SEC Tournament Primer
Published on Wednesday, 3/7/18, at 6:03 a.m. Eastern.
Before we get to the schedule for games, let’s check out the updated odds via Sportsbook.ag to win the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament on Sunday in St. Louis:
Tennessee +250 ‘chalk’ (risk $100 to win $250)
Texas A&M 10/1 (risk $100 to win $1,000)
Mississippi St. 40/1
South Carolina 75/1
Ole Miss 500/1
Four Teams have double byes and don’t have to play until Friday:
Coaching Situations to Watch:
1-Ole Miss – Andy Kennedy has already resigned. Former Ohio St. coach Thad Matta, a current free agent, reportedly met with Ole Miss officials in the past week. This is a critical hire for AD Ross Bjork.
2-Georgia – With zero NCAA Tournament wins and only two NCAA bids in his first eight years, Mark Fox went into this season knowing his team had to get to the Dance to garner a 10th season in Athens. Barring UGA pulling a Dennis Felton/Sundiata Gaines circa 2008 (Tornado Tournament finished at Ga. Tech), despite the fact he’s run a clean program in the midst of all the turmoil stemming from the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption, Fox is a goner because his teams have given up too many leads and lost too many heartbreakers in the last 2-3 seasons to keep him around.
3-Auburn – Bruce Pearl’s two best players have been suspended all season for allegedly receiving impermissible benefits. One of his top assistants, Chuck ‘The Rifleman’ Person, has been indicted by the feds and subsequently fired by Auburn. Other members of Pearl’s staff have also been shown the door. Despite a breakout season, it’s going to be difficult for AU’s new AD not to make a move on Pearl. (Haven’t we seen this script play out before?)
To the schedule…
Wednesday, March 7
No. 12 Georgia vs. No. 13 Vanderbilt (7 p.m., SEC Network). The Bulldogs were two-point favorites this morning with a total of 135.
No. 11 South Carolina vs. No. 14 Ole Miss (approximately 9:30 p.m., SEC Network). The Gamecocks were favored by three points with a total of 144. Even though the ‘over’ is 3-1 in its past four games, Ole Miss has still seen the ‘under’ cash at a 14-6 clip in its last 20 outings. The Rebels are mired in a 1-10 slump both straight up and against the spread, while the Gamecocks have covered the spread in six consecutive contests.
Thursday, March 8
No. 8 Texas A&M vs. No. 9 Alabama (1 p.m., SEC Network). According to most bracketologists, Alabama is right at the cut line. The Crimson Tide just lost a close game in College Station this past Saturday, extending its losing streak to five games. Avery Johnson’s team has to win at least this game to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since early in Anthony Grant’s tenure.
No. 5 Missouri vs. UGA/Vandy winner (approximately 3:30 p.m., SEC Network). Will 5-star recruit Michael Porter Jr. play?
No. 10 LSU vs. No. 7 Mississippi State (7 p.m., SEC Network). Mississippi St. had covered the spread in eight straight games, winning six of those games outright with the lone defeats coming at Missouri (in overtime in controversial fashion) and at Vandy (on a buzzer beater by Riley LaChance). Ben Howland’s squad had a chance at finishing in the top four of the SEC and earning a double bye going into its final two regular-season games. The Bulldogs, just a bit on the outside of the bubble at the time, blew it with back-to-back blowout losses vs. UT (76-54) and at LSU (78-57). They’re a lock for the NIT. If MSU could beat LSU, then Tennessee and then Florida to make the finals, maybe it gets back into the conversation with a little help from other bubble teams, but that’s unlikely. LSU is probably an NIT team regardless, but a win over Mississippi St. would ensure that Will Wade’s team will keep playing. (There’s a lot of help on the way to Baton Rouge next year, presuming Wade can stay out of trouble with the NCAA boys, who have reportedly taken an interest to his outstanding run of recruiting success since taking over at LSU.)
No. 6 Arkansas vs. South Carolina-Ole Miss winner (approximately 9:30 p.m., SEC Network). The Razorbacks are comfortably in the 68-team field after going 6-2 both straight up and against the spread in their last eight games. They’d like to improve their seeding with at least one win in St Louis, which I’m told (by Wess Moore of Fox Sports Little Rock, who has me on his show every Friday at 11:15 a.m. Central) is only about a four-hour drive from Fayetteville.
Friday, March 9, the quarterfinals
No. 1 Auburn vs. Alabama/Texas A&M winner (1 p.m., ESPN)
No. 4 Kentucky vs. Missouri-UGA/Vandy winner (approximately 3:30 p.m., ESPN)
No. 2 Tennessee vs. LSU/Mississippi St. winner (7 p.m., SEC Network)
No. 3 Florida vs. Arkansas vs. USC/Ole Miss winner (approximately 9:30 p.m., SEC Network). The Gators thumped Arkansas in Gainesville, split with South Carolina and lost at Ole Miss.
Saturday, March 10, the semifinals
Winner of No. 1 seed’s quarterfinal vs. winner of No. 4 seed’s quarterfinal (1 p.m., ESPN)
Winner of No. 2 seed’s quarterfinal vs. winner of No. 3 seed’s quarterfinal (approximately 3:30 p.m., ESPN)
Sunday, March 11, the finals with the winner earning the SEC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Winner of semifinal No. 1 vs. winner of semifinal No. 2 (1 p.m., ESPN)
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
–Tennessee hasn’t won the SEC Tournament since 1979. To put that in perspective, 1979 was the season before two-time All-American and three-time first-team All-SEC selection Dale Ellis arrived on campus.
–Auburn hasn’t won this event since 1985, one year after Charles Barkley left for the NBA.
–Florida redshirt freshman forward Dontay Bassett is ‘questionable’ (concussion protocol) for Friday’s quarterfinals game after missing Saturday’s home win over Kentucky. Bassett was starting to see increased minutes and was off his best game of the year — 12 points and six rebounds in a 72-66 home win over Auburn — before getting injured in the first half of a blowout win at Alabama last week.
–Like a dude named Joakim Noah was saying at this time 12 years ago before UF won back-to-back national titles, “Those Gator boys are hot right now.” Bettors can still take UF to win its third national championship in school history at 45/1 odds at Sportsbook.ag. (I’m endorsing this purchase, just like I endorsed Michigan at 60/1 in late January.)
–The ‘over’ is on a 13-6 run in Vandy’s past 19 games. On the flip side, the ‘under’ has gone 13-6 in UGA last 19 games. When these teams met earlier this year, Vandy won by an 81-66 count for 147 combined points. Tonight’s total was 135 as of early this a.m.
–The ‘under’ has cashed at an 8-2 clip in UF’s last 10 outings.
–Even though the ‘over’ is 4-2 in its past six games, Alabama has still seen the ‘under’ go 15-5 in its last 20 contests.
—Prediction: I picked Tennessee last week, but I’ve changed my mind to Florida after seeing how it played in wins at Alabama and vs. UK last week.
—Prediction II: Whether it’s tonight vs. Vandy or in the later rounds, Georgia will be eliminated after leading at halftime and for most of the game before dropping a nail-biter at crunch time. (I feel for Yante Maten, such a great player who deserved better during his senior campaign.)
–Other future odds for SEC teams to win the NCAA Tourney:
Texas A&M 100/1
Mississippi St. 1,000/1
—Get signed up for my NCAA Tournament package here that includes all games for all postseason tourneys from today through the finals.