2011 SEC Basketball Tournament Predictions

Nathan DealCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2011

NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 10:  Lance Goulboune #5 and Kyle Fuller #11 of the Vanderbilt Commodores battle Chris Hines #44 of the Alabama Crimson Tide for the ball at Memorial Gym on February 10, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

It's getting ever so close, folks.

March Madness, arguably the best sporting event in America, will begin on March 15.

First, though, the conference tournaments must be completed, and the SEC's own tournament will begin very soon at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Throughout the season, the SEC's dominant teams have been Florida, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

No matter what, those three teams will be in the NCAA Tournament.

However, there are some teams like Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia who are on the bubble and can't afford quick exits in Atlanta.

Here are my predictions for the SEC tournament, game-by-game, and I'll give my predictions for who will and who won't make the "Big Dance."

Round One (SEC Network)

W5 Auburn vs. E4 Georgia - The first SEC Tournament game pits two fierce rivals against each other, the Tigers and the Bulldogs. Georgia must win or else they'll be NIT-bound at best. Auburn, meanwhile, had the worst team in school history but finished scorching hot, winning two straight games. The last time these teams met, there was OT in Athens. The first game of the SEC tournament.... bursts the Bulldogs' bubble in a major upset. Auburn 66, Georgia 63

E6 South Carolina vs. W3 Ole Miss - The Rebels of Ole Miss face off against the Gamecocks of South Carolina, who have certainly had their struggles this season. The Rebels are a better all-around team than the Gamecocks. I don't foresee the second major upset in as many games. Ole Miss 72, South Carolina 56

E5 Tennessee vs. W4 Arkansas - The Volunteers, who have had their ups-and-downs this season, are in a must-win situation against Arkansas. The Hogs beat the Vols this year, but that was when they didn't have head coach Bruce Pearl. OK, so this was a forgettable year for Tennessee basketball, but they can still make the NCAA Tournament, despite the fact Bruce Pearl's career obviously is winding down at Tennessee. I think the Volunteers will stay alive against this Arkansas team. Tennessee 71, Arkansas 65

W6 LSU vs. E3 Vanderbilt - Auburn might have been able to spring the trap, but these Tigers won't even come close. The 'Dores are way too good for the worst team in the SEC. LSU could keep it close early, but this will be all Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt 81, LSU 54

Round Two (SEC Network)

W5 Auburn vs. W1 Alabama - The two fiercest rivals in the SEC, Auburn and Alabama, face off for the third time in Atlanta. Alabama barely defeated Auburn last time in Tuscaloosa, 51-49, and that was WITH very questionable officiating. Alabama is in a must-win situation. Auburn is the hottest it has been all year. I call for Auburn to pull an even bigger upset then they did in the first round. Alabama will not go dancing. Auburn 62, Alabama 57

W3 Ole Miss vs. E2 Kentucky - The Wildcats, who are the favorites in this tournament, face off against Ole Miss. The 'Cats have been inconsistent this year but have been playing very, very well as of late, beating Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee in the past few weeks. I see Kentucky taking this one behind a solid effort. Kentucky 77, Ole Miss 64

E5 Tennessee vs. E1 Florida - The Gators, who won the SEC Championship in the regular season, don't have nearly as much on the line as the Vols. Tennessee must win or else there will be no March Madness for them. Too bad, however, that Florida is just simply better than the Vols. The Gators beat the Vols by pulling away in the second half. Florida 75, Tennessee 66

E3 Vanderbilt vs. W2 Mississippi State - Vanderbilt's been having a wonderful season, but Mississippi State? Ehh....not so much. They've had to deal with many off-court distractions and have also looked poor on many occasions ON the court. After two straight SEC Championship Game appearances, Mississippi State gets hammered back to Starkville. Vanderbilt 79, Mississippi State 58

Semifinals (ABC)

W5 Auburn vs. E2 Kentucky - What Auburn has accomplished in this projected tourney so far has been simply amazing for a team so short on depth or talent, but sadly for Auburn fans, the winning streak will end at four. Kentucky is more talented and deep than Auburn is. Also, this could be somewhat of a home game for Kentucky, seeing as, when it comes to basketball, Kentucky travels better than every other SEC school (including Auburn). Auburn fights hard but the Bluegrass Cats will prevail. Kentucky 70, Auburn 53

E3 Vanderbilt vs. E1 Florida - In what will be a great game, the 'Dores and Gators do battle for a date with Kentucky. These teams are evenly matched, as they were likely the two best teams in the SEC this year, but I'm calling for the upset. Vanderbilt does it in two overtimes! Vanderbilt 95, Florida 91 (2OT)

SEC Championship Game (ABC)

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Vanderbilt Commodores

The Wildcats and Commodores split the season series in 2011, but they will have one final shot to take each other down. These are both teams that will make the NCAA Tournament, so the loser won't really suffer from losing. But it's still a conference championship game.

And it's a conference championship game that Vanderbilt will win, 76-74.