Riley Kugel against Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament on March 9. Photo courtesy of Maddie Washburn.

Gators Basketball Picked to Finish Eighth in SEC; Riley Kugel Named to All-SEC Second Team

Tuesday, the Florida Gators men’s basketball team was selected to finish eighth in the 2023-24 Southeastern Conference Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll. Moreover, Gators guard Riley Kugel was named to the Preseason All-SEC Second Team. Selections were voted by a panel of national and SEC media members.

Preseason Poll

The Tennessee Volunteers were picked to win the 2024 SEC Championship. Last season, the Volunteers were ousted in the quarterfinals by Missouri in the SEC Tournament. Tennessee had two players selected to the Preseason All-SEC teams. Santiago Vescovi, a fifth-year, was named to the All-SEC First Team, and junior Zakai Ziegler joins Kugel on the All-SEC Second Team.

Texas A&M, Arkansas, Kentucky and Alabama round out the top five, while Florida sits behind Auburn and Mississippi State, who are picked to finish sixth and seventh.

Nationally, the SEC has the most team’s in the AP Top 25 with five teams.

Kugel and the Gators

Kugel, who headlines Florida’s roster this season, averaged 9.9 points and earned SEC All-Freshman honors. In SEC play, he averaged 12.6 points per game and played his best during the second half of the season.

Last season, Florida finished 16-17 and 9-9 in conference play in head coach Todd Golden’s first season with the team. The Gators have not made an NCAA Tournament since 2021, but Golden brought in multiple transfers this offseason with Kugel leading an experience group.

Specifically, five players transferred to Florida in the offseason. Julian Rishwain, Zyon Pullin, Walter Clayton Jr., Micah Handlogten and Tyreese Samuel joined the team. Additionally, E.J. Jarvis also transferred to the Gators in the offseason, but he announced Oct. 6 he is stepping away from basketball and will not play this year.

Individual Players

Besides Kugel, Florida had no additional players named to the preseason teams. Wade Taylor IV, a junior guard for Texas A&M, was picked to win SEC Player of the Year.

Vescovi, Taylor IV, Grant Nelson (Alabama), Trevon Brazile (Arkansas), Johni Broome (Auburn), Justin Edwards (Kentucky) and Tolu Smith (Mississippi State) were all named to the first team.

Season Start

The NCAA basketball season begins Nov. 6, and conference play is set to start on Jan. 6. The Gators will open their season against Loyola Maryland Nov. 6.

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