SEC Tournament Predictions: The World's Largest Indoor Cocktail Party?
The SEC Tournament tips off on Thursday in the Georgia Dome. This year's tournament promises to be one of the best ever. Parity is the word of the year in the SEC. Anybody could win this thing.
The SEC East again dominated the West this year, although not as badly as last year. Again, however, the seedings are a bit skewed because of this. A 9-7 Tennessee is the No. 5 seed in the East, while 9-7 Mississippi State is a No. 2 seed in the West.
There are teams such as Georgia and Alabama who have a lot riding on this tournament. Both are listed in Lunardi's "first four out" in the NCAA Tournament. Given Lunardi's track record, those teams need to win. Oh, by the way, they could play one another on Friday.
Predicting this outcome is almost a coin flip, but here goes.
Auburn vs. Georgia
This game was a good one when the two teams met in Athens a few weeks ago. The Tigers forced overtime with a furious second half comeback before Georgia prevailed.
Georgia is under huge pressure to win this game. They are firmly on the bubble. One of their biggest resume pluses is that they have no bad losses. This tells me they beat teams they are supposed to beat.
Auburn comes into the game on a bit of a roll. They won the last two games of the regular season and came within a buzzer-beater of sending the West Champions Alabama to overtime three games ago. They will give the Bulldogs all they can handle
Prediction: Georgia in a nail-biter, 65-63.
South Carolina vs. Ole Miss
Ole Miss and South Carolina both need to win the tournament if they want to go to the Big Dance. It won't happen.
South Carolina will play them tough. Their last two games against Tennessee and Mississippi State were lost by a total of six points.
Ole Miss is prone to losing games to inferior opponents, sometimes blowing huge leads. They blew a 20-point lead at Auburn last week.
I'm going with Chris Warren in this one. He will be the best player on the court.
Prediction: Ole Miss 74, South Carolina 65
Tennessee vs. Arkansas
These two met in the first SEC game of the year. Arkansas won.
Tennessee is another bubble team who needs to win at least this game. Right now, most experts have them in, but I have to believe another loss to the Hogs might be all the committee needs to send them packing to the NIT.
Arkansas needs to play well for their coach. John Pelphrey's seat is heating up in Fayetteville. Arkansas has a dangerous shooter in Rotnei Clarke. He can go off at anytime and really light it up.
Prediction: In the first upset of the day, Arkansas 80, Tennessee 76.
LSU vs. Vanderbilt
This is the day's biggest mismatch. LSU is very young. They have no idea about the tournament spotlight. This will be a learning experience for them.
Vanderbilt is good enough to win the whole thing. They are solid in their quest for the NCAA Tournament. They are playing for seeding now. If there was ever a team that it would not surprise anyone to see it win four games in four days, Vandy may be it.
John Jenkins is one of the favorites for SEC Player of the Year. Look for him to set some kind of SEC Tournament scoring record in this game.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 87, LSU 59
Georgia vs. Alabama
Assuming I get my first round games right, here are the second round matchups.
Georgia and Alabama just played a few days ago in Tuscaloosa. Alabama won in a tough battle. This time, the two will meet on a neutral floor in the Bulldogs' home area.
This one will possibly be an elimination game for the Big Dance. You will see both team's best efforts. I like Georgia's shooters a little better in this one. Bama's Chartrez Davis was the difference in the last meeting with five three-pointers. Before that, he was in a 1-for-16 slump. I look for him to cool off in this one.
Georgia's Trey Thompkins was nursing a painful ingrown toenail in the last game. He will be healthier this time.
Prediction: Georgia 67, Alabama 62
Ole Miss vs. Kentucky
Ole Miss won the previous meeting in Oxford on a buzzer-beating three-point shot from Warren.
They will not be so fortunate this time. UK is getting better and more confident at the right time. They just got a big road win at Tennessee last weekend. Josh Harrelson seems to come up with a huge offensive rebound every time UK needs one.
Ole Miss will put up a fight. But they just won't have enough.
Prediction: Kentucky 78, Ole Miss 70
Arkansas vs. Florida
Florida blew Arkansas out in Gainesville. Many think UF's best half of basketball all year was against Alabama a week ago. These people missed the Arkansas game.
The Gators put Kenny Boynton on Rotnei Clarke and he shut him out. Zip. Zero. Nada. Two air balls in his first two shots. No reason to think that won't happen again.
Boynton and Chandler Parsons are shooting as well as they've shot in their careers the last two weeks. The Hogs have no answer in the paint for Vernon Macklin. This one will be over early.
Prediction: Florida 84, Arkansas 62
Vanderbilt vs. Mississippi State
This one will be a good one. MSU is going to be a bit more desperate to win. They must win the tournament to get to the big dance.
Renardo Sidney is going to be the key to this game. If he comes to play, Vandy has no answer for him. If Dee Bost has his shot working, those two are a tough duo. With everything on the line, I look for them to play well.
Vandy will hang tough with their three-point shooting. Jenkins will have another big day. I think they will come up a bit short, though.
Prediction: Mississippi State 76, Vanderbilt 74
Georgia vs. Kentucky
These two teams split their two games this season. Both were pretty competitive. This one will be no different.
This one will come down to who can hit the big shot at the end. I'm going with Thompkins.
Prediction: Georgia 68, Kentucky 67
Mississippi State vs. Florida
MSU won the first meeting between these two. Sidney was great in that game and Bost was hot from the outside.
Still, the Gators had the lead with a minute to go and choked the game away at the foul line. The Gators' free throw shooting has gotten much better since then.
Prediction: Florida 80, Mississippi State 69
Championship Game: Georgia vs. Florida
These two played the game of the year in the SEC. It was a double overtime thriller in Athens. The Gators prevailed that night when Dog players starting fouling out.
The game in Gainesville was heading the same way until Kenny Boynton starting hitting three-pointers. No reason to think this won't be another one.
Look for Chandler Parsons to come up huge and take home the Tournament MVP.
Prediction: Florida 75, Georgia 73
Now that I've given Florida the kiss of death, look for UK to win it all.