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
- Mississippi State
- South Carolina
- Texas A&M
- 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