The Southeastern Conference is having an uncharacteristically poor year in men's college basketball. While two teams rank in the top 12 in the latest Associated Press poll (Kentucky is ninth and Florida is 12th), the latest Sagarin ratings put the SEC fifth in conference strength this year, behind the Big 12, ACC, Big East and Big Ten and ahead of only the Pac-12 if you're looking at the six conferences typically at the top of NCAA Division I men's hoops.
That doesn't mean the SEC will have a bad March, however.
Joe Lunardi of ESPN.com sees the SEC landing five teams in the NCAA tournament this year, per his latest Bracketology, so some teams could make noise in March.
After all, in the past 10 years, we've seen a No. 7 seed (UConn) play a No. 8 seed (Kentucky) for the national title, a No. 10 seed (Syracuse) and a No. 11 seed (VCU) make the Final Four.
The SEC tournament isn't immune to wackiness either, as last-place Georgia won the SEC tournament in 2008.
Here's a look at the SEC tournament schedule this year. Each team still has two regular-season games remaining, so the seedings and exact matchups are not set just yet, but we do know when and where all the games will take place.
Below you'll find projections for how the SEC regular season will finish out as well as game-by-game predictions for the conference championship.
SEC Tournament Schedule
|Wednesday, March 8||1||First Round||7 p.m.||SEC Network|
|Wednesday, March 8||2||First Round||9 p.m.||SEC Network|
|Thursday, March 9||3||Second Round||1 p.m.||SEC Network|
|Thursday, March 9||4||Second Round||3 p.m.||SEC Network|
|Thursday, March 9||5||Second Round||7 p.m.||SEC Network|
|Thursday, March 9||6||Second Round||9 p.m.||SEC Network|
|Friday, March 10||7||Quarterfinals||1 p.m.||SEC Network|
|Friday, March 10||8||Quarterfinals||3 p.m.||SEC Network|
|Friday, March 10||9||Quarterfinals||7 p.m.||SEC Network|
|Friday, March 10||10||Quarterfinals||9 p.m.||SEC Network|
|Saturday, March 11||11||Semifinals||1 p.m.||ESPN|
|Saturday, March 11||12||Semifinals||3 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sunday, March 12||13||Finals||1 p.m.||ESPN|
All games will take place at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Information via secsports.com. All times ET.
Projected Final Standings and Conference Tournament Seedings
|Place||Team||Projected Win-Loss Record|
Game-by-Game Bracket Predictions
A note on the tournament format before we dive in:
- The top four seeds receive a double bye into the quarterfinal (third) round.
- The fifth through 10th seeds receive a single bye into the second round.
- The 11th through 14th seeds will play in the first round for the right to be the last two teams playing in the second round.
- There is no re-seeding.
No. 11 Auburn over No. 14 LSU
LSU has won just one SEC game and just lost to Auburn by 23 points at home, so the No. 11 Tigers are the pick. The once-proud program, which made the Final Four in 2006 behind Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Tyrus Thomas and Garrett Temple, is now a shell of its former self just one year after having first overall NBA draft pick Ben Simmons on the team.
No. 12 Mississippi State over No. 13 Missouri
For what it's worth, KenPom.com ranks Missouri last in its "Luck" ranking. Perhaps variance swings the Tigers' way and they make a small run in the SEC tournament, but the guess here is that the favored Bulldogs pull through and move on to fight another day.
No. 5 Alabama over No. 12 Mississippi State
MSU has been floundering of late, losing 10 of its last 12 games and six straight. It's good enough to beat another struggling team in Missouri, but expect Alabama to hold serve and move onto the quarterfinals.
No. 6 Georgia over No. 11 Auburn
Like MSU, Auburn is also on a losing skid, dropping four of its last five. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, have won four of their last five. When these two teams met in December, Georgia came away with a 96-84 win. Expect a similar result in the conference tournament (these two teams also play on Wednesday).
