Updated: UF picked to finish 5th in SEC hoops

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Florida coach Mike White speaks during the SEC men's basketball media day Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Florida was predicted to finish fifth in the final 2019 Southeastern Conference men’s basketball standings, the league announced Wednesday.

The Gators, who were 21-13 overall, finished third in the conference last season with a record of 11-7.

“We have high-character guys,” UF coach Mike White said Wednesday at media day. “They are fun to be around. It’s a good mix. We have healthy competition at practice and we have a deeper team.”

Florida senior guard Jalen Hudson was selected as a second team All-SEC honoree after ending the 2017-18 season as the Gators leading scorer, with eight 20-point games. Hudson also received SEC Player of the Week honors three times last season, becoming the first Gator to do so.

Senior center Kevarrius Hayes said the Gators’ talented roster has “a high, high ceiling. All we have to do is put it together.”

Kentucky was predicted to win the SEC championship in voting by a select panel of both SEC and national media members.

Tennessee is picked to finish second. Kentucky and Tennessee are followed in order by Auburn, Mississippi State, Florida, LSU, Alabama, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Arkansas, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Georgia and Mississippi.

The Wildcats are the overall preseason favorite for the 14th time since the 1998-99 season.

Tennessee junior forward Grant Williams was the choice of the media for SEC Men’s Basketball Player of the Year. Auburn’s Bryce Brown; Hudson; Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson, Reid Travis & PJ Washington; LSU’s Tremont Waters, Mississippi State’s Quinndary Weatherspoon; South Carolina’s Chris Silva and Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield also received votes in the Player of the Year voting.

Travis, Waters, Silva, Williams and Arkansas’ Daniel Gafford were each All-SEC First Team selections. Brown, Hudson, Washington, Weatherspoon and Schofield were second team picks along with Auburn’s Jared Harper and Missouri’s Jontay Porter. Points were compiled on a 14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Each media member also voted for a five-player All-SEC Team. Ties were not broken.

The SEC proved its back as a basketball power last season, sending a record eight teams to the NCAA Tournament. Optimism abounds again going into this season, with coaches not being shy about trumpeting the league’s strength.

“The league top to bottom has probably never been stronger,” UK coach John Calipari said. “Top-heavy, too. Crazy.”

Added Mississippi State’s Ben Howland: “I can’t say enough about our league. This league is going to be so good this year. As good as it was last year, this year’s group is going to be even better.”

LSU coach Will Wade said last year there were a number of good teams, and now there are some that can be “elite.”

Plenty of players explored entering the NBA draft after last season but opted to return.

Tennessee and Auburn shared the SEC regular season title and return most of their top players. The Volunteers return all five starters and are led by Williams and senior Admiral Schofield. That experience prompts Howland to proclaim: “There’s no doubt they’re the team to beat in our conference.”

The 2018-19 campaign begins Nov. 6, with conference play set to begin Jan. 5. The 2019 SEC Tournament will be March 13-17 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

Preseason Media Poll

  1. Kentucky
  2. Tennessee
  3. Auburn
  4. Mississippi State
  5. Florida
  6. LSU
  7. Alabama
  8. Vanderbilt
  9. Missouri
  10. Arkansas
  11. South Carolina
  12. Texas A&M
  13. Georgia
  14. Ole Miss

First Team All-SEC
Daniel Gafford – Arkansas
Reid Travis – Kentucky
Tremont Waters – LSU
Chris Silva – South Carolina
Grant Williams – Tennessee

Second Team All-SEC
Bryce Brown – Auburn
Jared Harper – Auburn
Jalen Hudson – Florida
PJ Washington – Kentucky
Quinndary Weatherspoon – Mississippi State
Jontay Porter – Missouri
Admiral Schofield – Tennessee

SEC Player of the Year
Grant Williams – Tennessee

26 COMMENTS

  1. Smith. How Florida does this year largely depends on how Newbrand plays at point guard this year, and who backs him up and how he does as the back up at point guard. If Newbrand is as good as advertised, and Stokes and Johnson come back strong from their injuries, Florida is going to be a very good team and will changing all the teams above them for the SEC regular season title. The SEC just has a bunch of really good teams this year. The title is not going to be cakewalk for any of the top 7 or 8 listed teams above.

    • Agreed. I am counting on more depth inside with Stokes and Johnson as you spoke about…and hopefully Hayes can go back to his natural role…much like a Will Yuguete. An energy guy that plays good defense and rebounds. Johnson can be a stretch 4 which can really open up the floor and be a tremendous mismatch. Also Okauro played well down the stretch is a link 6’3 PG with long arms that can also play the 2 spot. The league is much improved though and our veterans should counter the young talent UK always has.

  2. I don’t know how good each of the players are on the 1st and 2nd team list. Assuming it’s in the ballpark correct, ranking UF 5th overall is about right. But think about it. If Jalen Hudson is the only UF player on the preseason honors list and he’s on the second team at that, the other teams with more players and/or on the first team probably should be ranked higher. Like Dan says, it’s the pre-season predictions. I’m sure it’s going to look very different by the middle and end of season as players emerge or get injured.

  3. I seriously doubt that there are any teams in the SEC that can compete with our perimeter players and, as Golden State has shown, great guards with tough rim protectors inside wins championships. I like our chances.

  4. Questions this year leftover from last year, are all the big men back and healthy underneath? Will this allow our bench to be deep enough to put the full court press back in, one of my favorite Billy Donovan and early Mike White team characteristics. We were so thin last year we couldn’t press. Looking forward to the season. Go Gators!

  5. Does the SEC know the national media also picked LSU, Alabama and Vanderbilt ahead of Florida? Gators not in ANY PRE-SEASON top 25. Good. Let this team sneak up on opponents, much like the 05-06 team did, when NOBODY had ever heard of Noah, Brewer, Horford, Green and Humphrey. I actually believe this team is better than last year. The play of the bigs and the power forward (the 4 spot) will determine if this team goes far. And Hudson plays defense and rebounds as a 3.

    • If this years squad is going to be a great team and challenge UK someone has got to step up and be a great VERBAL leader. The “lead by example” guys are great, but this teams has lacked a true leader since Wilbekin and Co. left. That team had the type of leadership you need to win the SEC and get deep in the tourney, which they did. Don’t get me wrong, I love Chiozza and he was a true floor general but he was another quiet guy, just like Hayes, Allen and Stone are. One of those guys is going to have to come out of their shells or an underclassman needs to step up.

  6. If the Gators are going to finish higher than 5th then Coach White is going to have to find a way to keep Allen and Hayes from disappearing for whole games at a time. Having 40% of your starting lineup comatose isn’t a formula for success.

  7. Love, love, love this team. Really excited to see what Stokes can do…when he gets in shape. Hearing really good things about Allen stepping it up for his senior year. And Stone not having any bad practices so far sounds pretty good. You know Hudson is gonna bring it after hearing what the NBA guys want from him. Nembhard will pretty much decide how far we go this year. How long will it take for him to pick up the speed of the game? So many good players with something to bring to the table. I think the talent is there to compete for a NC. Crazy to even think that but I do. Can they put it together, play hard and be mentally tough? Gotta watch the games….oooo boy. Can’t wait.