It’s been an unorthodox college basketball season but we’ve finally made it to March. The regular season has finished and the madness is beginning. The SEC Tournament gets underway tonight at 7pm ET and this time, we intend to finish.
This year’s top four seeds who won’t play until Friday look very different than a year ago. Alabama, Arkansas, LSU and Tennessee are this year’s top seeds. Only LSU was a top four seed from the 2020 tournament.
There are two other glaring differences in this year’s bracket compared to previous years. Kentucky is playing in the second round on day two for the first time since the SEC expansion. The Wildcats’ eight conference wins is the lowest total since the 2008-2009 season.
Additionally, there’s a team missing. Auburn’s self-imposed postseason ban for basketball this year includes the SEC Tournament. The result is just one game in the opening round with Florida playing the winner.
Bubble Teams That Need to Win
Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology has six teams from the SEC making the tournament, with one on the bubble.
- (2) Alabama
- (3) Arkansas
- (6) Tennessee
- (8) Missouri
- (8) Florida
- (8) LSU
- Next Four Out: Ole Miss
This year’s tournament teams have higher seeds from last year’s projections as well as two more teams. Overall the conference has had a solid season and should be represented well in the tournament by Lunardi’s projections.
The only bubble team this year is Ole Miss. The Rebels sit in the Next Four Out right now where they’ve been sitting off and on four the better part of three weeks. Ole Miss dropped two bad losses late in the season that would’ve easily put them in the tournament already with this year’s soft bubble.
(11) South Carolina 6-14 (4-12) vs (6) Ole Miss 15-10 (10-8), Thursday 9pm ET
As far as the bubble is concerned this is the only game that matters, at least until the quarterfinals. Ole Miss is hanging on by a thread on the bubble and needs every win they can get. Ole Miss won the regular season game 81-74 where they led for all but a minute of the game.
South Carolina’s had injury troubles late in the season. Shooting guard Jermaine Couisnard didn’t play against Kentucky in their last game due to a rib injury. And guard Seventh Woods has been dealing with some injury of his own and played limited minutes against Kentucky.
Both teams have similar styles of strong defense and a stagnant offense at times. They like to score in transition. Ole Miss is in cardiac mode if they want to make the tournament so expect senior Devontae Shuler to show up and be the leader for the Rebels.
Teams to Watch
Alabama, 21-6 (16-2)
Alabama has to be the must watch team of the tournament. After their third loss in the non conference the Crimson Tide finished 17-3 with all three losses coming to ranked teams. Alabama has dominated the SEC and has been getting a lot of national attention for a potential Final Four team.
They have a trio of talented guards led by First Team All-SEC pick John Petty Jr. Along with him is Second Team All-SEC pick Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly. All three are terrific shooters as are most players on the team that’s been the SEC’s best from three-point land.
Herbert Jones – WINNER. pic.twitter.com/zGlWJELn0g
— Bama Basketball Film Room (@BamaFilmRoom) January 4, 2021
Senior Herbert Jones’s development has been the biggest factor for Alabama. He’s always been a stalwart defensively and this year’s no different as he made the SEC’s All-Defensive team. More than that, he’s a factor now offensively as well, particularly from three where he shoots 45.5%.
Arkansas, 20-11 (11-7)
Arkansas’s season has been a roller coaster ride. Arkansas went 8-0 before SEC play before hitting a buzz saw and starting 2-4 in conference play. Though it’s worth mentioning the losses were to three top four finishers and Missouri who was red hot. Putting that aside, the Razorbacks finished the season 11-1 and 11-0 in conference play.
Moses Moody is the player to watch. He’s one of two true freshmen to make First Team All-SEC selection this year. He leads the team with 17.5 points per game, second with 5.7 rebounds per game and is Arkansas’s best three-point threat.
He has a very talented veteran cast behind him. Justin Smith is a solid presence in the front court averaging 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Jalen Tate has been a solid do it all guard. He provides a shooting threat and rebounds well but also leads the team in assists.
Kentucky 9-15 (8-9)
The theory going around is that Kentucky is going to back door their way into the tournament. That against all odds, in a year where the conference tournaments are a little weird with COVID-19, Kentucky has an opportunity to sneak back into the NCAA Tournament where they haven’t missed since 2013.
It’s a really long shot. But then again, it’s March. Everyone knows the story on Kentucky this year. Worst start in nearly 100 years. First losing record in conference play since the 1988-1989 season. Barring a miracle run, it will also be the first losing overall record since that season.
Isaiah Jackson, SKYWALKER pic.twitter.com/1EncVJAWXU
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) February 20, 2021
If a miracle run does happen the young Wildcats are going to need to step up in a big way. Isaiah Jackson is probably the most fun player to watch for Kentucky. He’s a versatile player with outstanding athleticism. Brandon Boston hasn’t been nearly as electric as originally thought. He does lead the team in scoring though and if ever there was a time to turn on the wow factor, it’ll be Thursday.
*Games marked are televised on ESPN, all others will be televised on SEC Network
Game 1 (13) Texas A&M vs (12) Vanderbilt, Wednesday 6 pm CT: Vanderbilt
Game 2 (9) Mississippi State vs (8) Kentucky, Thursday 11am CT: Kentucky
Game 3 Vanderbilt (Game 1 Winner) vs (5) Florida, 25min after Game 3: Florida
Game 4 (10) Georgia vs (7) Missouri, Thursday 6pm CT: Missouri
Game 5 (11) South Carolina vs (6) Ole Miss, 25min after Game 5: Ole Miss
*Game 6 Kentucky (Game 2 Winner) vs (1) Alabama, Friday 11am CT: Alabama
*Game 7 Florida (Game 3 Winner) vs (4) Tennessee, 25min after Game 7: Tennessee
Game 8 Missouri (Game 4 Winner) vs (2) Arkansas, Friday 6 pm CT: Arkansas
Game 9 Ole Miss (Game 5 Winner) vs (3) LSU, 25min after Game 9: LSU
*Game 10 Alabama (Game 6 Winner) vs Tennessee (Game 7 Winner), Saturday 12 pm CT: Tennessee
*Game 11 Arkansas (Game 8 Winner) vs LSU (Game 9 Winner), 25min after Game 11: LSU
*Game 12 Tennessee (Game 10 Winner) vs LSU (Game 11 Winner) LSU, Sunday 12 pm CT: Tennessee
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