Vols picked to win SEC

Published 11:51 am Wednesday, October 18, 2023

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One day after claiming a top-10 spot in both major national polls, the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team was tabbed as the Southeastern Conference preseason favorite by a select panel of both SEC and national media members.

This is the fifth time the Volunteers have been picked to win the league since polling began 1989-90, with each nod coming since the turn of the century in advance of the 2000-01 season. Tennessee’s five first-place selections during that time are more than the combined total of every other program in the league except for Kentucky, as Florida (twice) and Alabama (once) are the only schools that have taken the pole position besides the Vols and Wildcats.

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This is the second time in the past four seasons Tennessee has been tabbed atop the league, as it previously garnered the recognition in 2020-21, 2008-09, 2007-08 and 2000-01.

In addition, two Vols received all-league accolades, as fifth-year guard Santiago Vescovi earned Preseason First Team All-SEC status and junior guard Zakai Zeigler earned Preseason Second Team All-SEC plaudits. Both collected the same designations in advance of last season.

Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and Kentucky were the only four schools with multiple selections among the 12 honorees. Seven players made the cut for first team due to a tie in the voting.

This is the sixth time, including the second in a row, multiple Vols have made the cut, joining the 2022-23, 2018-19, 2013-14, 2012-13 and 2000-01 seasons.

Additionally, Vescovi is the fifth multiple-time Preseason First Team All-SEC designee in program history—the polling for this also began in 1989-90—alongside Allan Houston (thrice), Tony Harris (thrice), Chris Lofton and Tyler Smith. Meanwhile, Zeigler is the eighth Vol to pick up multiple Preseason All-SEC honors, a list that also features Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes.

Vescovi averaged 12.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game last season, while Zeigler recorded 10.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.0 steals per contest for the Vols. Their play helped Tennessee go 25-11 (11-7 SEC) in 2022-23, a campaign that ended with a Sweet 16 appearance and a No. 20/16 national ranking.

SEC preseason poll

1. Tennessee

2. Texas A&M

3. Arkansas

4. Kentucky

5. Alabama

6. Auburn

7. Mississippi State

8. Florida

9. Missouri

10. Ole Miss

11. Vanderbilt

12. Georgia

13. LSU

14. South Carolina

Preseason All-SEC

First Team

Grant Nelson, Alabama

Trevon Brazile, Arkansas

Johni Broome, Auburn

Justin Edwards, Kentucky

Tolu Smith, Mississippi State

Santiago Vescovi, Tennessee

Wade Taylor IV, Texas A&M (SEC Preseason Player of the Year)

Second Team

Mark Sears, Alabama

Davonte Davis, Arkansas

Riley Kugel, Florida

Antonio Reeves, Kentucky

Zakai Zeigler, Tennessee