Well, we have waited all year for this. We have listened to our radios and computer speakers, spent money on PPV events, watched ESPN without fail, and caught every game on SEC TV that we can. The wait is over. The 2013 SEC Women’s Basketball Tourney is about to begin.
The thing about tournaments is that they rarely go exactly as expected. There is always a fly in the ointment somewhere. A team that has no business sticking around until the end usually does, but we have no idea who they will be and how they will do it. Let’s see what we can determine about this year’s field.
I am going to approach this backwards from usual and tell you up front: My call is that Kentucky and Tennessee are going to be left standing come Sunday’s Championship, and a rematch of last Sunday’s game will be there for the taking. Injuries will play a part, however, and if Tennessee cannot get healthy by Friday, then all bets are off.
Alas, before I forget, and before we start getting down to the nitty gritty, here is your printable bracket.
Wednesday, #12 Mississippi State plays #13 Alabama in the play-in game. Alabama is reeling, having lost their last two games by an average of 29 points. MSU is not a lot better, but they did beat Georgia last week, showing some progress. I am liking the Lady Bulldogs to roll the Tide. That puts Mississippi St. in the unenviable position of winning 5 games in 5 days to take the crown. I just don’t see that happening.
Thursday’s action starts with #8 Arkansas and #9 Florida at noon. Florida just defeated Arkansas at home on their Senior Day. I have never liked picking teams to win a tourney game that just came off of a loss, but I think Arkansas can pull this off. Razorbacks in a close one. they move on to face Tennessee.
The next game I believe will feature the above mentioned MSU against #5 South Carolina. South Carolina is an NCAA Tournament team sitting right now as a #4/5 in most brackets. They have too much firepower for Mississippi State. This game should end a long season for MSU.
The game that follows, is the one I think will be the game of the day. #10 Missouri takes on #7 Vanderbilt at 6:00PM. Melanie Balcomb hates losing. Despises it. Her team, however, is not as much against it as she is, at least by their record. Mizzou is not as good as Vandy on paper, but they are playing some of their best basketball right now. I am picking the Tigers in an upset.
In the final game of the day, #11 Auburn takes on #6 LSU. This one will not be close in my opinion. LSU in a romp. Auburn is in the game due to an automatic bye when Ole Miss took itself out of postseason play with their self-imposed sanctions. I just don’t think that the Lady Tigers from Auburn hold the keys to defeating the Lady Tigers from the bayou.
This brings us to Friday and the meat and potatoes portion of this tournament. There will be fortunes made and lost on this day. Remember what I said earlier about Tennessee and their injuries? This is where the rubber meets the road.
Arkansas, in my opinion, takes on #1 Tennessee at noon on Friday. If Tennessee is healthy and ready for battle, this game will not be much of a challenge for them. If they are not, Arkansas will give the Volunteers all they can handle. Either way, I am picking UT to win.
South Carolina, I believe, will face the Texas A&M Aggies at 2:30PM. These two teams are about as evenly matched as they can be. Carolina took a 2 point loss back on February 10th, in a game that was a chess match all day. Carolina plays that "pound you into submission" defense, and A&M plays hard nosed as well. This game will be ugly and mean. I am going to give it to A&M as I have them being the other team most likely to face the Cats in the finals.
I am of the mind that it will be Missouri facing #2 Kentucky in the 6:00PM game on Friday. The Tigers will be coming off of a battle with Vandy the night before, and UK is going to be rested, healthy, and hungry to prove something in this tournament. Mizzou will not survive the onslaught. Cats in a rout.
LSU should be the team facing #3 Georgia in the 8:30PM game. Georgia is a good basketball team, matter of fact, a very good basketball team that is looking to improve their seeding in the NCAA Tournament. LSU is also in the tourney, but not in a place where they will move up or down much. I am taking the Lady Bulldogs in a battle against the Lady Tigers.
Saturday’s semi-finals are going to be the top 4 seeds. Yes, I know I said something about the unexpected, however, there is a pretty clear line between the top 4 SEC teams and the rest of the field this year. Tennessee and A&M ought to be the combatants on the first matchup at 4:00PM. This is where things begin to tighten up for Tennessee. Again, injuries are the deciding factor. A healthy Tennessee wins this one in a close battle. An unhealthy Tennessee goes down in a close battle. The Vols have defied the odds all year, and I am picking them to do it again here. Tennessee to the finals.
The UK Hoops Squad and Georgia at 6:00PM are the teams I feel are playing what may end up being the game of the tournament. Both teams are healthy and ready to go, and both are fighting for a better seed than they presently have. The Cats, however, are on a mission from on high. Kentucky defeats Georgia in a barnburner.
Sunday is either going to be the game we have been waiting for all year, or something that most teams hate to face. Should A&M get past an injury depleted Tennessee team the day before, Kentucky will have to beat the Aggies for the third time this season. that is a feat that no coach wants to attempt. After two games in a season, almost any coach can come up with a game plan against anybody. If they have the personnel to execute it, then everything is on the side of the underdog. If Tennessee is healthy, then we have a whole other story.
Healthy or not, Tennessee will be somewhat patched up by Sunday. That team, with the injuries they have, cannot become 100% healthy in a week. They can, however, get themselves much healthier than they are right now. Come Sunday, in order to play in this game, that team will have to have defeated Arkansas and Texas A&M on consecutive nights. Healthy or not, that takes a toll. Kentucky will have played Mizzou and Georgia, and they also will be somewhat tired. The difference here is that Kentucky will go 11 players deep if they need to. That cannot be overstated in tournament play.
On Sunday, if Tennessee is still standing, they will have completed one of the most amazing seasons I have ever seen an injury-riddled group go through. That is where it stops, however. The Cats have too many bodies and too much defense for Tennessee to overcome after two straight games. UK Hoops will leave the SEC Tournament as Champions for 2013. That feat should be enough to seal their #2 bid for the NCAA’s.
There you have it folks, my unabashed projections for the SEC Women’s Tournament. I will be gone all weekend working on the road, however, I will still be doing post games and setting up the game threads as much as I possibly can. Please stop in for the games, and I want to thank each and every one of you who has helped us cheer the women on to this point.