Ready for the SEC Tournament, BBN? I sure am!
Here’s a preview of all 14 teams and what they’re playing for as we prepare to tip off in Tampa.
The Bottom Four: Just trying to avoid Wednesday night embarrassment
After a 6-25 season and a 1-17 mark in conference play, the Dawgs are one loss away from scrapping a lost season and getting ready to start fresh next year. Vanderbilt will all but certainly get them on their way towards that in the first round, and UGA fans will almost certainly be saying goodbye to Coach Crean a few hours later.
#13 Ole Miss & #12 Missouri
The Rebels and Tigers both had rough seasons, but one of these teams can at least stay in Tampa one more day with a win in the first round. LSU awaits the winner.
Usually the Commodores are the #14 seed in this tournament, but should be able to get out of the basement round pretty easily given how awful Georgia’s been this year. If they win they’ll play Alabama, and with a win there will be able to get a third matchup against Kentucky and clinch themselves a winning record if they lose there at 17-16. That’s something to build on for this often suffering program.
Hoping for a miracle run
#10 Mississippi State and #7 South Carolina
Neither team can make the NCAA Tournament without winning the SEC auto-bid, and neither team will be able to get past Tennessee and Kentucky let alone Auburn or Arkansas, so the winner of this game will get to play on Friday and then likely bow out unless they go on a miracle run. In this league, it would really be a sports miracle.
The Bubble Squads: Loser leaves town
#9 Florida and #8 Texas A&M
Both the Gators and the Aggies have slim but not nonexistent at-large bid hopes, but without winning at least this game it will be off to the NIT for the loser. The winner will face Auburn, where a win would probably get them to safety, though advancing further than the semifinals seems highly unlikely for either team.
The Crimson Tide have been very tricky to figure out this season, and you never know what you’ll get when you play them. If they play the way they did against Gonzaga, Houston, and Baylor for four straight days, then they might just win this whole thing.
Getting past Mizzou or Ole Miss should be a breeze, and they came very close to beating Arkansas a week ago in Baton Rouge, so a trip to the semifinals against Auburn might materialize for LSU. Can they beat the Tigers and advance to the championship game? Unlikely, but this team is scrappy.
The Big Four: Looking to go all the way
The Hogs have been one of the hottest teams down the stretch, upending both Auburn and Kentucky in February among several others. Can they keep it going for three more days in Tampa? I think they can definitely beat Auburn, but first they have to get past LSU. Then of course there’s both an orange team and a blue team on the other side of the bracket...
The betting favorites in this whole tourney for their impressive play down the stretch and now-healthy roster, the Kentucky Wildcats will have a tough but not impossible path to taking the crown. The first two games will be daunting though—Alabama and Tennessee, with probably Auburn or Arkansas in the title game should they make it there. If the ‘Cats go all the way, it’ll likely be with some big performances from SEC Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe.
Since getting clobbered in Lexington in January, the Vols have been a force to be reckoned with in the conference and dispatched of Auburn, Kentucky, and Arkansas down the stretch...but all those games were in Knoxville. What will happen on the neutral court in Tampa? We’ll find out.
The Tigers are the #1 seed but are probably less likely to win the tournament than each of these three top-4 seeds due to their faltering play down the stretch. They went undefeated in Auburn Arena this year, but fell to Florida, Arkansas, and Tennessee on the road and struggled mightily at Mississippi State, Missouri, and Georgia—Georgia! How well they fare in this SEC Tournament might give a picture of how they’ll do in the Big Dance next week.
The ‘Cats have already advanced further in this year’s tournament than they did last year thanks to their double-bye—after just a dismal showing last time let’s hope they can go all the way, snag a 1-seed, and make a long-awaited return to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year absence. Friday night can’t come soon enough!