SEC Tournament 2021: Nashville Schedule, Bracket and Storylines to Watch

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMarch 7, 2021

SEC Tournament 2021: Nashville Schedule, Bracket and Storylines to Watch

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    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    Alabama has already won its first SEC regular-season championship since 2002. Now, can the Crimson Tide win the conference tournament for the first time since 1991?

    After an impressive regular season, Alabama will look to keep rolling in the SEC tournament, which gets underway Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. But the conference's 13 other teams will also be looking to win the tourney title and secure an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.

    Last season, Kentucky was the SEC regular-season champion, but the tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The last team to win the conference tourney was Auburn, which was victorious in 2019.

    Here's everything else you need to know heading into this year's SEC tournament.

SEC Tournament Bracket, Schedule

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Wednesday, March 10

    Game 1: No. 12 Texas A&M vs. No. 13 Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. ET, SEC Network

    Thursday, March 11

    Game 2: No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Mississippi State, noon ET, SEC Network

    Game 3: No. 5 Florida vs. Game 1 winner, 2 p.m. ET, SEC Network

    Game 4: No. 7 Missouri vs. No. 10 Georgia, 7 p.m. ET, SEC Network

    Game 5: No. 6 Ole Miss vs. No. 11 South Carolina, 9 p.m. ET, SEC Network

    Friday, March 12

    Game 6: No. 1 Alabama vs. Winner of Game 2, noon ET, ESPN

    Game 7: No. 4 Tennessee vs. Winner of Game 3, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Game 8: No. 2 Arkansas vs. Winner of Game 4, 7 p.m. ET, SEC Network

    Game 9: No. 3 LSU vs. Winner of Game 5, 9:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network

    Saturday, March 13

    Game 10: Winner of Game 6 vs. Winner of Game 7, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Game 11: Winner of Game 8 vs. Winner of Game 9, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Sunday, March 14

    Game 12: Winner of Game 10 vs. Winner of Game 11, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

Can Alabama End Long Tournament Championship Drought?

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    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    Not only did Alabama win the SEC regular-season championship, but it did so in dominating fashion. The Crimson Tide went 16-2 in conference play, with their only losses coming against Missouri on Feb. 6 and Arkansas on Feb. 24. It ties the most conference wins that Alabama has had in a season, as it also went 16-2 against SEC competition in 1986-87.

    As the No. 1 seed, Alabama won't return to action until Friday, when it will play in the quarterfinals. The Crimson Tide won six of their final seven regular-season contests, so they'll look to keep their momentum going despite a short layoff between games.

    Alabama's lone loss during that final stretch came against Arkansas, which could be its toughest competition in the SEC tournament. If the two teams meet again, it will be in the championship game. And considering they're the only two ranked teams in the conference, there's a solid chance that will happen.

    Among the keys to the Crimson Tide's success have been rebounding (an SEC-best 40.3 boards per game) and strong three-point shooting (a conference-best 35.5 shooting percentage from behind the arc). If they get hot from long range, they can be difficult to beat. And that could lead them to their first conference tournament title in 30 years.

Will Arkansas Carry over Momentum into Tournament?

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    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    No team in the SEC ended the regular season on a better run than Arkansas. The Razorbacks haven't lost since falling at Oklahoma State on Jan. 30, winning their last eight games. And they haven't lost to an SEC team since losing at Alabama on Jan. 16, a loss it later avenged with a win on Feb. 24.

    Can Arkansas keep it going and win its first SEC tournament championship since 2000? It's possible. The No. 2-seeded Razorbacks have scored 83.3 points per game, the most in the conference, and guard Moses Moody has had an impressive freshman campaign, leading the team with 17.5 points per game.

    Arkansas' largest obstacle to reaching the tournament championship game could be No. 3-seeded LSU. The two teams split their regular-season series, and the Tigers have won five of their past seven games. Get past them, and there's a strong chance the Razorbacks would have to face Alabama in the final game of the tourney.

    But Arkansas is hot, and it could potentially pick up right where it left off when it plays in the quarterfinals on Friday. The Razorbacks may just put up big point totals and power their way to a tournament title.

Could Kentucky Turn Things Around in Tournament?

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    During the John Calipari era, Kentucky has mostly dominated the SEC. Since Calipari became the Wildcats' head coach prior to the 2009-10 season, they've won the conference tournament six times, including every year from 2015-18. Kentucky was also the SEC regular-season champion in 2019-20 and could have been on its way to another tourney title, had it not been canceled.

    But the Wildcats have not been as strong as usual this season. They're 9-15 and went 8-9 in conference play, which has them as the No. 8 seed in the SEC tournament. They'll open the tourney by facing No. 9-seeded Mississippi State in the second round on Thursday.

    Kentucky beat Mississippi State 78-73 in double overtime on Jan. 2, and it's possible the Wildcats will beat the Bulldogs again. But if they're going to turn their year around, they'll have to beat some conference rivals who they struggled against during the regular season.

    While it's possible Kentucky gets hot and plays more like past Calipari-led teams in the tournament, it probably isn't the likeliest scenario. The Wildcats rank 11th in the SEC in points per game (70.3) and 13th in field-goal percentage (41.7). It may be too late for an offensive turnaround now.