So while Mike White and his group have some work to do in Nashville to impress the Selection Committee, there are five teams who have already secured their place in the NCAA tournament.
Tennessee has spent time atop the AP Top 25 and the Coaches Poll in 2019, and it’s hard to argue they aren’t one of the top four teams in the country. They lost to Kansas in overtime early in the
season on a neutral site, and they dropped road games at Kentucky and at LSU.
But the Volunteers have won every other game on their schedule, including handing Gonzaga one of the Bulldogs’ only two losses on the year. Grant Williams leads the way for the Vols, as the 6’7”
junior leads the SEC in scoring at 19.1 PPG.
Admiral Schofield isn’t far behind at 16.4 points per night, and it helps that the senior forward is built like a brick house. Jordan Boone is the glue that holds everything together, and it’s
why Rick Barnes knows this team can push for a title.
Kentucky is as dangerous as any team in the nation when they are firing on all cylinders. The Wildcats have a pair of “Diaper Dandies” in Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro, neither of whom are
scared of the big moment. PJ Washington is having a huge season in Lexington, as he’s upped his stats across the board from year one to year two in the program.
John Calipari isn’t afraid to go nine deep and has a 5th-year senior in Reid Travis to rely on.
If they go on to win the conference tournament, I see the Selection Committee pushing the Cats up to a #1 seed. If they bow out early and end up with a #2 or #3 seed, they could wind up even
hungrier to make some noise at the end of the month.
The LSU Tigers haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2015, and before that, they hadn’t “gone dancing” since 2009. Not only is LSU positioned to earn a high seed in the bracket, but I also
like their chances to win some games when they get there.
This team isn’t intimidated by anyone, no matter where the game is being played. Here’s a group that has only lost on the road once this season, and that was a nail biter at Houston way back in
Freshmen Naz Reid and Javonte Smart have blossomed throughout the year, and Skylar Mays has been steady. But sophomore point guard Tremont Waters is the type of guy that can put a team on his
back and carry them to the finish line.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Basketball fans in Starkville, Mississippi, can finally rejoice. They haven’t seen their team advance to the NCAA tournament since 2009, but the Bulldogs are going to get in in 2019.
Quinndary Weatherspoon scores 18.4 points per game and is extremely efficient in doing so. The senior who grew up about 100 miles from campus is shooting over 40% from beyond the arc, better than
50% from the floor, and makes 81.3% of his foul shots.
I see Mississippi State landing around a #7 seed, with a chance to go all the way to a #5 if they were to win the SEC tournament.
Auburn started the year strong and has remained a consistent bunch for the majority of the season. Bruce Pearl saw his team blow out Washington and Arizona during the non-conference schedule, not
to mention picked up huge wins over Dayton and Murray State.
With a 10-7 conference record heading into Saturday’s season finale against the Volunteers, Auburn can really move up the food chain if they can beat Tennessee. Assuming the Tigers don’t end up
winning the conference tournament, obtaining a #6 or #7 seed when the bracket comes out is the most likely scenario.
The trio of teams in this group are the ones whose fan bases will be sitting on pins and needles on Selection Sunday. I’m not convinced that all three will receive an at-large bid, which is why
the way they play in the SEC tournament will end up having such a large impact on their future.
Florida was in good shape to make the NCAA tournament, but the key word is was. After unexpectedly dropping a home game to Georgia, the Gators lost a heartbreaker on their own court to
All signs are pointing toward Florida getting trumped by Kentucky this Saturday at Rupp Arena, which will leave Florida in a very precarious spot heading into the SEC tournament.
If they lose their first-round game, that means they finish the year losing four straight and with a 17-5 record. And that could spell a trip to the NIT tournament.
Ole Miss Rebels
I’m looking for that big marquee win on Ole Miss’s resume, but I’m having trouble pinpointing it. They beat Baylor in the semifinals of the Emerald Coast Classic the day after Thanksgiving, and
they did beat Auburn on the road.
Joe Lunardi has them currently as one of the last four teams in with a bye, but they could easily be pushed to the outside looking in if they suffer a first-round exit in Nashville. It’s up to
guards Breein Tyree and Terence Davis to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Alabama Crimson Tide
If it wasn’t for beating Kentucky on the first Saturday in 2019, the Crimson Tide wouldn’t even be considered as a bubble team. I’d be really concerned if I was Avery Johnson that my team has not
done enough to warrant a selection into the NCAA tourney.
Alabama is led by a true freshman PG in Kira Lewis Jr., and the kid has a bright future ahead of him. But I think winning at least two games in the conference tournament is the absolute minimum
’Bama needs to do in order to feel good about hearing their name called on March 17th.
Teams Who Must Win to Advance
If any team in this section were to go on to win the SEC tournament, all hell could break loose. Not only would they get to play in the Big Dance, but they would be stealing a bid away from one
of their potential league mates — perhaps the Gators or the Rebels.
Unfortunately for the six teams below, cutting the nets down at Bridgestone Arena is the only way they’ll factor into the bracket.
