The SEC Tournament invades the Music City this week, which means that fan bases from all over the southeast will be taking in the sights and sounds on Broadway. Bridgestone Arena is hosting this tournament for the fifth time in six years and sixth time in eight years. It will also be there next year before moving to Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL for a year.
Kentucky’s four-year run of terror ended last year when Auburn blew out Tennessee by 20 points in the finals. Last year’s event had some surprises, namely Florida making it to the semifinals with a win over top-seeded LSU. Auburn was actually a #5 seed last season, but they were much better than their seed line.
This season, Auburn is a #2 seed and many would tell you that the Tigers are not as good as their seed line. We’ll see what sorts of fun and frivolity we get with this tournament. We know the 14 fan bases will be having a lot of that in Nashville.
Here are the teams, seeds, standings, and odds from BetOnline Sportsbook for the 2020 SEC Conference Tournament:
- Kentucky 25-6 (15-3) +175
- Auburn 25-6 (12-6) (H2H tiebreaker) +275
- LSU 21-10 (12-6) +550
- Mississippi State 20-11 (11-7) (H2H tiebreaker) +900
- Florida 19-12 (11-7) +350
- South Carolina 18-13 (10-8) (H2H tiebreaker) +3300
- Texas A&M 16-14 (10-8) +6600
- Tennessee 17-14 (9-9) +1200
- Alabama 16-15 (8-10) +2500
- Missouri 15-16 (7-11) (record vs. Auburn) +10000
- Arkansas 19-12 (7-11) +2500
- Ole Miss 15-16 (6-12) +10000
- Georgia 15-16 (5-13) +8000
- Vanderbilt 11-20 (3-15) +15000
Vanderbilt is the de facto home team just down the road in the West End area of Broadway, but this conference tournament is well-attended by fans of all the schools. At least Vanderbilt goes into this year’s version having won a few conference games.
Kentucky is the top seed and the least flawed of the teams in the SEC. By no means is this the best team that John Calipari has taken to Nashville or the SEC Tournament in general. The SEC in general is actually down a bit, as the conference ranks sixth according to Bart Torvik, trailing the four major conferences and the Big East.
The ranks back it up. Kentucky is the only top 30 team in the conference per Torvik and Ken Pomeroy. Florida is on the cusp and there is a difference of opinion between the two regarding Auburn, a team that has had its share of fortunate victories this season.
The middle of this conference is really interchangeable, aside from Texas A&M and Vanderbilt, who both grade really poorly by the metrics. In other words, A&M looks like a very weak #7 seed.
Here is the schedule for the 2020 Southeastern Conference Tournament:
Wednesday March 11
6 p.m. CT: 13 Georgia vs. 12 Ole Miss
8:30 p.m. CT: 14 Vanderbilt vs. 11 Arkansas
Thursday March 12
12 p.m. CT: 9 Alabama vs. 8 Tennessee
2:30 p.m. CT: 13/12 winner vs. 5 Florida
6 p.m. CT: 10 Missouri vs. 7 Texas A&M
8:30 p.m. CT: 14/11 vs. 6 South Carolina
Friday March 13
12 p.m. CT: 9/8 winner vs. 1 Kentucky
2:30 p.m. CT: 13/12/5 winner vs. 4 Mississippi State
6 p.m. CT: 10/7 winner vs. 2 Auburn
8:30 p.m. CT: 14/11/6 winner vs. 3 LSU
Saturday March 14
12 p.m. CT: 9/8/1 winner vs. 13/12/5/4 winner
2:30 p.m. CT: 10/7/2 winner vs. 14/11/6/3 winner
Sunday March 15
12 p.m. CT: Championship Game
For being the top seed, Kentucky does not have a favorable draw. They’ll either play rival Tennessee or dangerous Alabama in the first game. They’re also very likely to run into Florida in the semifinals. Florida is better than Mississippi State, but Florida lost the lone head-to-head meeting on the road and slots in as the #5. Florida just hasn’t been able to play consistent enough despite a very high level of expectations coming into the season.
Florida had some disturbing losses during the regular season, but as far as ceiling goes, they are up there.
So, Kentucky has a tough draw. The Wildcats should hold serve, but the bottom of the bracket looks a little bit more interesting. Auburn draws a decent first opponent with the winner of Texas A&M and Missouri. The irony is that both of those teams beat Auburn late in the regular season, which speaks to Auburn’s luck factor early in the year. Auburn is something of a high-variance team in that they take a ton of threes and aren’t nearly as good defensively as they were last season.
LSU has the best draw in the bracket as far as top seeds. South Carolina has some upside, but also has a lot of injuries. The Gamecocks should beat the Vanderbilt/Arkansas winner, but if they don’t, that makes LSU’s draw even easier. The Tigers did not play well down the stretch at all. After starting 8-0 in conference play, they finished 4-6, including losses to Vanderbilt and Arkansas. It wasn’t a good look to say the least.
Nevertheless, LSU, who lost its only meeting to Auburn by a point in overtime, has quite a bit of upside on offense. The defense leaves something to be desired, which is the case with quite a few SEC teams this year. In fact, none of the SEC teams ranks in the top 35 in defense per Torvik. That means we have to find a team that can score.
A money line rollover actually seems kind of fun and way better than the futures price on Alabama. It is a marvel that Tennessee is priced so low and Alabama is priced so high and the line for the game between the two is probably somewhere around pick ‘em. In that respect, there may be some value on an Alabama rollover. You could do a lot worse than an improving team that shoots it well. It seems unlikely that Kentucky would lose to Alabama, but the Crimson Tide are the right type of team to pull an upset like that. They play fast, make opponents uncomfortable, and chuck a ton of long-distance jumpers.
LSU’s draw also makes the Tigers attractive. They are going to get to the semifinals in all likelihood and face an Auburn team that many believe to be fraudulent. LSU is the pick here, but I can’t get that Alabama ML rollover out of my head.
Pick: LSU +550