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Florida Gators preseason pick to win SEC basketball title

GAINESVILLE — If you're among the growing number of disgruntled Gator fans trying to figure out how it all went so wrong with the football team, take solace: Basketball season is just around the corner.

And apparently lots of people think the Gators will be pretty good.

Florida was predicted to win the overall SEC men's basketball championship in voting by a select panel of SEC and national media members, released Monday by the league office.

Every starter returns — G Kenny Boynton, G Erving Walker, F Chandler Parsons, F Alex Tyus and F/C Vernon Macklin — and UF had one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. Boynton and Parsons are preseason second-team All-SEC selections.

The media picked Florida to win the East with 110 total points (13 first-place votes). Kentucky had 95 points (three first-place votes). Georgia (72 points) and Tennessee (71) followed, while Vanderbilt and South Carolina rounded out the top six.

In the West, Mississippi State had 118 points (18 first-place votes), and Ole Miss had 84 points (two first-place votes). Alabama was picked third with 82 points. Arkansas, LSU and Auburn round out the top six in the West.

Despite the preseason hype, the Gators aren't buying in.

"It's just expectations," said Parsons, a senior. "Obviously we like that we're getting hype, but we haven't earned anything. I think we definitely have a lot of potential; I think we have a chance to be great, but it's going to require us coming in here every day and getting better and not really looking at those expectations. Anything can happen and every game is going to be a war, so as long as we continue to work hard and get better every day, I think we'll be there at the end."

Still some success: The football team might be struggling, but several other programs are thriving. The volleyball team is ranked No. 1 in the nation, as is the men's golf team (which is participating in fall play). The No. 13 soccer team, picked to repeat as the SEC champion, is coming off two big wins over Tennessee and Georgia last week and begins its final full week of SEC play Thursday at LSU — still in contention for the league title.

Celebrating 700: Coach Mary Wise on Sunday became the 16th coach in Division I women's volleyball history with 700 career wins. Wise is 700-131 (.842) in her 25th season as a head coach. Her resume includes 18 SEC titles, seven Final Four appearances and 18 NCAA region semifinal berths in the past 19 years. "(It means) that I'm really old," Wise, 51, said Monday when asked about the significance. "In the grand scheme, it gives us a chance to stop and take a timeout to say thanks to all of the talented players that have come through this program, who said yes to Florida. All of the terrific assistant coaches and support staff, people behind the scenes who help us. I think that's the best part of it, that it gives us a chance to stop and say thanks."

Protecting Henry: Last year at this time, P Chas Henry was in the middle of a superb season in which he finished as one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award. This year, injuries have forced Henry into triple duty: kickoffs, punts and field goals — and it has been a struggle. Henry missed a field goal Oct. 9, then Saturday night he missed two field goals, including a 42-yarder that could have tied the score against Mississippi State with four seconds remaining. His teammates were quick to rush to his defense.

"Chas, he's been a great player," C Mike Pouncey said. "He's been starting since a freshman. It's a tough loss. He missed it. We're not going to point any fingers at him because obviously we had chances to score and don't put him in those kind of situations. He missed, and we're behind Chas 100 percent."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

Florida Gators preseason pick to win SEC basketball title 10/18/10 [Last modified: Monday, October 18, 2010 8:41pm]
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