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Postseason basketball is finally here. March is here.
The SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Nashville is the appetizer before the main course known as the “Big Dance”. The conference tournament will have a different feel this year, with only 3,400 fans attending the five day extravaganza. While this basketball season has been one for the history books, Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers added to the peculiar storylines by self-imposing a postseason ban for the SEC and NCAA Tournament, making it a 13-team event. The last time we saw 13 teams compete for the conference championship was 2016 when Missouri admitted to a multitude of sketchy violations.
The FIRST round of the SEC Tournament kicks off on “miserable Wednesday” with an underwhelming matchup between:
- (12) Vanderbilt Commodores vs. (13) Texas A&M Aggies
Buzz Williams was given the last seed in the conference tournament as a result of his squad playing only 10 of a potential 18 conference games. Their last conference victory? January 13th. Woof. With that being said, the Aggies have fresh legs and will run by the hometown ‘Dores to kick off the SEC Tournament.
The SECOND round of the SEC Tournament features four matchups starting with:
- (8) Kentucky Wildcats vs. (9) Mississippi State
The Cats are uber talented and have struggled to put all the pieces together this year, but Big Blue Nation will come out in swarms* to push Kentucky to victory.
- (5) Florida Gators vs. (13) Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies have no shot.
- (7) Missouri Tigers vs. (10) Georgia Bulldogs
The Tigers are severely under-seeded and could be a dangerous team to look out for. The Tigers roll the ‘Dawgs.
- (6) Ole Miss Rebels vs. (11) South Carolina Gamecocks
The nightcap is a bit of a snooze-fest, and I see the Rebels winning a low scoring battle to send us into Day #3. This will also be Frank Martin’s last game as the coach of the Gamecocks.
The THIRD round of the SEC Tournament is an absolute dandy:
- (1) Alabama Crimson Tide vs. (8) Kentucky Wildcats
My biggest upset in this tournament involves Kentucky taking down the top-seeded Crimson Tide. Remember back when they played, UK held the lead going into the U4 timeout in Tuscaloosa. Alabama is tasked with playing the early game of the day after a longer-than-usual rest period wrapping up the regular season last Saturday. Kentucky has a game under their belt and will come out and provide the upset of the tournament on Thursday afternoon.
- (4) Tennessee Volunteers vs. (5) Florida Gators
Rocky Top going up against the Gator Chomp could be the game of the day. This matchup was an extremely tough one to pick. Both teams have had highs and lows throughout the season, I am going with the more consistent team in Florida. They have the highest FG%, 3PT%, and FT% in the conference and they conclude a underwhelming season for the Volunteers. The key to this one is Tre Mann, as he did not play in the regular season finale in Knoxville.
- (2) Arkansas Razorbacks vs. (7) Missouri Tigers
The “Battle Line Rivalry” could be decided off a coin flip. Being the Hog fanatic I am, I will give Arkansas the slight advantage. The Hogs fell to the Tigers without x-factor Justin Smith, and vice versa when the Tigers were without big man Jeremiah Tilmon. Now, it seems as if both teams are completely healthy barring a few rumbles out of Fayetteville regarding Jaylin Williams’ availability. Missouri ended the regular season losing five of the last seven and is not playing their best basketball. Arkansas wins this one.
- (3) LSU Tigers vs. (6) Ole Miss Rebels
The final game on Friday provides a chance to play the Razorbacks in the semifinals. LSU’s talent is leaps and bounds ahead of the Rebels talent. The Rebs have no chance.
The FOURTH round of the SEC Tournament showcases two great ballgames:
- (5) Florida Gators vs (8) Kentucky Wildcats
Florida has had an emotional season and will end it by playing on Championship Sunday after taking down the ‘Cats. UF and UK split their two regular season matchups with each winning on the opposing teams home floor. Kentucky’s chaotically bad season finally comes to a close as they struggle to stop fellow Arkansan Tyree Appleby
- (2) Arkansas Razorbacks vs. (3) LSU Tigers
The Tigers ooze talent and athleticism. Whether it is due to the sketchy recruiting tactics used by L$U or the sheer coaching ability of Will Wade is to be determined. The Hogs have been running wild to end the season and they ran LSU off the floor in Fayetteville in late February. They do the same in the semifinals and prove the embarrassing loss to the Bayou Bengals earlier in the season was just a fluke.
The FIFTH and final day of the SEC Tournament pits:
- (2) Arkansas Razorbacks vs. (5) Florida Gators
The Hogs look to win their first conference tournament championship since 2000 while the Scottie Wilbekin led Gators won it all in 2014. The Hogs took down Florida in their lone regular season matchup in Fayetteville, 75-64. Arkansas is undeniably the hottest team in the country, and they will keep the streak alive and head into March Madness as a 2 seed. The Razorbacks are in Hog Heaven.
Champion: Arkansas Razorbacks
Tournament MVP: Moses Moody