If the players in the SEC have any true sense of the future of their conference, the Georgia Bulldogs men's basketball team is going to win the conference championship this year.
"According to most polls, Kentucky and Florida are the SEC's teams to beat. Not in ours: the Wildcats finished in a tie for third, just behind the Gators and well back of the players' choice, upstart Georgia, which gets 42.9% of the vote. 'You watch, Georgia is really going to surprise some people,' says an SEC colleague.'"
So says ESPN the Magazine in their college football preview issue, which came out earlier this week. I don't have the stats in front of me, but I'd say the esteem for the Dawgs is at an all-time high. They took the honors in three of the four big questions that ESPN asked players to answer anonymously.
• Mark Fox won the Best Coach vote, with 33.3 percent naming the Dawgs 2nd-year coach. "I'd love to play for Fox – he seems like he connects with his guys," the Mag quoted a player as saying.
• Trey Thompkins was the unanimous choice as the conference's best player.
• And the team got 42.9 percent of the vote when players were asked who will win the conference. The were ahead of Florida (28.7 percent), Kentucky (14.2) and Tennessee (14.2).
The only question that the Bulldogs didn't win was regarding who the league's best trash talker is. That went to Mississippi State guard Dee Bost.
The respect for the Dawgs makes perfect sense based on the fact that they are the only team in the league with two potential lottery picks, and they have four returning starters. But the national media is always slow to recognize talent over tradition, as exemplified by ESPN the Mag's "voice of reason" Hubert Davis, who picks Florida to win the league and Tennessee's Scotty Hopson as its best player.