BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Kentucky is favored to repeat as the Southeastern Conference women’s basketball champions.
The Wildcats received 376 points in voting by league and national media, released Tuesday.
Georgia received 352 points for second, followed by Vanderbilt (336) and Tennessee (316).
This season marks the first year the Wildcats have been selected preseason champions since the inception of the polls in the 1990-91 season.
“Four years ago we were picked 11th so it at least gives you some idea that progress is being made for the program. I’m confident that our fans are excited about that and take pride that we are now considered to be a good program,” said UK coach Matthew Mitchell.
Mitchell enters his sixth season at the helm of UK Hoops after leading the Wildcats to a 28-7 (13-3 SEC) mark last season and the program’s second regular season SEC title and first since 1982. UK also advanced to its second NCAA Tournament Elite Eight in the last three seasons.
Kentucky has four starters back from a team that made the regional finals, including SEC player of the year A’dia Mathies and freshman of the year Bria Goss. Guard Jennifer O’Neill returns after sitting out last season with injury and transfer forward DeNesha Stallworth is eligible after transferring from California. UK junior Samarie Walker was named to the All-SEC second team.
Mathies received 20 of 26 votes for player of the year.
“The program has transformed in front of our eyes during the time she has been on campus so I would be happy if she could cap it off with the best year of her career,” Mitchell said. “I think if she’ll work and be connected with her teammates, I think she has enough around her that we could elevate her game to another level.”
Other All-SEC first-teamers are Florida’s Jennifer George, Georgia’s Anne Marie Armstrong, Texas A&M’s Kelsey Bone and Vanderbilt’s Christina Foggie. Foggie, George and Armstrong received player of the year votes.
Joining Walker on the All-SEC second team were Sarah Watkins of Arkansas, Jasmine Hassell of Georgia, Ieasia Walker of South Carolina and Tennessee’s Meighan Simmons.
The Wildcats open up the 2012-13 season with an exhibition game against Bellarmine on Monday, Nov. 5, at 6 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum. Admission is free.