SEC Tournament Predictions and College Basketball Picks
by Robert Ferringo - 3/9/2011
Watching SEC basketball is a lot like watching a WWE Royal Rumble. (Which makes sense, since hillbilly southerners are the primary purveyors of both.) In both the SEC and the Royal Rumble there is biting, clawing, chaos, out-of-control athletes, no real organization, and in the end the winner is usually either one of the obvious choices (Hulk Hogan in the RR, Kentucky in the SEC) or one shrouded in controversy and coming out of nowhere (Mississippi State in 2009 and Georgia in 2008; Vince McMahon in 1999).
Both are entertaining, but at the same time comical and somewhat ridiculous. And much like 1980’s wrestling the SEC, as a college basketball entity, has really lost its luster over the last few years. But the SEC is still a “major” conference and thus this will be a heavily watched and debated tournament this weekend.
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The SEC Tournament begins on Thursday, March 10 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Below is Doc’s Sports SEC Tournament predictions and college basketball picks, with odds courtesy of BetUS:
The Favorite: Kentucky (+150)
Personally I don’t think that Kentucky is the best team in the SEC. However, I didn’t set the odds for this one and somehow the Wildcats are favorites. (Because the square public is going to pound them.) Kentucky is in trouble in this tournament for several reasons. First, they can’t win away from Lexington. The officials treat this team with absolute reverence when they play at home. That doesn’t translate to neutral courts and on the road. The result is a team that went just 2-6 away from home in the SEC. Second, this team only uses about 6.5 guys. And most of them are freshmen that have to already be wearing down. There is no way that these guys will have the juice to play three intense games in three days. This is definitely a quality team. But I just think they have too many things working against them to make it back-to-back SEC titles.
The Contenders: Florida (+175)
Florida is actually the No. 1 overall seed in the SEC this year and they have very quietly put together a great season. They are 8-1 since the start of February with the lone loss coming at Kentucky. This team has the best frontcourt in the league, an X-Factor player in do-it-all Chandler Parson, and a pair of fearless guards. However, three of their mere six losses on the season are just head-scratchers: losses to Central Florida, Jacksonville, and South Carolina. That they could lose to such awful teams really makes me wary of fully endorsing them to run the table here. The issue is that when they go cold from the outside they go REAL cold. But as long as they attack the basket this team is tough.
The Sleepers: Alabama (+800)
It is tough to tell just how good this Alabama team is. They took advantage of an easy schedule to secure the top seed in the West and earn a first-round bye. The Tide is 15-4 going back to Dec. 21 and they have beaten Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia from the East. JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell give the Tide one of the top frontcourts in the league and I am a huge fan of Coach Anthony Grant and his in-game abilities. The issue with this club is that their guards are exceedingly young. This team wants to press and pressure and usually teams that try to play up-tempo aren’t good bets in tournament settings. Eventually their guards will have to make a play and I don’t know if they will.
Vanderbilt is still a little soft – although I am a huge fan of Festus Ezeli – but they are as skilled as any team in the SEC. They also have the single best offensive weapon in the Southeast with John Jenkins. Jenkins is one of the top shooters in the country and if he gets hot then forget about it. This team has experience, balance and would be in line for about a No. 3 or 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament were it not for a trio of OT losses this year. They were swept by Florida (one of those OT games), but they dominated the SEC West and they easily handled Mississippi State (their quarterfinals opponent). However, because they don’t have a bye I don’t think they will win this tournament.
The Spoilers: Georgia (+1000)
The Bulldogs are one of the more curious cases in the NCAA right now in terms of whether or not they deserve an NCAA Tournament bid. They have talent, including preseason conference POY Trey Thompkins, a good coach and a good system. This team doesn’t have any bad losses on the season and they do have some nice wins. But they are a ho-hum 6-4 in their last 10 games and this team hasn’t shown one shred of killer instinct this year. If this team wants a berth they need to go out there and take it. If they get aggressive then this team could easily win two or three games this week. If they stay soft then they could get bounced early. But assuming they hammer awful Auburn that would set up a potential NCAA elimination game (for a bid; it is a literal elimination game in this tournament) with Alabama in the quarters.
Mississippi State (+1500)
No team in the country was a bigger train wreck through the first three-quarters of the season than the Bulldogs. Fights, losses, pathetic play, dissension, bad losses; you name something bad that could plague a team and MSU excelled at it. However, this team was able to pull it together enough to earn a bye and a game against Vanderbilt in the quarters. Mississippi State has four really quality players – Dee Bost, Ravern Johnson, Kodi Augustus, and Renardo Sidney – and they can be streaky. There are a load of issues and questions surrounding this club and they really are the X-Factor at the bottom of the bracket. But they won this tournament in 2009 and lost in overtime to Kentucky in the championship game last year. They could be a threat.
(Note: the SEC seeds teams based on their position in the East and West divisions. Like most things pertaining to SEC basketball, it doesn’t make any sense.)
No. 5W Auburn vs. No. 4E Georgia (1 p.m., Thursday, March 10)
If Georgia wants to make a statement that it is truly an NCAA Tournament team then this is exactly the team that the Bulldogs should want to face in the first round. Auburn is terrible. They are just 4-12 in league play this year and two of the wins came in the last week, when the Tigers won back-to-back games in which they trailed by at least 15 points. Georgia needed overtime to down Auburn in the only regular season meeting. But the Bulldogs have huge advantages on both ends of the court and probably have four of the five best players on the court on their side. The number will be huge and probably unplayable, but UGA needs to do something to wow the selection committee here.
No. 5E Tennessee vs. No. 4W Arkansas (7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 10)
The dirty little secret of the SEC this year is that Tennessee really isn’t any good. They are just 11-13 since they beat Pitt way back in December. This team is just 8-16 ATS in those games and they enter the SEC Tournament just 3-6 in their last nine games. Good luck trying to figure Arkansas out. They beat the Vols back in January, at home, in the lone meeting. They also have wins over Alabama, Kentucky and Auburn. But they were swept by the Mississippi schools, they lost to LSU, and they are just 2-8 in their last 10 games outside of Fayetteville. I would never lay points with this Vols team but I don’t know how much you can trust the Hogs. This should be a weird game to watch.
No. 6E South Carolina vs. No. 3W Mississippi (3:30 p.m., Thursday, March 10)
South Carolina is a terrible, terrible basketball team. They are just 1-8 in their last nine games – losing most of them via blowout. But whom did their one win come against? You guessed it: Ole Miss. The Rebels are as shaky as they come. But they do have Chris Warren and this is the senior’s last go-round. Not sure how much that is really going to matter to this group of underachievers but it bears mentioning.
No. 6W LSU vs. No. 3E Vanderbilt (10 p.m., Thursday, March 10)
This one should get ugly. LSU is a horror of a team with a clueless, underperforming coach leading a bunch of clueless, underperforming young players. Vandy has lost three of four down the stretch. But the one win was a 21-point bludgeoning of the Tigers in Baton Rouge. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be equally as ugly in this one.
SEC Tournament Predictions: I think that we are going to have another random team win this tournament. No one has been particularly strong on the road and this league has been a cluster---k all season long. The top teams all have pretty clear flaws: Florida can’t shoot, Kentucky has no depth, Vandy too soft to win four in four days. I think that’s going to leave the door open for another Cinderella. Be wary of laying any points in any games in this league; these teams can’t be trusted.
Robert Ferringo keeps proving himself to be one of the best college basketball handicappers in the nation. His college basketball picks have earned $100 bettors nearly $7,300 in the last two months. Another strong card is coming today and you can get his pick HERE for only $30.
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