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Kruger No. 1 coach in SEC

Nolan Richardson and Arkansas are No. 1 in the nation, but coaches say Lon Kruger is tops in the Southeastern Conference this season.

The Florida coach was named SEC Coach of the Year in voting by his peers, winning the award for the second time in three seasons.

Kruger also is one of 12 finalists for the Naismith National Coach of the Year award, along with Richardson, who has taken the Razorbacks to the No.

1 ranking and the SEC regular-season championship.

Florida junior point guard Dan Cross was named first-team All-SEC. Senior guard Craig Brown was a second-team selection and junior forward Andrew DeClercq of Clearwater was a third-team pick.

Kruger's reward was based on the preseason presumption that Florida was a middle-of-the-road team in the league.

Instead, the Gators tied Kentucky for the Eastern Division title and compiled a 23-6 record, the best regular-season mark in school history.

"Going in, there certainly was reason to have questions about how this club would rebound, who would play in the middle, how solid were we going to be at the point guard spot, who was going to score points," Kruger said. "Even free-throw shooting was a question mark.

"You look now and obviously they've rebounded the ball well. They've shot free throws very well. Dametri (Hill) has come on at center. Nobody knew Craig Brown was going to be as outstanding as he's been. Certainly no one could project that Dan Cross would do what he's done. There have been a lot of different guys contributing to make this, relatively speaking, a surprise group."

Cross has been the biggest surprise, scoring 15.9 points per game after averaging 5.2 as a sophomore. Cross ranks in the top 10 in league scoring, assists, steals, free-throw shooting and three-point field goal percentage.

Cross was joined on the first team by SEC Player of the Year Corliss Williamson of Arkansas, Scotty Thurman of Arkansas, Vanderbilt's Billy McCaffrey and Auburn's Wesley Person and Aaron Swinson.

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