Some conferences have an obvious preseason favorite. For instance, in the Big East, it’s clearly Jay Wright’s Villanova Wildcats. In the Pac-12, it’s clearly Mick Cronin’s UCLA Bruins. But nothing seems quite as certain in the SEC, where at least four schools can reasonably be labeled the team to beat in the league.
It’s a total toss-up on paper.
The pick of our CBS Sports panel of writers is Alabama — but I personally voted for Arkansas. Then there’s Kentucky, which was the leading vote-getter in the official SEC Media Poll published earlier this month. And then there’s Tennessee, which is the highest-rated SEC team at both KenPom.com and BartTorvik.com. Another thing that suggests it should be a tight race is how I have those four schools ranked 10th (Arkansas), 12th (Alabama), 14th (Kentucky) and 20th (Tennessee) in the CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 And 1. In other words, in my mind at least, there’s not much separating the Razorbacks, Crimson Tide, Wildcats and Volunteers. So it should be a fun race in the SEC, where Alabama has a chance to win back-to-back regular-season league titles, Kentucky needs to bounce-back from a disastrous 2020-21 season, Arkansas is trying to advance to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year, and Tennessee is attempting to play in its fourth straight NCAA Tournament under Rick Barnes.
CBS Sports SEC Preseason Player of the Year
Jahvon Quinerly, Alabama
Quinerly is a great example of how sometimes it just takes time for five-star prospects to figure things out at this level. Sure, a handful each year are instant-stars like Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley were last season. But for others, like Quinerly, success doesn’t come quite as easily — evidence being how the five-star point guard from the Class of 2018 averaged just 3.2 points in 9.1 minutes per game as a freshman at Villanova. After that disappointing season, Quinerly transferred to…