Missouri basketball coach Cuonzo Martin believes he has an NCAA Tournament team that can challenge for the Southeastern Conference championship this year. The voters on the media preseason SEC poll aren’t convinced.
The Tigers were picked 13th in the league preseason poll, ahead of only Vanderbilt. Martin has added several reinforcements to last year’s 15-17 team, led by point guard transfer Dru Smith, but outside expectations haven’t matched Martin’s confidence in his third Mizzou roster. The Tigers were 5-13 in the SEC last year and finished 12th, ahead of Georgia and Vanderbilt.
The Tigers return seven of their top nine scorers from last season and add Smith, a transfer from Evansville, plus three freshmen who could impact the rotation.
For the ninth straight season, the media panel picked Kentucky to win the conference and the 15th time since 1998-99. Florida was picked second, followed by LSU, Auburn, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Mizzou and Vanderbilt.
Auburn is coming off an SEC tournament title and its first Final Four in team history. Tennessee won the SEC regular-season championship but must replace four of five starters.
Missouri was blanked on the preseason All-SEC teams.
Florida forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. was named the preseason SEC player of the year. The transfer from Virginia Tech averaged 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds for the ACC program last year. He’s joined on the All-SEC first team by Georgia freshman guard Anthony Edwards, Kentucky sophomore guard Ashton Hagans, Ole Miss senior guard Breein Tyree and Mississippi State sophomore forward Reggie Perry.
The second-team picks were ALabama guard Kira Lewis Jr., Arkansas guard Isaiah Joe, Florida guard Andrew Nembhard, Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky forward E.J. Montgomery, LSU guard Skylar Mays and Tennessee guard Lamonte Turner.