There should have been 14 teams playing in this year's SEC tournament. However, Auburn's self-imposed postseason ban means the field for the tourney is down to 13 teams.
Because of that, there will only be one first-round matchup taking place as the SEC tournament gets underway Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. No. 12-seeded Vanderbilt and No. 13-seeded Texas A&M, which were the two teams at the bottom of the regular-season conference standings, will face off to try to advance to the second round.
Either the Commodores or Aggies will advance to take on No. 5-seeded Florida in the second round on Thursday. The other three second-round matchups are already set: No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Mississippi State, No. 7 Missouri vs. No. 10 Georgia and No. 6 Ole Miss vs. No. 11 South Carolina.
Four teams received double byes and will join in on the action in the quarterfinals on Friday: No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Arkansas, No. 3 LSU and No. 4 Tennessee.
Here's everything you need to know heading into Wednesday's first-round matchup.
No. 12 Vanderbilt vs. No. 13 Texas A&M, 7 p.m. ET, SEC Network
First-Round Betting Information
Spread: Vanderbilt (-1.5)
Over/Under: 133 points
Moneyline: Vanderbilt -125 (bet $125 to win $100); Texas A&M +104 (bet $100 to win $104)
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook
First-Round Preview, Betting Tips
Between COVID-19 protocols and weather-related cancellations, Texas A&M didn't take the court much during the second half of the regular season. In fact, the Aggies never played a game during February, and they had only two games following their Jan. 30 win at Kansas State.
Upon Texas A&M's return to the court in March, it suffered a pair of losses. The Aggies lost to Mississippi State last Wednesday then fell at Arkansas on Saturday. Because of the cancellations, they never took on Vanderbilt, their first-round opponent in the SEC tournament.
The Commodores didn't have issues getting on the court, but they have struggled of late. They lost seven of their final 10 regular-season games, which included falling at Ole Miss in their finale on Saturday.
Texas A&M and Vanderbilt each struggled during SEC play as well. The Aggies went 2-8 in conference games, with their lone wins coming against Auburn and Mississippi State. The Commodores had a 3-13 conference record, beating only South Carolina, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
Either of these teams is going to have trouble in the second round when it has to take on Florida and is unlikely to get past the Gators. However, either Vanderbilt or Texas A&M will at least earn one tournament victory when the teams face off Wednesday night.
One edge that Vanderbilt will have is the fact that it has one of the best players in the SEC in its lineup. Sophomore guard Scotty Pippen Jr. ranked second in the conference in points (20.6), assists (4.9) and steals (1.8) per game during the regular season, and he scored a season-high 36 points in a win over Cincinnati last Thursday.
Pippen, who was a first-team All-SEC selection, has been dealing with a hip injury, though, as he was limited to 18 minutes in Vanderbilt's regular-season finale against Ole Miss. But it appears he should be set to go for the conference tournament opener.
"I think he obviously could have finished the game [Saturday]," Commodores coach Jerry Stackhouse said, per Drake Hills of the Nashville Tennessean. "But because he had a little bit of a setback, I wanted to make sure that he was fresh going into [Wednesday's] game."
With Pippen likely to have a strong showing after getting that rest, Vanderbilt should notch its first SEC tournament win since 2017 (when it beat Texas A&M in the second round and went on to reach the semifinals). The Commodores are 1.5-point favorites, and they should cover that spread, winning by at least two points, although the Aggies could keep it somewhat close.
Vanderbilt and Texas A&M are also likely to combine for more than 133 points, so it would be smart to bet on the over for this matchup. The Commodores ranked third in the SEC in three-point percentage (35.2), so they could get hot from behind the arc. And both teams are strong free-throw shooters, so they should rack up some points at the line late.
It may not be the most competitive game of this year's SEC tournament, but Texas A&M should at least keep it interesting in the second half. However, expect Vanderbilt to hold on and advance to the second round with a victory.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 77, Texas A&M 68
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