Tennessee forward Uros Plavsic (33) works for a shot against South Carolina forward Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

SEC Dominates in Preseason AP Top 25 Rankings

The annual AP Top 25 Men’s Basketball preseason rankings have been released. Five teams in the SEC found themselves ranked within the Top 25, the most of any conference.

SEC Contenders

Tennessee (9), Arkansas (14), Texas A&M (15), Kentucky (16) and Alabama (24) all will head into the season ranked. Each of these teams are coming off of winning 2022-2023 seasons.

Tennessee was the only SEC team to be ranked within the top 10. The Volunteers are in a great position heading into the season with several key players returning. Junior guard Zakai Zeigler is returning for his third season and will likely be a leader for this Tennessee squad. Ziegler led the team in assists last season prior to a season-ending injury and plays a pivotal role in the offense.

Alabama is an SEC team that has seen a large drop in the rankings compared to last season, while still being inside the Top 25. The Crimson Tide ranked as high as No.1 in the AP rankings last season but have lost key players heading into this one. Former Alabama star forward Brandon Miller entered the 2023 NBA Draft and was drafted third overall by the Charlotte Hornets.

Although they lost their best player, the Crimson Tide are still expected to be competitive this year. They have the benefit of senior guard Mark Sears, the team’s second leading scorer last season, returning and facing lowered expectations.

Kentucky Outlook

Kentucky enters this season ranked outside of the top 10, which is slightly lower than the team is used to. The Wildcats are one of the proudest programs in all of college basketball and seem to find themselves in contention for the top spot in the SEC every year.

The absence of forward Oscar Tshiebwe will be something Kentucky will have to adjust to. Tshiebwe consistently led the team in rebounds and produced numerous double-double performances. Despite this, the Wildcats are still expected to compete under head coach John Calipari in a crucial season.

Kentucky will have eight freshmen on scholarship during the 2023-2024 season. Although the Wildcats typically play a high number of freshmen, they do lack some veteran presence. However, some good news for the Wildcats is the return of fifth-year guard Antonio Reeves who brings some of that leadership and experience to the team. Reeves shot 56.3% from three-point-range in Kentucky’s exhibition games and will likely step into a larger role this season.

2023-2024 Men’s Basketball Season

Men’s basketball has seen a shift toward teams relying on more veteran players heading into this season. More players appear to be choosing to stay at their universities than they typically have in the past. This should lead to some very interesting matchups and more consistent play for teams throughout the 2023-2024 season.

Although these preseason rankings are certain to change, the SEC looks to be one of the strongest conferences in college basketball this season.

About Austin Stirling

Austin Stirling is a third-year journalism major with a sports media focus. He is aspiring for a career in sports media writing, production or sports content creation. Contact him at austinstirlingg@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @austinstirlingg

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