Each year, the Southeastern Conference asks writers and columnists who cover the basketball teams throughout the league to vote in its preseason media poll.
They usually hold off until SEC basketball media days, scheduled for next Wednesday and Thursday in Birmingham, Ala. But this year they want us to fax the ballots in by Friday. Why? Maybe for increased participation, or maybe they were tired of the rib stains coming in on my ballot.
Anyway, here’s my ballot:
SEC Champion: Tennessee
6. South Carolina
2. Mississippi State
4. Ole Miss
C — Richard Hendrix, Alabama
F — Shan Foster, Vanderbilt
G — Chris Lofton, Tennessee
G — Jamont Gordon, Mississippi State
G — Patrick Beverley, Arkansas
Player of the Year: Chris Lofton, Tennessee
I flirted with the idea of including Florida center Marreese Speights on the first team, but he needs to prove he can put up numbers on a consistent basis in 25-30 minutes of playing time. He’s definitely a second-teamer based on talent.
There aren’t many quality big men in the league, which is why the team is composed of three guards. Lofton is the reigning player of the year, which makes him an easy choice to repeat.
If there were a freshman of the year on the ballot, I’d vote for Kentucky big man Patrick Patterson. I think either Florida’s Nick Calathes and Jai Lucas could be in the running, but I’ve voted for point guards in the past (Tennessee’s Ramar Smith last year and even, yuck, LSU’s Tack Minor a few years ago.).
What I’ve found over time is that big men adapt quicker in the league than guards. Hence, the vote for Patterson. A darkhorse for freshman of the year could be Vanderbilt big man A.J. Ogilvy, a member of the Australian national team.