SEC Tournament preview

Published on March 7 at 11:05 a.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

Oddsmakers at have made Kentucky an overwhelming minus-500 ‘chalk’ to win this weekend’s SEC Tournament in New Orleans. The Wildcats went 16-0 in league play during the regular season, capping the year with a double-digit win at Florida this past Sunday.

Vanderbilt has the second-shortest odds at 6/1 (risk $100 to win $600), followed by the Gators at 7/1. Vandy and UF finished in a three-way tie for second place with Tennesseee, with all three schools going 10-6 in SEC play. The Vols have garnered the tournament’s No. 2 seed, while Vandy and Florida are seeds three and four, respectively.

Cuonzo Martin’s team has 15/1 odds to cut the nets down Sunday afternoon in the Big Easy. Mississippi State and Alabama both share 20/1 odds, while the rest of the conference’s schools are a part of the 50/1 Field wager.

The league has only three locks for the NCAA Tournament: Kentucky, Vandy and Florida. Alabama appears to be safe, but a first-round loss to South Carolina could change that. Mississippi St. and Tennessee probably need to win their first-round games and not get blown out in the tourney quarterfinals.

Let’s take a closer look at the four games on Thursday before giving out our SEC awards and much more…

**Arkansas vs. Louisiana State**

–As of Wednesday afternoon, most betting shops had LSU (17-13 straight up, 16-11 against the spread) listed as a two-point favorite with a total of 137.

–Arkansas (18-13 SU, 8-14-1 ATS) hasn’t enjoyed much success when it has left Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville this year. The Razorbacks have lost nine of their 10 road games with an abysmal 2-8 spread record.

–Mike Anderson’s team has lost six of its last eight games both SU and ATS, including Saturday’s 79-59 blowout loss at Mississippi St. as a 9 ½-point underdog. Arkansas freshman point guard B.J. Young scored 16 points in defeat.

–Trent Johnson’s team exceeded expectations a little bit this year with a young roster. The Tigers were 17-10 and on the fringe of the bubble conversation before losing three in a row to close the regular season. They dropped a 67-52 decision at Auburn as 1 ½-point underdogs this past Saturday. Ralston Turner was the only LSU player in double figures with a team-high 14 points.

–When these teams met in the regular season, they split a pair of games with the home team prevailing each time. On Jan. 14 at Bud Walton, Arkansas captured a 69-60 win as a five-point home favorite with the 129 combined points falling ‘under’ the 137 ½-point total. Young scored a team-high 19 points, while LSU’s Justin Hamilton had 20 points and eight rebounds in the losing effort.

–In the rematch at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, LSU got revenge in a 71-65 victory as a 4 ½-point home favorite. Turner scored a game-high 16 points and Justin Hamilton added 13 points, 11 boards and four blocked shots. The 136 points stayed ‘under’ the 137-point tally.

–The ‘over’ is 12-10-1 overall for the Razorbacks, 6-2 in their last eight games.

–The ‘under’ is 15-12 overall for LSU, 3-1 its last four times out.

–Tip-off is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Eastern on The SEC Network. The winner will most likely get an NIT bid and will face top-ranked Kentucky on Friday at 1:00 p.m. ET. The loser is probably on the NIT bubble.

**Alabama vs. South Carolina**

–As of Wednesday, most books were listing Alabama (20-10 SU, 12-14 ATS) as a nine-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 116.

–In his third season at the helm, Anthony Grant appears poised to return Alabama to the NCAA Tournament with a win in this spot. The Tide has been through a turbulent campaign with suspensions galore, but the team has seemingly come together over the last few weeks and Grant has certainly earned the respect of his players. He suspended Tony Mitchell, the team’s second-leading scorer, for the rest of the year and leading scorer JaMychal Green also missed several games due to suspension but is now back with the squad.

–Alabama saw its four-game winning streak snapped in a 60-51 loss Saturday at Ole Miss as a 2 ½-point road favorite. Green had 11 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots against the Rebels. Trevor Releford was also in double figures with 12 points, but the sophomore point guard committed three turnovers and didn’t have any assists.

–Alabama owns a 9-7 spread record in 16 games as a single-digit favorite.

–South Carolina (10-20 SU, 10-15 ATS) finished in the cellar of the SEC and barring an astonishing four-day run to an SEC Tournament title this weekend, it will see fourth-year head coach Darrin Horn take his pinkslip by Monday.

–The Gamecocks went 8-9 ATS in 17 games as underdogs this year.

–South Carolina upset Alabama in the lone head-to-head meeting during the regular season, capturing a 56-54 triumph as a five-point home underdog on Jan. 25. Malik Cooke led the way with 18 points, while Levi Randolph had a team-high 12 points for the Tide.

–Totals have been an overall wash for ‘Bama (13-13), but the ‘over’ has hit in its last three games and five of its last six.

–The ‘over’ is 14-10-1 overall for South Carolina, 8-2-1 in its last 11 outings.

–This game will tip on The SEC Network 30 minutes after LSU-Arkansas goes final. The winner will face Florida in the second game of Friday’s afternoon session.

