2020 SEC Tournament Predictions and Betting Odds
So, about that SEC basketball Renaissance…
The past two seasons have seen the SEC reassert itself as a true powerhouse basketball conference. They have sent 13 teams to the NCAA Tournament the past two years combined, and they have finished as one of the four highest rated conferences overall in each season.
This year? Not so much.
The SEC has been ugly to watch this year. As it stands right now, five NCAA bids seems to be the ceiling for this group, and I will be stunned if more than one of these teams survives the opening weekend of the Big Dance. They are rated as the No. 6 conference in the country and are barely ahead of the AAC for that No. 7 slot.
That doesn't mean that these teams aren't capable of banding together and providing us with an entertaining and unpredictable conference tournament, though.
The SEC Tournament will take place at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. It starts on Wednesday, March 12 and will conclude Sunday afternoon. Here is Doc's Sports 2020 SEC Tournament preview and predictions:
The Favorite: Kentucky (+270)
When a team wins a major conference regular season title by a full three games, the immediate thought is that team is a dominating champion. This Kentucky group is about as uninspiring of a runaway champ as you will ever find, though. The Wildcats have certainly improved as the season has worn on, winning nine of their last 10 games. However, they may be without starting point guard (and most important offensive player) Ashton Hagans. He was held out of their last game for some off-court nonsense, and his postseason availability is unknown. That would be a huge blow. But something tells me John Calipari is going to value winning more than any ethical concerns, so don't be surprised to see Hagans sooner rather than later.
The Contender: Auburn (+300)
The Tigers may be the most exciting team in the SEC. They average 78 points per game (No. 26 in the country) and lead the world (seemingly) in comebacks from double-digit deficits. Samir Doughty and J'Von McCormick give them an outstanding senior backcourt. And big men Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy, also seniors, provide the heft on the interior. This is an extremely experienced roster, and the bulk of these players logged minutes in the Final Four last year. Auburn lives on the edge, though. They went just 3-4 down the stretch and prior to that won four overtime games in five contests to get to 22-2. They won't have their home crowd to feed off, though, and they will need to be efficient and judicious with their 3-point offense, something they've struggled with all season.
The Sleeper: LSU (+375)
The Tigers were one of the surprise teams in the SEC this year after losing two NBA draft picks last summer. LSU started the season 17-4 and won their first eight SEC games. Then reality set in and they went 4-6 in their final 10 games. LSU's lack of depth and their overall youth (five of their top six guys are freshmen and sophomores) has caught up with them a bit. The Tigers play hard, they play smart, and they are extremely efficient inside the arc. LSU also has a favorable draw in the bracket. They will be a solid favorite against either South Carolina (whom they beat on the road) or Arkansas (who will be playing their third game in three nights). Then the Tigers would take on Auburn, against whom they blew a massive lead in a 91-90 loss on Feb. 8. I think LSU has been playing over its head all season. But there is no denying that they are in a good spot in this tournament.
The Spoiler: Mississippi State (+700)
There isn't anything that really jumps out at you about Mississippi State. But they have a future pro in Reggie Perry and several other talented, physically gifted guys on this roster. Ben Howland has a track record of success in March, and the Bulldogs could be lurking…or they could be a bust and lose their first game. They have gone 11-5 in their last 16 games and quietly positioned themselves as a spoiler. The Bulldogs haven't beaten Kentucky in years. But if the Wildcats are without Ashton Hagans, then I think the Bulldogs could bust a big hole in the top of the bracket
Bubble Team To Watch: Arkansas (+1500)
This Arkansas team is an interesting squad. A late-season swoon, including back-to-back OT losses, came without leading scorer Isaiah Joe. When he does play, this team is 18-7 this year. The Razorbacks face an absolute must-win game in the opening round against sad sack Vanderbilt. A win there sets up another huge game with South Carolina that may be an elimination game in two respects (the loser will likely get bounced out of the SEC and NCAA Tournament fields). And if Arkansas can manage to win there, they will get a crack at a very beatable LSU team. This team has everything to play for and will prove whether they are or aren't worthy of dancing.
Early Round Matchup To Watch:
No. 5 Florida (-2.5) vs. No. 12 Ole Miss/No. 13 Georgia (Noon, Thursday, March 14)
The UGA-Ole Miss opener is a bit of a toss-up. They are both bad teams with some high-end guards. Georgia has future pro Anthony Edwards, who might be the most overrated player in college hoops. Ole Miss has Breein Tyree and Devontae Shuler, two guys that have won some big games in their careers. The winner of that game is going to face a very vulnerable Florida team. The Gators found out that they may be without Kerry Blackshear for the SEC Tournament due to a wrist injury. That would be a massive blow to a team that has absolutely no one to take his place on the interior. Florida is a very young team. And losing their senior leader and post anchor would be a crushing blow. That could open things up for either the Bulldogs or the Rebels to pull an upset and get the ball rolling downhill on a potential dream SEC run.
2019 SEC Conference Tournament Predictions: I think that this conference tournament is going to be a mess. The reality is that the SEC isn't very good this year. It's two best teams - Kentucky and Auburn - both have glaring holes in their roster, and neither one is a real Final Four contender. And that's the best the league has to offer!
This tournament is really going to take some eyeball handicapping. We'll have to watch the opening two rounds closely to get a sense of who really came to Nashville to play and who is just dead men walking. The 'powers' in this league are not really powers, as I could see two of the top four seeds losing in their quarterfinal matchups. It really comes down to Ashtan Hagans' availability. If Kentucky has their starting point guard, then they have the best chance to win another league title. But even with Hagans, this team has been shaky as hell away from home.
I see upsets galore. I also think that Auburn has the best bracket and clearest path to the finals, so I will look for the Tigers to hold it together long enough to win another banner.
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 11 of 13 winning seasons. He is looking for a monster March run and will have an 8-Unit Conference Tournament Game of the Year this week. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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