Preseason media conference polls are almost as meaningless as preseason conference coaches' polls, so there's no reason to get all up in arms about this. Though I'm betting Kentucky fans will anyway.
Any perceived slight from the media causes parts of Big Blue Nation to take on an "us vs. the world" posture that makes its most prominent bloggers sound like fringe cable news talk show hosts. The media is out to get us! It's a conspiracy against UK basketball! Plenty of college hoops fans from around the country are totally insane (and many more are totally sane), but only in Kentucky, it seems, are fans so passionate as to believe there's some sort of national plot against them and their head coach. God bless 'em.
Anyway, I have a feeling the 2010-11 SEC preseason media poll won't help matters much. And in this case, anyway, Kentucky fans have a legitimate beef: The media picked its preseason conference favorites from the SEC, and with eight first-place votes, it selected ... the Florida Gators.
Of course, that's actually not an outlandish selection. Florida returns all five starters and has the No. 13-ranked recruiting class (and one of the best interior prospects in that class, forward Patric Young) arriving on campus this fall. Kentucky, meanwhile, is an incredibly talented team, but without word on forward Enes Kanter, the Wildcats will be a bit undersized and a bit too reliant on inexperienced guards to consider them an absolute lock to win the conference title. Do I think they will? I do. But it's certainly a fair debate.
Where Kentucky fans might take real umbrage is where they actually end up in the poll. With two first-place votes, the Wildcats ended up third -- behind Mississippi State. That should get the blood boiling. The Bulldogs will feature talented big man Renardo Sidney, and benefit from the lucky return of guard Dee Bost, but is that group really better than Kentucky's freshmen? Yikes.
Kentucky fans aren't the only ones with a beef. Tennessee received but two first-place votes as well, and while the Volunteers lost a trio (Wayne Chism, Bobby Maze, J.P. Prince) of important talent from last year's team, they also have a very talented squad returning. Vanderbilt, which lost A.J. Ogilvy but retained talented inside-out duo Jeffrey Taylor and John Jenkins, didn't register a single first-place vote.
It's possible the voters are merely taking the SEC's lopsided divisions into account. If that's the case, given just how putrid most of the SEC West projects to be, the Mississippi State votes almost makes sense.
Either way, if you would have told me that, Kanter or no, Kentucky would be so far behind Florida -- not to mention stuck behind Mississippi State -- in what is basically a 2010-11 preseason expectations poll, I would have been shocked. But don't underestimate the impact of Enes Kanter. With him, I'm betting the votes aren't quite so lopsided.
Anyway, John Calipari loves to manufacture lowered expectations. Maybe this is right where he wants to be.