By Kevin McPherson

LITTLE ROCK — The 10th-ranked Arkansas men’s basketball team was picked to finish second during the upcoming 2022-23 SEC season behind No. 4 Kentucky by a select panel of both SEC and national media members, it was announced on Wednesday during the SEC media event for basketball in Birmingham, Ala.

Arkansas freshman Nick Smith, Jr. (6-5 guard, Jacksonville native) was selected preseason All SEC first team, which is a program first as previously no Arkansas freshman had been picked preseason All SEC first or second team. Smith adds the honor to being named the preseason national Newcomer of the Year by Blue Ribbon Sports, USA Today national high school player of the year in ’21-22, the top-rated incoming college freshman by multiple national outlets, and generally slotted as the top mock-draft projected true freshman college player to be selected in the 2023 NBA Draft next June.

Not since the ’07-08 season when they were tabbed to win the Western Division have the Razorbacks been picked by the media to finish so high in league play. The top 5 SEC teams as picked by the media fell in the same order of how those teams were ranked relative to each other in Monday’s first Associated Press Top 25 poll of the ’22-23 season: Kentucky (AP No. 4, SEC No. 1); Arkansas (AP No. 10, SEC No. 2); Tennessee (AP No. 11, SEC No. 3); Auburn (AP No. 15, SEC No. 4); and Alabama (AP No. 20, SEC No. 5).

The Razorbacks face all four of the preseason ranked SEC foes a total of six times — twice at home (Kentucky and Alabama) and four times on the road (Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, and Auburn).

Smith becomes the 11th Razorback to earn first team preseason All-SEC honors joining Todd Day (1991-92), Scotty Thurman (1993-94 and 1994-95, Corliss Williamson (1993-94 and 1994-95), Joe Johnson (2000-01), Ronnie Brewer (2005-06), Patrick Beverley (2007-080), BJ Young (2012-13), Bobby Portis (2014-15), Moses Kingsley (2016-17), and Daniel Gafford (2018-19).

More on the media’s league voting: Team points were compiled on a 14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis, and each media member voted for a five-player All-SEC Team. Ties were not broken.

Coming off its annual Red/White game at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville on Sunday, Arkansas will face Rogers State in a home exhibition game at 7 p.m. CT on Monday, Oct. 24, at Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks’ second exhibition game will be at 12th-ranked Texas on Saturday, Oct. 29, to help open the Longhorn’s new Moody Center. The fourth season under head coach Eric Musselman officially begins at home at 7 p.m. CT on Monday, Nov. 7, against North Dakota State.

First Team Preseason All-SEC

Nick Smith, Jr.  – Arkansas

Colin Castleton – Florida

Oscar Tshiebwe – Kentucky

Sahvir Wheeler – Kentucky

Santiago Vescovi – Tennessee

Second Team Preseason All-SEC

Brandon Miller – Alabama

Jahvon Quinerly – Alabama

KJ Williams – LSU

Josiah Jordan-James – Tennessee

Zakai Zeigler – Tennessee

SEC Preseason Player of the Year

Oscar Tshiebwe – Kentucky

Predicted Order of Finish

1. Kentucky

2. Arkansas

3. Tennessee

4. Auburn

5. Alabama

6. Texas A&M

7. Florida

8. LSU

9. Ole Miss

10. Mississippi State

11. Missouri

12. Vanderbilt

13. Georgia

14. South Carolina