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Oct. 20, 2008

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The South Carolina men’s basketball team was picked to finish fifth in the East Division of the Southeastern Conference, while junior guard Devan Downey was selected to the Preseason All-SEC First Team according to the SEC Men’s Basketball Preseason Media Poll and Awards that were announced today. Tennessee was predicted to defend its 2008 Southeastern Conference men’s basketball championship.

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 East.

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 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 Ronald Steele, LSU junior forward Tasmin Mitchell, Ole Miss sophomore guard Chris Warren and Alabama senior guard Alonzo Gee.

Voting is done 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.

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, October 22-23 at the Birmingham Marriott in Alabama. 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.

Preseason Media Poll
(First-Place Votes in Parentheses; *-unanimous selection)

SEC Champion: Tennessee (23); Florida (5); Kentucky (2)

Eastern Division
2007-08 Results

Poll SEC Overall
Tennessee (23) 172 14-2 31-5
Florida (5) 143 8-8 24-12
Kentucky (2) 130 12-4 18-13
Vanderbilt 88 10-6 26-8
South Carolina 56 5-11 14-18
Georgia 41 4-12 17-17

Western Division
2007-08 Results

Poll SEC Overall
Alabama (11) 151 5-11 17-16
LSU (11) 147 6-10 13-18
Ole Miss (8) 136 7-9 24-11
Miss. State 91 12-4 23-11
Auburn 54 4-12 14-16
Arkansas 51 9-7 23-12
FIRST TEAM ALL-SEC Pos. Ht. Wt. Cl. Hometown
Patrick Patterson, Kentucky F 6-9 235 So. Huntington, W.Va.
Tyler Smith, Tennessee F 6-7 215 Jr. Pulaski, Tenn.
Nick Calathes, Florida G/F 6-6 194 So. Casselberry, Fla.
Devan Downey, South Carolina G 5-9 175 Jr. Chester, S.C.
A.J. Ogilvy, Vanderbilt C 6-11 250 So. Sydney, Australia
SECOND TEAM ALL-SEC Pos. Ht. Wt. Cl. Hometown
Marcus Thornton, LSU G 6-4 205 Sr. Baton Rouge, La.
Jarvis Varnado, Miss. State F/C 6-9 210 Jr. Brownsville, Tenn.
Ronald Steele, Alabama G 6-1 191 Sr. Birmingham, Ala.
Tasmin Mitchell, LSU F 6-7 240 Jr. Denham Springs, La.
Chris Warren, Ole Miss G 5-10 160 So. Orlando, Fla.
Alonzo Gee, Alabama G 6-6 219 Sr. Palm Beach, Fla.