No. 10 Texas A&M over No. 7 Ole Miss
This is an upset if you're just looking at the seeds, but in reality, these two teams are fairly evenly matched. In fact, the Aggies rank higher than the Rebels in the Pomeroy rankings, and they are about dead even in the Sagarin rankings.
Aggies freshman forward Robert Williams, who is projected as the 12th overall pick this year by DraftExpress at the moment (should he declare), will be the difference maker.
No. 9 Vanderbilt over No. 8 Tennessee
Vandy is hot right now, winners of its last four, although it will now face SEC powerhouses Kentucky and Florida to close the regular season.
Still, that four-game win streak included a victory over a then-No. 21 ranked South Carolina team, so maybe the Commodores found some mojo. Vandy will take a close one over UT.
No. 1 Kentucky over No. 9 Vanderbilt
UK has four players who could be drafted into the NBA in June. Its talent simply overwhelms lesser teams even when it isn't playing particularly well. UK will win this one easily.
No. 2 Florida over No. 10 Texas A&M
The temptation to pick the Aggies over the Gators is there, considering that Williams is the real deal (five double-doubles in his last six games) and that the Aggies hung with the Gators for 30 minutes before succumbing to a late run when these two teams played on February 11, but Florida's suffocating defense (ranked fourth by Pomeroy) will be too much.
No. 3 South Carolina over No. 6 Georgia
UGA is squarely on the bubble in Joe Lunardi's latest ESPN bracket predictions. This game could be the Bulldogs' last chance to impress the selection committee, with a win meaning a trip the Big Dance and a loss meaning an NIT berth.
USC lost four of five before righting the ship with an emphatic 82-55 win over Tennessee on Saturday. This one should go down to the wire, but the Gamecocks will win a close one and send UGA to the NIT.
No. 4 Arkansas over No. 5 Alabama
The Razorbacks have won their last five games and 22 of 29 overall this season. Perhaps their scoring depth (four players average at least 11.8 points per game) is proving to be beneficial late in the season.
Arkansas scores 81 points per game and crushed 'Bama, 87-68 when these two teams met on February 1. Projected as a No. 9 seed by Lunardi, they could be a classic No. 8 or No. 9 seed that upsets a No. 1 seed in the second round and burns thousands of brackets. Expect them to win here and face UK in the semis.
No. 1 Kentucky over No. 4 Arkansas
Remember when I said that UK can use its world-class talent to beat opponents even if it is playing poorly? Well, when the Wildcats are all playing well and in sync, they are unstoppable.
Such was the case in a 97-71 win over Arkansas this year in which the Wildcats outscored the Razorbacks 56-33 in the second half. De'Aaron Fox finished with 27 points, six rebounds and six assists for UK.
As good as Arkansas is, and its hot shooting is good enough to knock off a top team on any given day, it's hard to pick the Razorbacks over a talented UK team.
No. 2 Florida over No. 3 South Carolina
The Gators run a deep nine-man rotation (each player receives at least 12 minutes per game), and more importantly, six of those nine are upperclassmen. That depth and experience will go a long way in the postseason and help vault them into the finals.
No. 1 Kentucky over No. 2 Florida
Ultimately, it's Kentucky, Florida and then everyone else in the SEC. These two teams are national championship contenders who will go deep into March, UK because of its NBA-level skill and Florida because of its defense, depth and experience.
This game could go either way. These two teams split their matchups this season, with Florida winning 88-66 in Gainesville and Kentucky winning 76-66 in Lexington.
The key difference in both matchups was the rebounding differential. Florida pulled down 54 boards (17 offensive) compared to 29 for UK in the Gator win, and UK hauled in 48 boards compared to 30 for Florida when the Wildcats won.
It's a hard call, and the prediction to feel most confident about is that the game won't feature another double-digit difference. In the end, give the edge to Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, two fantastic players who will be playing in the NBA next fall.