It’s March—finally. It’s that time of year that college basketball fans and even non-college ball fans mark on their calendars. As Selection Sunday draws near, let’s take a look at a smaller, yet important, tournament taking place in Nashville, TN.
Auburn plays Mississippi State and Missouri challenges South Carolina to kick off SEC tournament play. The winner of Auburn/Mississippi State plays Texas A&M, while the winner of South Carolina/Missouri plays Ole Miss.
Kentucky, LSU, Arkansas, and Georgia all bypass the first and second rounds. As of now, the SEC’s top four teams appear to be locks for the NCAA tournament; however, both LSU and Georgia could use at least SEC tourney win to solidify their spots.
Ole Miss also needs at least one or two wins in order to feel safe about its NCAA tourney chances, as does Texas A&M. Vanderbilt appears as a potential dark-horse team in SEC tourney play, ending their regular season on a five-game winning streak. They could make a case for an NCAA tourney bid by making it to the SEC tournament final.
Kentucky, as most know, looks to roll through Nashville and enter the NCAA tournament undefeated. The Wildcats experienced several challenges on the way to an undefeated SEC regular season, including close calls at Florida, Texas A&M, LSU and Georgia. They also struggled at home against Ole Miss to open SEC play by gaining a hard-fought overtime victory.
The Cats should expect every team’s best shot. This time of year, each team fights to extend its season, and strange things often happen in tournament play. In 2012, the Cats fell to Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament final before rolling through the NCAA tourney to a national title. In order to remain unblemished, however, the Cats must remain focused because each team will challenge them.
Kentucky’s SEC Tournament Prediction: The Cats are sluggish in their first game against Florida but end it much like they did the regular season finale. They roll through Texas A&M on Saturday, avenging the double overtime victory (they haven’t lost, so this is the best chance to “avenge” something). Kentucky defeats Vanderbilt in a 2012 rematch of the SEC tournament final, dispatching a scrappy Commodore squad late in the second half.