The 2020 edition of the SouthEastern Conference men’s basketball tournament tips Wednesday evening in good ole Nashville, TN. All 14 teams will participate with the championship game set for Sunday afternoon. The two games Wednesday evening will pit seeds 11 thru 14 against each other with the top 4 seeds getting double byes and not tipping off until Friday. This is an important note to remember as it gives the top seeds a major advantage.
Reason to watch…
College football might rule the roost down South, but they play pretty damn good basketball as well. The average fan knows about John Calipari and Kentucky, but they may not know that the SEC is one of the deepest conferences in the country. With up to 6 potential teams on the bubble, to borrow the league’s slogan, these games just may mean more.
Kentucky + 220
Before Auburn took the title last year, The Wildcats had won 4 SEC championships in a row. This year’s team, led by Immanuel Quickley, Tyrese Maxey, and Nick Richards, certainly has the chops to bring the title back to Lexington.
Sporting a flashy 15-3 record in SEC play, Kentucky’s only blemishes have come @ South Carolina, @ Auburn and a head-scratcher at home vs Tennessee. It’s this most recent loss to the Vols, which I believe got the team’s full attention, that may just be a blessing in disguise. The Wildcats closed out the regular season with a tough road win at Florida setting up what looks to be a successful March.
The 2019/20 Auburn Tigers are flat out not as good as the 18/19 squad that made it to the Final Four. Before beating Tennessee this past weekend, Bruce Pearl’s team was stumbling down the stretch, losing 4 of their previous 6 games.
With that said, being in the bottom half of the bracket appears to put Auburn in an advantageous position. They wouldn’t have to face Kentucky or Florida until the final. This easier path may just propel the Tigers into the SEC final.
LSU + 375
Here’s another SEC team that has limped to the regular season finish line. After winning 10 straight games from 12/29 to 2/1, the boys from Baton Rogue have only gone 4-6 since.
The biggest problem facing this team is the absolute lack of defense they are playing. Before this weekend’s game, they were second to last in the conference in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and 190th in the country. Over the team’s last seven losses, opposing teams have scored 99, 91, 88, 79, 81, and 99 points. This is not a good recipe for winning basketball games in March. I’m looking to fade LSU.
According to the latest KenPom ratings, Florida is the second best team (#33 nationally) in the SEC. It should be noted that KenPom is not big on the SEC as a whole. Kentucky is the highest rated SEC team at #28 and there are only 3 SEC teams in the top 35. As a comparison, the Big 10 has 11 teams in the top 35. This may be a worthwhile nugget to remember come NCAA tournament time.
Back to UF, the Gators may just be the 2nd best team in the SEC but drawing the 5th seed puts them on the Kentucky side of the bracket and forces them into playing an extra game on Thursday. Maybe a third time is a charm for Florida against Big Blue this year?
Mississippi State +700
Sports Illustrated picked Miss St to finish 11th in the conference so it’s safe to say that Ben Howland has exceeded expectations with his young Bulldogs. Reggie Perry is a straight up baller and one of the best players in the conference. He leads a team that has no problem putting the ball in the bucket (ranked 19th in the country in offensive efficiency) but can they get enough defensive stops to make a deep run?
They need wins to ensure an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, but it won’t be easy. As the 4 seed they are looking at potential games vs Florida, Kentucky, and the SEC final against a team in the bottom half of the bracket. That’s a murderer’s row and most likely too steep of a hill for the Bulldogs to climb.
Texas A&M +6000
In his first year as head coach, Buzz Williams has his Aggies way ahead of schedule. At 16-14 overall and 10-8 in the conference, an at-large bid in the national tournament is highly unlikely.
Therefore, much like the Cleveland Indians in the fine motion picture Major League, all A&M needs to do is win the whole effing thing. While the odds of that happening are also very unlikely, they do get a favorable draw in the bottom half of the bracket. I don’t trust Auburn or LSU so if there’s going to be a deep longshot advance to the SEC final, it may just be the Aggies.
Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Missouri, Georgia, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
Big Blue! That’s right – I’m going chalk city here. While the SEC is full of pretty good teams, Kentucky is on another level. I don’t have faith in any other team in this conference to win at least 3 tough games in a row. Plus, at +220 there is solid value in taking the favorite here. However, sprinkling a few greenbacks on the Florida Gators may be a solid idea as well.
Good fortunes to all……NC Nick