Calipari, Wildcats preseason favorites to win SEC title

John Calipari
Kentucky coach John Calipari says his top four veterans will be counted on to carry the load this season. (Kentucky Today/Keith Taylor)

By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky has been picked to win the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday in a poll conducted by the league’s media members.

The Wildcats were picked to finish ahead of Florida, LSU and Auburn. Tennessee was fifth, followed by Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Missouri and Vanderbilt.

Florida’s Kerry Blackshear was chosen was preseason Player of the Year, while Ashton Hagans joined Blackshear, Anthony Edwards (Georgia), Berlin Tyree (Ole Miss) and Reggie Perry (Mississippi State) in the All-SEC First-team.

Hagans shared the 2019 SEC Defensive Player of the Year award after inducing 61 steals during his freshman campaign and is considered one of the best on-ball defenders in college basketball. He is also UK’s leading returning scorer at 7.7 points per game. The 6-foot-3 guard was a two-time SEC Freshman of the Week award winner, was named to The Athletic’s All-Glue Team and was a Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist.

Tyrese Maxey and EJ Montgomery were named to the second team.

Maxey, a 6-foot-3 guard was tabbed Texas Mr. Basketball and was the Dallas-Fort Worth Area Player of the Year. He was a two-time All-State selection and was a 2019 McDonald’s All American. His success stretches beyond high school basketball as he also won a gold medal as a member of the U18 USA Team.

Montgomery returned for his sophomore season after considering a jump to the pro ranks following positive feedback from the NBA. He appeared in all 37 games for the Wildcats during his freshman season, including making 10 starts. He started in nine of UK’s final 11 games and the Wildcats were 9-1 during that stretch.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at or twitter @keithtaylor21.