South Carolina and Alabama will tip off at 1 o’clock central time on Thursday to begin what should be a very entertaining couple of days in Nashville, Tennessee. Eleven SEC opponents will try to knock off John Calipari and his top seeded Kentucky Wildcats to claim the conference title.
There are many teams that have yet to have their post season fates decided. Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee appear to be the only teams that have claimed their spots in the big dance. Florida, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State will likely have to make some noise this weekend to make the field of 65.
But as we know, anything can happen in the SEC tournament. It was just two years ago that Georgia surprised the nation by winning the tournament while coming in with a record of 14-16 and last year Mississippi State came in and won four games in four days. So here is a rundown of the tournament:
South Carolina 15-15 (6-10) vs. Alabama 16-14 (6-10)
If I had to pick a team that has the best chance to win the tournament that doesn’t have a shot at an at- large bid it would have to be South Carolina. Led by senior point guard and the SEC’s leading scorer Devan Downey, the Gamecocks will look to regain their early season form to make a run at an SEC title. The Gamecocks rank second in the SEC in points per game and should be able to take down the slumping Crimson Tide.
Winner: South Carolina
LSU 11-19 (2-14) vs. Tennessee 22-7 (10-5)
Let’s just face it, the Tigers have been awful this year. We thought for a while they might not get an SEC victory. Trent Johnson had a decent first year at LSU but may be on the hot seat after this abysmal year. Tennessee leads the SEC in points per game and shouldn’t have too much trouble getting past the Bayou Bengals.
Auburn 15-16 (6-10) vs. Florida 20-11 (9-7)
Out of all the teams on the bubble in the SEC, it appears that Florida is in the best position. With wins over Florida State, Tennessee and North Carolina State it may only take one win the the SEC tournament for them to get an at- large bid. Auburn shouldn’t pose too much of a threat and the Gators should move on to the next round.
Georgia 13-16 (4-11) Arkansas 14-17 (7-9)
Don’t expect to see this years Bulldogs pull off the same feat they did in 2008. Arkansas showed some signs of promise with wins over MSU and Ole Miss, but neither of these teams should make too much noise in the tournament.
Kentucky 29-2 (14-2) vs. South Carolina
South Carolina is one of two teams that have beaten the Wildcats this year. John Calipari has proven himself to be one of the best coaches/recruiters in the nation. Don’t be surprised if the Gamecocks take this one but Wall and the Wildcats will probably be too much for South Carolina.
Ole Miss 21-9 (9-7) vs. Tennessee
The Rebels still have a sour taste in their mouths after a two point loss to Tennessee in Knoxville in OT. Chris Warren has been hot for the Rebs as of late and the return of Eniel Polynice from suspension should be a nice spark for the Rebels. This should be a hard fought battle and if the Rebels are shooting well from the 3- point line, they should take this one.
Winner- Ole Miss
Mississippi State 21-10 (9-7) vs. Florida
This should be one of the more interesting games of the tournament. Florida won their only meeting back in Febuary and the defending SEC tournament champs have been struggling lately. Both teams are on the bubble of the NCAA tournament and both may need this win to make it in. Jarvis Varnado will be a difference maker for the Bulldogs down low as he leads the league in both blocks and rebounds.
Winner: Mississippi State
Vanderbilt 23-7 (12-4) vs. Arkansas
Vanderbilt seems like a team that is always ready to make some noise come March. They have established themselves at the top of the SEC the past couple of years. Junior center AJ Ogilvy has played a big role this year as their big man and guard Jermaine Beal leads the team in scoring.
Ole Miss vs. Kentucky
Ole Miss will probably play Kentucky a little closer than their first meeting but probably won’t have enough to beat the Wildcats. Guards Terrico White and Chris Warren will have to have an all-star performance to pull the upset and would surely love to improve their tournament stock. Wall and Cousins will be too much for the Rebels.
Mississippi State vs. Vanderbilt
The Varnando vs. Ogilvy matchup should be a good one but Vanderbilt’s guard play will prove to be too much for State.
Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt
This game should be a classic. Kentucky will be fighting for a number one seed and Vanderbilt for a possible 2 or 3 seed. John Wall is among the best freshman in the country and is joined by fellow All- SEC freshman Eric Bledsoe. Look for Vanderbilt to make the Sweet 16 in the big dance but lose to the Wildcats.
Champion: Kentucky Wildcats
NCAA Tournament Teams (seed)
Ole Miss (10)
Mississippi State (11)