SEC Tourney First Round: Kentucky Advances? Vandy Upset?
The SEC Tournament kicks off Thursday in St. Petersburg, Florida with eight teams trying to extend their seasons by one more game.
You will remember last year this tournament was rocked by a tornado in downtown Atlanta and culminated in a last place Georgia team taking the title. With some teams bunched around .500 this tournament should be just as exciting without the weather delays (hopefully).
If you have a chance, take a minute to read this article on SI.com (and in the magazine this week) about Alabama's Mykal Riley and his last second shot in the SEC Tournament that may have averted up to 15,000 people being right in the middle of the tornado last year that shut down the Georgia Dome. Riley's story of getting to that point in his basketball career in itself is remarkable too.
No. 4 East Kentucky Wildcats vs No. 5 West Ole Miss Rebels
The first step for the Kentucky Wildcats making a run to the SEC Tournament Championship and continuing their NCAA appearance streak begins with a rematch against an Ole Miss team that beat UK in their only meeting of the season.
The Wildcats' big letdown in the loss was a 38 percent shooting night, rebounding, and defense. Ole Miss had four starters in double figures. Kentucky lost their last four and five of their last six while the Rebels lost three of their last four. I think the Wildcats play much better than they have of late, realizing they want at least one more game until the streak dies.
No. 3 West Mississippi State Bulldogs vs No. 6 East Georgia Bulldogs
Thursday: 3:15 PM
Georgia tries to make it two miracle runs in a row starting with Mississippi State Thursday afternoon. The Bulldogs of Miss State won the only season meeting by six in Athens right in the middle of UGA's 11-game losing streak.
Neither team shot the ball very well, but Georgia's 22 turnovers proved to be the difference. Georgia starters really struggled scoring just 28 of the 61 points. Miss State's post players were able to dominate inside scoring 35 on 14-for-22 shooting.
I don't see another miracle run this year—though cold air and rain are moving into Atlanta this weekend.
Pick: Mississippi State
No. 4 West Alabama Crimson Tide vs No. 5 East Vanderbilt Commodores
Vandy has become a chic pick for an SEC Tournament run with their wins over LSU and South Carolina in their final three. The Commodores toppled the Tide 79-74 at home in early February led by Center A.J. Ogilvy's 20 points and 12 rebounds.
While Vandy was receiving the late season buzz, Alabama won four of their last five including last weekend at Tennessee. I think the Tide's athleticism advantage overcomes Vandy size advantage and Alabama advances in another buzzer beater.
No. 3 East Florida Gators vs No. 6 West Arkansas Razorbacks
Much like their East counterparts, Kentucky, the Florida Gators begin their SEC Tournament championship hopes on Thursday.
The Gators draw Arkansas whom they beat 80-65 in Gainesville in mid-January. Florida hit 11 three pointers and forced 19 Razorback turnovers in the win.
Arkansas has just two wins away from Bud Walton Arena this season. I think Florida finds their groove shooting and takes down Arkansas relatively easily.
Season: 25-22 SU through 3/8
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