Record: 26-5, 16-2
The Tigers won the regular-season title outright, but it’s been marred by recruiting complications resulting in the suspension of head coach Will Wade and benching of Javonte Smart. LSU clearly has a good team, but it’s a wonder how it performs against a quality opponent in its current situation. They could face adversity right away with a possible rematch against Florida, which is fighting for its NCAA Tournament life and the two previous meetings went to overtime. There’s also a question of Naz Reid’s health after he missed the last Game with an undisclosed injury. Assuming Smart continues to sit, that’s a loss of 11.5 points per Game, which includes at least 15 points in five of his last six Games. Given the situation, it’ll be hard to back LSU to win or make the Championship even as a 1-seed. That said, Florida may be a more difficult matchup than Auburn or South Carolina in the semis.
Record: 26-5, 15-3
The biggest question for the Wildcats is if Reid Travis will return for this Tournament or not. Without him, they are down one of the best post defenders in the SEC and another scoring option in the paint. They shouldn’t have any problems in the quarterfinals, but a possible rematch with Tennessee is the major issue. When Travis didn’t play in the second meeting, his backups got into foul trouble and couldn’t deal with Grant Williams. With that unknown, UK will be a hard team to back. Sure, if Travis returns for the semis and the Wildcats win that Game, the Championship could be theirs, but that’s a lot to bet on for a guy that hasn’t played in a couple weeks.
Record: 27-4, 15-3
The Volunteers lost three SEC Games and they all came on the road against the best teams in the conference. That mainly shows that they don’t lose to weaker teams and that they shouldn’t have a problem with Mississippi State in the quarters. As said for Kentucky, that semifinal matchup could depend on the status of Reid Travis. since he isn’t guaranteed to appear in Friday’s Game, there’s a good chance he won’t be ready for a full Game on Saturday. Because of that, the Vols get the edge and then they will again in the final no matter the opponent. With a 1-seed for the NCAA Tournament possibly on the line, the path is open for the Vols, especially given the Travis injury and LSU’s situation.
Record: 22-9, 11-7
The Tigers got their first big win of the season last weekend against Tennessee and now it has a relatively favorable path to making the Championship. The problem is that they’ll have to play Four Games in Four days and they don’t go that deep with three guys averaging at least 29.5 minutes per Game. They should have no problems against Missouri or Georgia, but South Carolina has been surprisingly good in SEC play and that Game will be far from a freebie. Still, Auburn will be listed as a favorite and then take on iffy LSU or a weaker Florida or Arkansas team. The route is there for the Tigers, who have won Four straight, but going all the way will be hard to ask, especially with Tennessee or Kentucky waiting in the final.
Record: 16-15, 11-7
The Gamecocks may be the most intriguing upset pick because they’re not even on the bubble despite being a 4-seed in this Tournament. The other part is that they get back point guard A.J. LAwson, who has missed the last few Games with a minor injury. While they haven’t won more than two Games in a row since early January, the Schedule isn’t overly difficult for them to get an upset or two, especially already with an Auburn win on the belt.
Ole Miss and Mississippi State are next in terms of seeding, but to make the Championship, they’d likely have to go through Kentucky and Tennessee on back-to-back days. The better long shot may be to ride a team like Florida, as it has already shown it can contend with LSU. The Gators also have a little more motivation with a possible NCAA Tournament bid on the line.
With LSU’s FBI issues, the most popular bets will likely be on Kentucky and Tennessee. However, with the unknown status of Reid Travis, it’ll be easiest to take the Volunteers, who will be looking for revenge after losing to UK in the final last year.