Vols Picked To Win SEC Basketball Title

Tennessee was predicted to defend its 2008 Southeastern Conference men's basketball championship in a voting by a select panel of both SEC and national media members. Each SEC school selected two media members that cover their team and six additional writers from across the nation were selected by the conference office to form the 30-member voting panel.

(Editor's Note: It would be interesting to know the "national media members" who voted since the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division had the only three teams to get any votes at all to win the league championship and the first team pre-season All-SEC team was made up entirely of players from teams in the Eastern Division.)

The Volunteers are coming off an appearance in the Sweet 16 of the 2008 NCAA Tournament and a school record 31 wins. They earned 23 first-place votes, topping Florida's five votes and Kentucky's two as the SEC Champion. Tennessee returns six letterwinners, including starters Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism.

Tennessee was the media's favorite to win the East with 172 total points (23 first-place votes), ahead of second-place Florida's 143 points (five first-place votes). Florida returns four starters, including seven of its top eight scorers, from last year's 24-win team. Kentucky, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Georgia round out the top six.

In the West, Alabama's 151 total points (11 first-place votes) were slightly ahead of LSU's 147 points (11 first-place votes). Ole Miss received eight first place votes and were picked third with 136 points. Alabama returns a total of nine letterwinners from last year's squad. LSU returns 10 lettermen and a total of five starters for new head coach Trent Johnson while Ole Miss brings back three starters from last year's team that advanced to the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament. Mississippi State, Auburn and Arkansas round out the top six in the West.

Tennessee junior forward Tyler Smith was the choice of the media for SEC Men's Basketball Player of the Year with 17 votes, followed by nine votes for Kentucky sophomore Patrick Patterson. South Carolina junior guard Devan Downey received two votes while LSU senior guard Marcus Thornton and Florida sophomore guard/forward Nick Calathes each garnered one vote.

Smith, Patterson, Downey and Calathes were joined on the All-SEC First Team by Vanderbilt sophomore center A.J. Ogilvy.

LSU's Thornton led All-SEC Second Team honors and was joined by Mississippi State junior forward/center Jarvis Varnado, Alabama senior guard Ron Steele, LSU junior forward Tasmin Mitchell, Ole Miss sophomore guard Chris Warren and Alabama senior guard Alonzo Gee.

Points were compiled on a 6-5-4-3-2-1 basis for each division. Each media member also voted for one team as an overall conference champion and a five-player All-SEC Team.

The 2008-09 SEC Media Preseason Poll tips off SEC Basketball Media Days, Wednesday and Thursday, at the Birmingham Marriott. The 2008-09 season begins November 14, with conference play set to begin January 10. The 2009 SEC Tournament will be held March 12-15 at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla.

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