**Auburn vs. Ole Miss**

–As of Wednesday, most spots had Ole Miss (18-12 SU, 14-13-1 ATS) as a four-point favorite with a total of 121.

–Andy Kennedy is on the hot seat in Oxford and his team needs to make something happen in New Orleans for him to be retained. Just when it seemed his squad had quit on him in a blowout loss at home to Vandy that started a three-game losing streak, the Rebels responded by winning three in a row to close the regular season. They destroyed LSU by 24 at home, rallied in the last minute to win at Arkansas and then ended Alabama’s four-game winning streak in a nine-point win at The Tad Pad.

–Reginald Bucker and Murphy Holloway combined for 18 points and 20 rebounds to lead the Rebels past Alabama. Terrance Henry added 10 points and three blocked shots.

–Ole Miss has compiled a 4-5 spread record in nine single-digit ‘chalk’ situations.

–Auburn (15-15 SU, 14-9 ATS) is 10-6 ATS in 16 games as an underdog, but we should note that it is 10-2 ATS in its last 12 such spots. However, the Tigers are dealing with several personnel issues right now. Varez Ward has been suspended for the last three games and his status for this weekend is a question mark. Ward averages 9.0 points, 3.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game. Also, Allen Payne (4.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG) is ‘out’ with a torn meniscus suffered on Feb. 29 and Josh Langford is ‘doubtful’ with a concussion that’s had him out since late January.

–These SEC West rivals split a pair of meetings during the regular season, but Auburn took the cash both times. The Rebels won 61-54 at home as 7 ½-point favorites, while AU won by a 69-68 count in overtime as a one-point home hound.

–The ‘under’ is 15-8 overall for Auburn, 10-2 in its last 12 games. Totals have been an overall wash for Ole Miss (14-14).

–Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. Eastern on The SEC Network. The winner will face Tennessee in the first game of Friday’s evening session.

**Georgia vs. Mississippi State**

–As of Wednesday, most books had Mississippi St. (21-10 SU, 13-17 ATS) installed as a five-point favorite with a total of 123 ½.

–Rick Stansbury’s team probably needs to win this game to feel fairly comfortable about garnering an at-large invite to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. After going through a brutal five-game losing streak, Mississippi St. won back-to-back game to close the regular season. The Bulldogs won a buzzer beater in overtime at South Carolina before blasting Arkansas on Senior Day for four-year starting PG Dee Bost. In his final game at The Hump, Bost finished with 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Arnett Moultrie added 20 points and 10 boards.

–Georgia (14-16 SU, 12-14 ATS) has won two of its last three games both SU and ATS, including an upset win over Florida on Feb. 25 as a 7 ½-point underdog. The Dawgs thumped South Carolina 67-55 as six-point home favorites this past Saturday. Gerald Robinson dropped a game-high 23 points on the Gamecocks.

–When these schools met in Starkville on Feb. 11, UGA pulled a stunner with a 70-68 overtime win as a nine-point road underdog. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the catalyst with 20 points and eight rebounds. Bost had a game-high 21 points in defeat.

–MSU is 4-8 ATS as a single-digit favorite this year, while UGA has posted a 7-11 spread record in 18 ‘dog situations.

–The ‘over’ has hit in four consecutive head-to-head meetings between these schools.

–The ‘over’ is 15-14-1 overall for MSU. Meanwhile, UGA has seen the ‘under’ go 14-11-1 overall.

–This game will tip 30 minutes after the conclusion of Ole Miss-Auburn. The winner will take on Vanderbilt late Friday night.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

All-SEC First Team:

Center: Anthony Davis (Kentucky)
Power Forward: Arnett Moultrie (Mississippi State)
Small Forward: Jeffery Taylor (Vanderbilt)
Shooting Guard: Kenny Boynton (Florida)
Point Guard: Dee Bost (Mississippi St.)

All-SEC Second Team:
C-Festus Ezeli (Vandy)
F-Bradley Beal (Florida)
G/F-Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky)
G-John Jenkins (Vandy)
G-Erving Walker (Florida)

SEC All-Freshman Team
C-Anthony Davis
F-Bradley Beal (Florida)
G/F-Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky)
G-B.J. Young (Arkansas)
G-Marquis Teague (Kentucky)
Sixth Man: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia)

–SEC Freshman of the Year, Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis!

–If I’m South Carolina, I don’t think I can get Butler’s Brad Stevens or VCU’s Shakka Smart, but I’m dropping a call to their respective agents anyway. One candidate that the Gamecocks may have a shot at is Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, who spent time in the state during his tenure at Winthrop.

–Tennessee certainly had bad losses in November and the committee must consider the entire resume, but there’s no way a sane person can tell me that the Vols don’t look like a squad worthy of an NCAA bid with the way they’ve played down the stretch with a 10-3 record. The three L’s came at Vandy, at Kentucky and at Alabama.

–Three teams UT is rooting for in their respective conference tourneys; Florida, which UT beat twice. UConn, which UT beat in Knoxville. And Memphis, which beat the Vols twice in non-conference play.

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