been the Wildcats' leading scorer in their first two games this season (scoring 26 and 19 points respectively). Murray's best asset is his clutch ability to score. He can make plays off the dribble, he's a good spot up shooter, and knows how to slash and score in the paint. You name it and Murray can do it. At 6'5" Murray has great size as a point guard in the NBA, but during his year stint at Kentucky it's more likely we see more of Murray playing on the wing and off the ball.

4. Damian Jones (Vanderbilt)

A legit seven-footer with a 7'2" wingspan, Jones has the size/length/athleticism to be a starting-caliber center on the next level. While he does not have a quick second jump he is very explosive off the ground vertically. He won't be DeAndre Jordan in terms of blocking shots, but if he can master the rule of verticality like Roy Hibbert he will be a nuisance in the paint for opposing teams. He is also mobile enough for his size that he won't get caught plundering around the court and with the right matchup won't be driven off the court if teams try to play small-ball against him. He's a work-in-progress on offense and has a limited basketball IQ and feel for the game at this point in his career.

5 Antonio Blakeney (LSU)

Antonio Blakeney is a scorer, point blank. With the ball in his hands Blakeney is capable of putting the ball into the basket in several different ways. He currently leads LSU in points per game scoring 16.6 PPG. However, at 6'4" Blakeney falls into the oft-dreaded combo guard category. Blakeney doesn't have the feel for the point guard position yet and drafting him with intentions to mold him into one may be a mistake. Blakeney does have elite level athleticism (45" max vertical), which could help make up for the few inches he'll give up to other shooting guards in the NBA. Best case scenario is Blakeney develops into a Monta Ellis-type of player in the league.

whiteflash
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You need to put an asterisks

You need to put an asterisks by Blakeney's vert number. Anyone with half a brain knows LSU inflated the hell out of their combine stats. I'll put money down that his true vert is [email protected] near a foot less than advertised.

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