2021 SEC Tournament Predictions and Betting Odds
Kentucky has missed the NCAA Tournament just two times in the last 30 years.
Make it three times in 31 years.
The Wildcats are just 9-15 and have been one of the biggest busts in the country. The fact that they are an afterthought heading into the SEC Tournament goes to show just how bizarre of a season it has been in Southeast basketball.
But the Wildcats’ loss is everyone else’s gain. And there is as many as a half-dozen teams in this league with a realistic opportunity to cut down the nets and claim the league crown.
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The SEC Tournament will take place at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. It starts on Wednesday, March 10 and will conclude Sunday afternoon. Here is Doc’s Sports 2021 SEC Tournament preview and predictions:
The Favorite: Alabama (+220)
The Crimson Tide rode an explosive three-point attack to the regular season SEC Championship. Now they will try to turn the trick and claim the program’s first SEC title in 30 years. Herbert Jones and Jahvon Quinerly are two of the best shooters in the country, each hitting more than 44 percent of their 3-point shots. Jaden Shackelford is a dynamic scorer, and senior John Petty is outstanding on both ends of the court. This team shares the ball well and never stops attacking. The Crimson Tide are 17-3 in their last 20 games, with a road loss at Arkansas the lone blemish in the last month, and they are a worthy favorite.
The Contender: Arkansas (+300)
No one in the SEC is hotter than the Razorbacks right now. Winners of eight straight, Arkansas hasn’t lost to an SEC opponent since Jan. 16. They hammered Alabama in the most recent meeting on Feb. 24, and right now this team has the look of a group poised for a long March. Length and experience are two of the biggest strengths for this squad. Transfers J.D. Notae, Jalen Tate and Justin Smith are a lethal trio. That experience has allowed this Razorback squad to overcome a traditional Arkansas weakness: winning on the road. If they keep it up, then they could put together three W’s in three days and ride into The Big Dance on a giant wave of momentum.
The Sleeper: Tennessee (+500)
At one point in this season, the Volunteers were a Top 5 team and looked like a fringe national title contender. However, as normally happens with Rick Barnes-coached teams, this squad ended up underachieving. Seniors Yves Pons and John Fulkerson have been disappointments, and point guard Santiago Vescovi has been erratic in the second half of the season. Blue chip freshmen Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer are future stars. But neither is ready to take over this team. This roster has all the talent it needs to cut down the nets. Can this group come together and recapture its December magic, though?
The Spoiler: Florida (+700)
Florida has been a really hard team for bettors to wrap their minds around. They beat Tennessee by 26, won at West Virginia, and hammered Auburn and Kentucky in back-to-back road games. The Gators also lost to South Carolina and Mississippi State and were run out of the gym by Alabama, Kentucky and Arkansas. The Gators have had a great season considering that they’ve played without preseason league player of the year Keyontae Johnson. When they get rolling, this team looks sharp. And they may have enough juice to take out shaky Tennessee and set up a semifinal date with Alabama.
Bubble Team to Watch: Missouri (+900)
Maybe I’ve just been wrong about the Tigers this year. This is a team that I expected to compete at the top of the SEC. And early season wins over Oregon and Illinois did nothing to dispel that notion. Things just haven’t clicked for Cuonzo Martin’s squad, though, and they enter this tournament having lost five of their last seven games. This is one of the oldest and most experienced teams in the country. They have a nice blend of capable guards and interior ability, and they’ve proven that they can beat anyone in the nation. Now they need to string a couple wins together in this tournament or risk having their bubble burst.
Early Round Matchup to Watch:
No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 5 Florida (2:30, Thursday, March 13)
This matchup assumes that Florida can hold off either Texas A&M or Vanderbilt. I think that’s safe. What isn’t safe is any amount of money bet on either the shaky Gators or the sketchy Volunteers. These two split their regular season meetings, with Florida pasting the Vols 75-49 in January and Tennessee wrangling the Gators last Sunday in an easy 65-54 victory. Tennessee made the SEC title game in each of the last two conference tournaments. They have also dominated this series recently, beating Florida in five of the last six meetings. The Gators will have the advantage of having a game under their belts. And their loss in Knoxville last weekend was without point guard Tre Mann, who is expected to be back. This one should be a toss up.
2021 SEC Conference Tournament Predictions: Kentucky has won the SEC regular season title eight times in the last 20 years. Discounting those seasons, the SEC regular season champ has only won the SEC tournament twice in 12 attempts. That doesn’t bode well for Alabama.
Speaking of Kentucky, the Wildcats are lurking. They have won four of the last five SEC tournaments and have six championships in the last 10 years. Don’t sleep on the Cats. Their only shot at making the NCAA Tournament is to win this tourney. Kentucky is much, much better than its record suggests, and John Calipari has pulled rabbits out of his hat before.
I think that there will be a surprise winner of this tournament. I think that the winner of the Missouri-Arkansas quarterfinal is going to make the title game. There they will likely take on the winner of Kentucky-Alabama. Regardless, I think that a team other than the top two seeds will end up cutting down the nets in Nashville.
Robert Ferringo is a member of the Basketball Writer's Association of America and a professional sports handicapper for Doc's Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and has posted 12 of 14 winning seasons. He is looking for a monster March run and you can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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