Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee
Record: 27-6, 14-4
How good is Florida? That’s the question everyone wants to know. After they were ranked as high as a No. 1 seed in many early predictions, they’ve suddenly become mediocre. Why can’t they win on the road? It’s not like the SEC is one of the better conferences. All Four of the Gators losses have come on the road in Conference play. Their best road win is at Georgia. If Florida doesn’t win this Tournament, it will be a disappointment.
The Gators have the best team on paper with an all-around squad that can Scoreand play defense. They are one of the best in the nation at limiting opponents on points per possession. On the other end, they have a crew of players that can put the ball in the basket. Not to mention, they have a solid bench of playmakers. Kenny Boyton has disappeared in their road losses and needs to step up for the Gators to be relevant.
Record: 21-10, 12-6
Their win over Florida has the Wildcats back in the Tournament, but just barely. If they lose in their first Game against Vanderbilt or Arkansas, they will likely be knocked off the bubble. Kentucky has looked questionable since Nerlens Noel went down, more so on the road where they haven’t won without him. Will a neutral site have the same result?
The Wildcats have other viable players in Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin, but they lack depth which wasn’t helped when Noel injured his knee. Kentucky is going to need a good neutral site win before anyone can trust them in the Tourney.
Record: 23-8, 12-6
Somehow, the Rebels finished with a 12-6 record and the No. 3 seed in the SEC Tourney. After their first Conference loss to Kentucky back in January, they have fallen apart and not looked like a NCAA Tournament squad. They are currently one of the first Four out and need to win their first Game in the quarterfinals which will likely be against Missouri. The teams split their two earlier matchups with the home team winning each.
In Mississppi’s last two wins, Marshall Henderson has figured things out a little bit. He realized he didn’t have to shoot as much to Scorepoints going 7-of-16 from long range. In their most recent loss, Henderson shot 3-for-18 from three-point range. That can’t happen again if Ole Miss wants to win.
Record: 20-11, 12-6
The Crimson Tide aren’t really in talks to be in the Big Dance unless they get by Florida in the semifinals. That’s going to take a lot for a team that has lost three of their last five Games. With Trevor LAcey and Trevor Releford in the back cOurt, they cause teams lots of problems, but they also get dominated on other areas of the cOurt. How else do you explain back-to-back losses to Mercer and Tulane back in December?
Record: 19-11, 11-7
With eight wins in their last nine Games, the Volunteers have suddenly sneaked into bracket projections as a 12-seed. With the current run they’re on, a semifinals matchup with Florida should be their goal. If they lose to the Crimson Tide, that bracket spot might disappear.
The reason for Tennessee’s success comes from the shooting of Jordan McRae. While he’s only averaging 16 points per Game on the season, he’s actually at 23 PPG over his last eight. McRae is filling it up from long-range and also becoming a factor on the boards. He and Jarnell Stokes are going to be tough to slow down in this Tourney.
Record: 22-9, 11-7
It’s been kind of a disappointing first SEC season for the Tigers. While they have a win over Florida, they haven’t done much else. However, they are actually fitting right in with the Conference as they can’t win on the road. Their SEC road record is 2-7. Why are these teams so bad on the road? It’s kind of confusing. The good news is that Missouri has a couple of nice neutral site wins from earlier in the season over VCU and Illinois. Maybe they just can’t play in other team’s homes.
LAurence Bowers is their most consistent scorer and he’s joined by Alex Oriakhi down low. Even with those big guys, Missouri still plays their usual up-tempo style led by Phil Pressey and transfer Jabari Brown. They are currently an eight-seed in the NCAA Tourney and should advance to at least the semifinals in the SEC Tourney if they want to get respect.
On a neutral cOurt, it’s going to be hard to go against Florida. They are going to be heavy favorites in all of their Games and easily have the best roster from top to bottom in the conference. This is just a primer for the NCAA Tournament, so it’ll be interesting to see their mentality going in.