The 2013 SEC tournament is just around the corner, and after a down year, the conference is wide open.
Teams such as Florida and Kentucky remain the usual favorites, but there's a feeling that no one is invincible in this year's conference.
And as the top tier teams struggle, the dark horses begin to emerge and pull off upsets.
Here's a breakdown of the SEC tournament schedule, as well as a look at some of the best dark horse candidates for the conference crown this year.
|1||South Carolina vs. Mississippi State||March 13||7:30 p.m.||SEC Network|
|2||Texas A&M vs. Auburn||March 13||10:00 p.m.||SEC Network|
|3||Georgia vs. LSU||March 14||1:00 p.m.||SEC Network|
|4||Game 1 Winner vs. Tennessee||March 14||3:30 p.m.||SEC Network|
|5||Arkansas vs. Vanderbilt||March 14||7:30 p.m.||SEC Network|
|6||Game 2 Winner vs. Missouri||March 14||10:00 p.m.||SEC Network|
|7||Game 3 Winner vs. Florida||March 15||1:00 p.m.||ESPN U|
|8||Game 4 Winner vs. Alabama||March 15||3:30 p.m.||ESPN U|
|9||Game 5 Winner vs. Kentucky||March 15||7:30 p.m.||SEC Network (ESPN U in Select Markets)|
|10||Game 6 Winner vs. Mississippi||March 15||10:00 p.m.||SEC Network (ESPN U in Select Markets)|
|11||Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner||March 16||1:00 p.m.||ABC|
|12||Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner||March 16||3:30 p.m.||ABC|
|13||Game 11 Winner vs. Game 12 Winner||March 17||1:00 p.m.||ABC|
Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama hasn't always played great basketball this season, but it continues to find ways to win.
The Crimson Tide basketball team is built much like their football team. They play solid defense, which leads to opportunistic offense.
Alabama sports the SEC's second-best defense, with opponents averaging just under 60 points a game. But a somewhat deficient offense leaves little room for error, as Bama is averaging only 63.7 points per game.
The Tide do have an easy path through the tournament.
They'll most likely face Tennessee in their first game—a team they split the series with this season—with their biggest challenge being a potential run-in with Florida in the semifinals.
The big question is which team shows up this month? The Crimson Tide that beat Kentucky 59-55, or the Crimson Tide that lost to Auburn 37-49?
This year's Vanderbilt isn't a team you expect to see with much of a chance in the tournament, but the Commodores could be catching fire at the right time.
Vanderbilt comes into the tournament with an even split of offense and defense, averaging 60.0 points a game and allowing 60.0 points a game.
But the Commodores have enjoyed a strong final stretch of the season, winning five of their last seven games—though one of those losses was an ugly 40-66 beat down at the hands of the Gators.
If Vandy can get past Arkansas—a team they most recently beat 67-49—the next biggest challenge will come against Kentucky in the semifinals.
But never say never. The Commodores dropped both games against the Wildcats this season, but by a slim average margin of 3.0 points.
Factor in the fact that Kentucky is limping through the tournament, and who knows what could happen.
If you want to talk about dangerous and underrated teams in the SEC, look no further than Missouri.
Led by the forward tandem of Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi, the Tigers have a great chance to go deep in this year's tourney.
They have one of the best offenses in the SEC (ranking second with 77.2 points per game) and a defense that doesn't dominate, but is really good at all the right things (such as rebounding).
The Tigers will have a favorable schedule through the tournament. They'll field a low seed team in the second round, with the opportunity to play Ole Miss—who they recently beat 98-79—in the quarterfinals.
Missouri has three possibilities in the semifinals (Kentucky, Vanderbilt or Arkansas), two of which the Tigers have wins over this year—they lost their one game to Kentucky.
With all the right pieces to go deep in tournament play, the rest of the SEC would be smart to keep one eye open on the Tigers.
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