Tennessee, the Eastern Division favorite, was picked to win the overall championship with 19 votes, followed by Arkansas with four, Kentucky three and Florida two.
Arkansas, which went 19-15 last year and played in the NCAA Tournament for the 12th time in 13 years, received 23 of 30 first-place votes to get the nod in the Western Division. Alabama is second, followed by Mississippi State, Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss.
“I have thrived my entire career on wanting to be picked on top,” head coach Nolan Richardson says. “Picking us on top means nothing until the end of the season, but I can tell the players this is where (the media) said we should be, now let’s make prophets of them. We haven’t proven anything, but they think Arkansas is back and that’s part of the battle.”
Tennessee received 21 first-place votes in the Eastern Division with Kentucky second and Florida third, followed by South Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt.
The Razorbacks, who won the SEC Tournament championship last year, return 11 of 12 lettermen, including Johnson, last year’s SEC Newcomer of the Year and a Basketball Times freshman All-American after averaging 16.0 points and 5.7 rebounds a game.
“Joe has a chance to be the Player of the Year, in the conference and in the country,” Richardson says. “Joe has risen to the top without playing an entire season. It’s the same for him as it is with the team. He’s put himself in position to be successful, now let’s go prove it.”
Johnson received 24 votes followed by Tennessee’s Vincent Yarbrough with two, and Kentucky’s Keith Bogans and Tennessee’s Tony Harris with one each.
Johnson, Yarbrough, Harris, Florida’s Udonis Haslem and Kentucky’s Tayshaun Prince were named first-team All-SEC. The second team consists of Bogans, D.A. Layne of Georgia, Alabama’s Rod Grizzard, South Carolina’s Chuck Eidson and Vanderbilt’s Greg LaPointe.
SEC Preseason Poll
Mississippi State (1)
Player of the Year: Joe Johnson, Arkansas (24); Vincent Yarbrough, Tennessee (2), Keith Bogans, Tennessee (1), Tony Harris, Tennessee (1)
G Joe Johnson, Arkansas (30)
G Tony Harris, Tennessee (20)
C Udonis Haslem, Florida (20)
F Vincent Yarbrough, Tennessee (26)
F Tayshaun Prince, Kentucky (15)
G D.A. Layne, Georgia (9)
G Keith Bogans, Kentucky (4)
C Rod Grizzard, Alabama (4)
F Chuck Eidson, South Carolina (3)
F Greg LaPointe, Vanderbilt (3)