The SEC Tournament gets underway tonight in Atlanta. If history is any indicator of who’ll win, put your money on Kentucky’s second-seeded Wildcats. UK has snagged 15 of the 35 championship trophies since the tourney was resurrected in 1979. Alabama has won five in that period which is good for second-best in the league.
Over the last 10 years, Kentucky (2004, 2010 and 2011) and Florida (2005, 2006 and 2007) have each won the SEC Tournament three times. Georgia (through a tornado in 2008), Mississippi State (2009), Vanderbilt (2012) and Ole Miss (last year) have also cut down the nets.
But who’ll win the tourney this week? Below is our game-by-game preview, sure to be completely, 100% incorrect…
12 Auburn vs 13 South Carolina: The Tigers won by 16 over the Gamecocks at Auburn just a couple of weeks ago. Both teams have won two of their last six games. In what may well be the tournament’s least-interesting contest, we’ll take Auburn.
11 Vanderbilt vs 14 Mississippi State: MSU was the worst team in the league this year with a 3-15 conference mark. While Vandy’s bench isn’t very long, Kevin Stallings has somehow managed to coax seven league wins out of his outmanned squad. VU beat State by six in early-February in Nashville. We’ll take Vanderbilt again.
8 Missouri vs 9 Texas A&M: Two old Big XII rivals square off for the right to face #1 seed Florida. Missouri, as we noted earlier this week, still has an outside shot at an NCAA at-large bid. But the Tigers have lost three of their last five and held off A&M by a lone point at home one week ago today. The Aggies have lost three of their last four. We’ll take Missouri to reach the quarterfinals.
12 Auburn vs 5 Arkansas: The Razorbacks, coming off a bye, will be fighting for their NCAA lives. They whipped Auburn 86-67 in their regular-season matchup. Take Arkansas into the quarterfinals as we see not reason to suspect a major Tiger upset.
10 Alabama vs 7 LSU: The Crimson Tide knocked off LSU by two points in Tuscaloosa back in late-January. Both teams are up-and-down. Bama’s last six games looked like this: L-W-L-W-L-W. LSU’s last seven games looked like this: L-W-L-W-L-W-L. This one’s a toss-up in our minds, but we’ll back Johnny O’Bryant and the Tigers. Take LSU.
11 Vanderbilt vs 6 Ole Miss: The Rebels like to speed things up. The Commodores are more deliberate. In tourney play, the advantage often goes to the team that can force their foe out of their natural rhythm and tempo. Vandy’s lack of depth could hurt it over a four- or five-day run, but we think they’ll have enough juice on Day Two of the tourney to pull the upset. We’ll take Vanderbilt in a surprise, despite the fact that Ole Miss beat the Dores twice during the regular season. For the record, UM has lost six of its last eight games and VU has lost seven of its last nine. Neither team comes in hot.
8 Missouri vs 1 Florida: Crazy things happen in tournament play, but Florida is just so darned experienced and tough on the defensive end that it’ll be very hard to pick against them. Mizzou has lost five in a row away from home, including a 10-point loss at Gainesville in early-February. Take Florida into the semifinals, leaving Missouri squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
5 Arkansas vs 4 Tennessee: This one might be an NCAA Tournament play-in game. UA won six of its last seven games. UT has won four in a row including its last three by 27 points or more (against Vandy, Auburn and Missouri). The host Volunteers knocked off Arkansas by seven back in January. Once again, this matchup features one team that plays at a break-neck pace and one that’s slow and deliberate. We’ll tab Tennessee to reach the league semis behind Jarnell Stokes’ big body.
7 LSU vs 2 Kentucky: Now is the time for the Wildcats to make amends for a disappointing regular season, right? Wrong. LSU is clearly a bad matchup for John Calipari’s Cats. The Tigers beat UK in Baton Rouge and then lost by one point in overtime in Lexington last month. The Tigers had four players in double-figures in each game. O’Bryant scored 29 and 20 versus Kentucky. Unless the Wildcats have found a way to negate LSU’s big man, we’ll take LSU in an upset on the neutral court. (OK, it’ll seem like Rupp South in “Catlanta,” but we’ll still take the Tigers.)
11 Vanderbilt vs 3 Georgia: What an incredible job by Mark Fox inside the conference this season. After a 6-6 start out of conference, the Bulldogs went 12-6 in league play, landed the #3 seed in the SEC tourney, and will enjoy a double-bye. If our picks hold, Vandy’s thin roster will be playing its third game in as many days by this point. UGA has won four of its last five. VU handed Georgia one of only two home losses all season, but we’ll take the team that plays superior defense. That means we’ll take Georgia to reach the semifinals.
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