I just submitted my All-Southeastern Conference preseason men’s basketball poll picks.
At the risk of being too provincial, I picked Florida to win the SEC East and two players from UF (Kenny Boynton, Chandler Parsons) on the All-SEC first team.
Florida, which begins practice tonight, got my vote over Kentucky because of the uncertain status of Kentucky big-man Enes Kanter. Without Kanter in the frontcourt, I don’t see ‘Cats having enough quality and depth to compete with what Florida has up front.
Georgia will make some noise in the SEC East because of the return of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie. I picked Thompkins as the SEC player of the year.
If freshman big man Tobias Harris is as good as billed, Tennessee will be in the mix too. Also, don’t count out Vanderbilt, though I’m not as high on new point guard Brad Tinsley as some people are.
In the SEC West, I like Mississippi State because of the unexpected return of point guard Dee Bost. Bost apparently forgot about the new May 8th deadline date to return to school after he slipped out of the first two rounds of the NBA draft. Renardo Sidney, when he becomes eligible, will be an impact big-man for the Bulldogs.
Alabama and Ole Miss will contend. I look for big things from the Tide in former UF assistant Anthony Grant’s second year coaching there.
For the All-SEC team, I went with Boynton (Florida) and Ole Miss point guard Chris Warren in the backcourt. Up front, I selected Vanderbilt forward Jeffery Taylor, the league’s best defender, with Thompkins and Parsons. I thought about Alabama’s JaMychal Green up front instead of Parsons, but think that Parsons does more to impact winning for his team than the talented but sometimes temperamental Green.
Also, I remember taking some heat for putting Kentucky point guard John Wall on the preseason first-team last year. But Wall was just that good. I contemplated selecting Kentucky freshman point guard Brandon Knight, but don’t think Knight is quite on the same level as Wall. And I think if Kanter isn’t declared eligible, opposing defenses will key on Knight, which will impact his production.
The league will release the All-SEC team early next week, before SEC basketball media days in Birmingham next Thursday. Parsons will make the trip with UF coach Billy Donovan.
Here were my picks:
1. Florida — Deep and balanced.
2. Kentucky — Free Enes? Cats fans can only hope.
3. Tennessee — NCAA probe a potential distraction.
4. Georgia — Nice job by underrated coach Mark Fox.
5. Vanderbilt — Always under radar, a 9-7 fifth-place team.
6. South Carolina — No Devan Downey, plenty of problems.
1. Mississippi State — Dee Bost makes the difference.
2. Alabama — Watch out for frosh pg Travis Relaford.
3. Ole Miss — Not enough up front.
4. Arkansas — Not disciplined enough on, off court.
5. LSU — Good frosh class, but still rebuilding.
6. Auburn — At least the new arena will be nice.
SEC Champion: Mississippi State
All-SEC first team
G — Kenny Boynton, Florida
G — Chris Warren, Ole Miss
F — Jeff Taylor, Vanderbilt
F — Trey Thompkins, Georgia
F — Chandler Parsons, Florida
Player of the Year: Trey Thompkins, Georgia.