This year, the SEC Tournament will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana and bringing with it the top ranked team in the country, a new format, and a two teams on the bubble trying to play their way into March Madness. Kentucky made it clear during the regular season that it’s the team to beat in the tournament by going 16-0 in conference play and was only a three-pointer by Indiana away from being undefeated. They are expected to win the SEC Tournament en route to being the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky’s Biggest Threat: The team you half to look at is Vanderbilt. They have the leadership, toughness inside, outside shooting, and athleticism to stick with Kentucky. In the two meetings during the regular season, Kentucky only won by single digits in each.
Team to Watch: A team to look out for is the Tennessee Volunteers. Tennessee has won 8 of the last 9 games and has been the second best team in the conference since February. They play physical and are one of the most athletic teams in the conference. Even with the old format, Tennessee would still have the first round bye but won’t play Kentucky until the championship game. They need a good run in the tournament to solidify a spot in March Madness.
Format: The new format has been a benefit to the SEC East teams. If the tournament was played last year, Mississippi State and Ole Miss would both receive a first round bye by having the best two records in the SEC West. With the divisions no longer existing, the old SEC East has all four first round byes: Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Florida.
Bubble Teams: The SEC right now has 5 teams in the NCAA Tournament according to ESPN’s Bracketology; Out of the five, four (Kentucky, Florida, Vandy, and Alabama) seem to be solidly into the field. Mississippi State is desperately holding on and a win against Georgia would help their cause. If they can also beat Tennessee on Friday, the Bulldogs’ should be dancing. However, if that did happen, the Volunteers’ wouldn’t be in the NCAA Tournament. Tennessee has made a strong push and I have no problem with them being in even with a loss on Friday. Tennessee has a great chance to make a run to the SEC championship game, and if they are able to do so, it would be hard for the committee to keep them out of the NCAA Tournament.
Predictions: When it’s all said and done, Kentucky will beat Tennessee in the SEC Championship game. Anthony Davis will win the SEC Tournament MVP. Georgia has the opportunity to hurt the SEC in how many teams get in the NCAA Tournament with 2 straight wins. They will get one, and Mississippi State will not make the tournament. Tennessee will get the nod for to continue its March Madness after appearing in the championship game. For a little side prediction, there will be 3 game-winning-shots at the buzzer. It just wouldn’t be right going through championship week without some high drama.
Thursday, March 8
No. 8 LSU vs. No. 9 Arkansas, 1 PM ET, SEC Network
No. 5 Alabama vs. No. 12 South Carolina, 3:30 PM ET, SEC Network
No. 7 Ole Miss vs. No. 10 Auburn, 7:30 PM ET, SEC Network
No. 6 Mississippi State vs. No. 11 Georgia, 10 PM ET, SEC Network
Friday, March 9
LSU/Arkansas vs. No. 1 Kentucky, 1 PM ET, SEC Network
Alabama/South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida, 3:30 PM ET, SEC Network
Ole Miss/Auburn vs. No. 2 Tennessee, 7:30 PM ET, SEC Network
Mississippi State/Georgia vs. No. 3 Vanderbilt, 10 PM ET, SEC Network
Saturday, March 10
Semifinal 1, 1 PM ET, ABC
Semifinal 2, 3:30 PM ET ABC
Sunday, March 11
Championship Game, 1 PM ET, ABC