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October 20, 2008STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State men's basketball team was picked to finished fourth in the SEC's Western Division Monday as voted on by a select panel of 30 media members, while junior forward Jarvis Varnado was named second-team All-SEC.
MSU, the two-time defending Western Division champions, posted a 23-11 ledger last season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament as Rick Stansbury became the school's all-time winningest coach with 208 victories.
Alabama was tabbed to finish first, followed by LSU and Ole Miss, with Auburn and Arkansas coming in at fifth and sixth, respectively.
Tennessee was selected to win the regular-season crown, while Vols junior forward Tyler Smith was the media's choice for player of the year honors. Picked second was Florida , followed by Kentucky , Vanderbilt , South Carolina and Georgia .
The 6-foot-9 Varnado started all 34 games a year ago for the Bulldogs and averaged 7.9 points and 7.8 rebounds. But where he made a name for himself was blocking shots. He totaled a school-record 157, tops in the country en route to being named both the SEC and national defensive player of the year.
The Bulldogs, who began their 97th season of basketball with the start of practice on Oct. 17, open the 2008-09 campaign at 6 p.m. on Nov. 1 at home against Montevallo in exhibition play. The regular-season opener is set for Nov. 15 at Humphrey Coliseum against Centenary.