BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Southeastern Conference coaches have made Tennessee the preseason favorite to win the league title.
Tennessee, the SEC’s defending regular-season champion, received 11 of the 14 first-place votes in the coaches’ poll that was released Tuesday. Kentucky, picked to finish second, received the other three first-place votes. LSU was picked to finish third and Vanderbilt fourth. South Carolina and Texas A&M tied for fifth in the balloting.
Coaches also named Tennessee guard Meighan Simmons the preseason player of the year. Simmons received seven votes. Kentucky’s DeNesha Stallworth and LSU’s Theresa Plaisance got three votes each. Vanderbilt’s Christina Foggie earned the remaining vote.
Simmons, Stallworth, Plaisance and Foggie earned first-team all-conference honors along with South Carolina’s Aleighsa Welch, Tennessee’s Bashaara Graves, Texas A&M’s Courtney Walker and Vanderbilt’s Jasmine Lister.
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The fourth-ranked Lady Vols looked the part in Monday’s exhibition game. Bashaara Graves had 21 points, 11 rebounds and five steals to lead six Tennessee players in double figures as they trounced Carson-Newman 115-31.
Tennessee freshmen Jordan Reynolds and Mercedes Russell combined for 33 points off the bench. Reynolds had 17 points. Russell, a 6-foot-6 center rated as the nation’s top prospect in her class by multiple recruiting services, had 16 points and four blocks in 20 minutes.
Meighan Simmons added 14 points for the Lady Vols. Cierra Burdick and Isabelle Harrison had 12 each. Jai Jai McLaughlin had eight for Carson-Newman, which shot 15.8 percent (9 of 57) and committed 33 turnovers.
Tennessee opens the regular season Friday at Middle Tennessee. The Lady Vols beat Middle Tennessee 88-81 in overtime at home last season.