South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina was on the brink of being included as a bubble team, but it’s looking more and more like they’ll have to win the conference tourney to be included in the NCAA tournament field.
The key is that they are still in play for the #4 seed in the SEC tournament, which would give them a “double bye” and help clear out the path to the title game. They’ll need freshman guard A.J.
Lawson to return from a sprained ankle and hope that Chris Silva steps up in a big way.
Otherwise, Frank Martin and his unit can start making plans for the NIT tournament.
Arkansas beat LSU in Baton Rouge and then beat Vanderbilt to move to 14-8 on the year. Things were looking up for Mike Anderson and his men, and it appeared that they would be in the conversation
for an at-large bid.
But then reality set in.
The Razorbacks hit a roadblock, dropping six consecutive games. Now they are sitting in 10th place in the SEC standings. Daniel Gafford, Isaiah Joe, and Mason Jones all average 14 or
more points per game, so that got that going for them.
Regrettably, the drop-off after that in Fayetteville is quite noticeable.
Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M had some early-season chances to put some quality wins on their resume; they just came short on each occasion. Losing to Gonzaga was understandable, but they could have benefited
from beating either Minnesota or Washington had they been able to do so.
Instead, the Aggies are below .500 (13-16) and nine games behind Tennessee and Kentucky in the standings.
The good news is TJ Starks and Savion Flagg are both sophomores, and Wendell Mitchell will be coming back as well. But that doesn’t change the fact that this team went to the Sweet 16 last year
and is now looking at a season in which they might fail to win 15 games.
Missouri ended the non-conference schedule winning six straight games and hoped that the positive momentum would carry into SEC play. Fast forward to now, and a 5-12 conference record with one
game left isn’t exactly what Cuonzo Martin and the Tigers had in mind.
Jordan Geist is a baller, and sophomore guard Mark Smith has made huge strides. But this team ranks dead last among the 14 teams in the Southeastern Conference in points per game (66.9), and they
shoot just 42.8% from the field.
Missouri has a long way to go before they can become relevant.
A home game against Vanderbilt and a road game at Florida. I bring those two contests up because in 17 tries, they’re the only two instances in which Georgia has walked away with a victory. They
did beat Texas in a high-scoring affair in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on January 26th, but it’s been tough sledding for the Bulldogs ever since.
Sophomores Nicolas Claxton and Rayshaun Hammonds set the pace for the Dawgs, but neither has been dependable enough to string together any sort of momentum. The athletic department in Athens
can’t be happy with the product that Tom Crean has displayed in his first year at the helm, and I expect their stay in Nashville to be fairly short-lived.
It’s hard not to feel bad for the Commodores men’s basketball team. The players on that team have won the same number of games in 2019 as I have, and I graduated from college in 2010.
Beating UNC Asheville on New Year’s Eve was the last time Darius Garland and company tasted a victory, and let’s not pretend they’ll be competitive at LSU in tomorrow’s season finale.
We know Bryce Drew can coach, as he led Valparaiso to the NCAA tourney twice and took Vandy to the Dance in 2017. But the board of trustees at Vanderbilt, along with everyone involved, must feel
embarrassed at the way the 2018/2019 campaign has gone.
Perhaps they can surprise in the play-in and finally get off the schneid, but an 0-18 SEC record is going to leave a stain on the program, as well as a really bad taste in their mouth heading
into the offseason.
Who Will Win the SEC Conference Tournament?
Are you interested in backing the #1 seed in the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament at a major discount?
The LSU Tigers finished 16-2 during SEC play won the regular season title, yet the oddsmakers at MyBookie.ag still think Kentucky and Tennessee are the much better teams.
Mississippi State Bulldogs+1500
Ole Miss Rebels+4000
South Carolina Gamecocks+4400
Alabama Crimson Tide+6500
Texas A&M Aggies+9500
Kentucky might be the squad with the most upside come NCAA Tourney time, and I have no problem with anyone who wants to place a wager on the Wildcats to win the SEC Tournament. But if you do,
head over to sportsbetting.ag where you can latch on at +200 instead of +190.
As impressed as I have been with Tennessee all season long, they are by no means invincible. Not only did the Vols lose to Auburn on Saturday, but the Tigers have already beaten them as well. The
Volunteers might be the best team in this conference in a vacuum, but we have to take the odds into consideration when placing a wager.
I like the value presented with LSU at +420, as I expected they’d come in around the +325 range.
They’ve had to deal with their head coach being suspended indefinitely, and that may stray some away from wanting to believe that the Tigers can get it done in Nashville.
I’m not one of those individuals, especially if I’m getting laid a price as attractive as +420.
A Quick Rehash
It all gets started on Wednesday in Nashville with a pair of first-round games taking place on the SEC Network. It culminates on Sunday afternoon (March 17th) on ESPN, with the winning
team likely capturing a #1 seed in the 2019 NCAA tournament.
Unless, of course, LSU grabs the reins or another team surprises. Either way, it promises to be full of drama and full of highlights. That sounds like a pretty good recipe to want to bet on some