College Basketball Handicapping: SEC Tournament Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 3/10/2010
To suggest that the SEC East is just a little bit better than the SEC West this year might be a bit of an understatement.
The top four teams in the East – Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Florida – went a perfect 24-0 this season against the six teams in the West. Overall the East sported a ridiculous 27-9 mark against its brethren out West. That is domination, pure and simple.
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However, the books clearly adjusted to this lopsided predicament. Overall the East went just 19-17 against the spread in these interdivisional contests as the puppies from the West were routinely catching too many points for the teams from the East to handle. That’s a key piece of info to have at your disposal when you consider that all four opening round matchups pit teams from the opposing division against one another.
Now, I would love to use the rest of this space to tell you how overrated Kentucky is. But I think I have made my point crystal clear on that. Instead we’ll take an objective view at the SEC landscape here in Doc’s Sports SEC Tournament Preview:
Here is Doc’s Sports SEC Tournament Preview:
The Favorite: Kentucky (-250)
OK, I can’t help it. Blah, blah, blah. I am still not buying the Wildcats. They have been beating up on a bunch of inbreeds in this conference for over two months, blinding people to the fact that this team A) scored its best non-conference wins two just awful teams, Connecticut and North Carolina, by a total of four points. And B) that they haven’t played well on the road, losing at South Carolina and Tennessee and earning absolute fluke wins at Mississippi State (refs screwed the Bulldogs) and Vanderbilt (Commodores choked). However, in this tourney Kentucky’s bracket is pretty easy. They will win their first game and then will have their toughest game of the tournament, facing either Tennessee in Nashville or a rematch against Ole Miss. If they win that they will likely earn another title. I said that wouldn’t happen two months ago and I’m holding firm on it. That is as long as the SEC refs – which officiate with their faces in the laps of the UK players – are the least bit impartial and quit giving the Wildcats the Duke Treatment.
(Oh, and anyone that suggests that John Wall be in the Player of the Year discussion is an idiot. Wall isn’t even the best player on his team, much less the best player in the SEC. And when we start bringing ballers from the ACC, Big 12 and Big East into the discussion it gets pretty ridiculous pretty quickly.)
Tennessee (+300) – Playing in Nashville is definitely going to be a boost to this club. But they have been remarkably streaky and aren’t exactly a team that I would call “dependable”. They are a senior-laden outfit and, unlike Kentucky, have SEC and NCAA Tournament experience. This team has been prone to upset this year, falling to Florida, Georgia and USC as chalk. But they are also the only team in the nation to beat Kansas and Kentucky, two likely No. 1 seeds.
Vanderbilt (+300) – The Commodores have played great basketball since a weird December loss to Western Kentucky. They are 17-4 since that time with a pair of losses coming at the hands of Kentucky. Since A.J. Ogilvy got into shape this has been a different team and they have nice balance both inside and out. They also benefit from being on the weak side of the bracket. Vandy wouldn’t have to face either Tennessee or Kentucky until the championship game and their most difficult obstacle would be either Mississippi State or Florida, two teams which they went 3-0 against this year.
The Sleeper: Mississippi (+1200)
The Rebels will be fighting for their tournament lives here. And they actually may have done themselves a disservice by earning the No. 4 seed. Their bye robbed them of a chance to pick up another key win. Basically, this team has all of the tools and talent to be a conference champion. They have two excellent guards (Chris Warren and Terrico White) and a host of athletic frontcourt players. But this team lacks heart. They did win four straight must-win games to keep themselves on the tournament bubble. But they are also 0-3 against the top teams. Ole Miss will likely face Tennessee in what would be a playoff game for them: win and they are in the Big Dance. They lost in OT in the first meeting in Knoxville. Are they a tournament team? I don’t know, but we’ll find out soon enough.
The Spoiler: Georgia/Arkansas Winner (+3000)
These have been two incredibly streaky, yo-yo teams this year. One week they are thorns in the side of the rest of the league. The next week they are floundering weaklings in way over their heads. It’s a shame that they have to play one another. The winner gets a crack at a soft Vanderbilt team. Neither Georgia nor Arkansas has much depth so that’s a concern. But these two teams are capable of getting hot and really doing some damage. Or getting routed by 30. We will see.
South Carolina (+1.5) vs. Alabama
Winner plays Kentucky. I would hate to be the guy charged with ending Devon Downey’s career. But that’s what we’re looking at from Alabama’s sideline. Alabama won the only meeting this year, played in Columbia just last week. South Carolina is, Downey aside, a pretty bad basketball team. They did beat Kentucky back in January but they are still just 4-10 SU and 4-11 ATS down the stretch. Alabama is a team that wants to press, trap and get after it. They are an athletic team that does its best work on the defensive end. Forward JaMychal Green is back from suspension for ‘Bama, but will have his work cut out for himself near the basket. If this one is close the edge goes to USC because of Downey. But if it’s a blowout it will be ‘Bama’s way.
LSU (+11.5) vs. Tennessee
Winner plays Mississippi. LSU is terrible. They went just 2-14 this year in conference play and did not win a game all season outside their own gym. They do have one of the best players in the league, Tasmin Mitchell, but overall they are one of the worst offensive teams in the country. LSU only lost by five points in the first meeting but that game really wasn’t as close as the score suggests. I don’t see any way that the keep this one close. That said, the dog in this series is 5-0 ATS and the Tigers are 6-0 ATS in the last six meetings. But the Tigers are also 2-11 ATS in neutral site games.
Auburn (+5.5) vs. Florida
Winner faces Mississippi State. Auburn is really a tricky team and this might be a decent spot to fade a team in a “must-win” situation (Florida). The Tigers are just 6-11 SU in their last 17 games but they are 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 games. This group competes. They have four double-digit scorers, shoot a ton of threes, and are loaded with seniors. Florida, on the other hand, is coming off a tough loss at Kentucky. They are definitely a bubble team but are more than likely in the field. Florida won the first meeting at home by eight points and they held the Tigers to just 7-for-29 from deep. The Gators have very young but very bold guards. They will be the key to how far Florida advances.
Georgia (Pk) vs. Arkansas
Winner faces Vanderbilt. As I discussed, this game is a bit of a toss up. Georgia has played unbelievably well in Mark Fox’s first year. They are 15-6 ATS in their last 21 games despite the fact that they have won just five of 11 outright. The Bulldogs have had a terrible time holding leads in games this season and were up 15, at home, at halftime, in their only meeting with Arkansas this year. But they were outscored 50-31 in the second half and simply couldn’t stop Arkansas from getting to the basket. Arkansas is 0-4 ATS in its last four neutral site games and just 1-4 ATS overall. The Bulldogs are 10-2 ATS after a loss but just 1-6 ATS in neutral site games.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and he has gained nearly +300 Units over the past three college basketball seasons. You can purchase his college basketball picks here.
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