by Steven Peake

Starting this Wednesday,  all 14 SEC teams will meet in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome in hopes they will be crowned SEC Tournament champions.

THE FAVORITE

Florida Gators (29-2, 18-0 SEC)

Florida is the first team in SEC basketball history to go 18-0 in conference play , they have only lost two games all season and oh yeah, they’re currently the best team in all of college basketball.

Sure they have had some close calls with inferior opponents, but there is no question the Gators are the most dominant team in the Southeastern Conference.  They may not just be the favorite to win the SEC Tourney but maybe the favorite to win the NCAA Tournament as well.

When they are hitting from deep, they leave their opponents with very little room for mistakes. Scottie Wilbekin is the leader, Patric Young is the enforcer and Michael Frazier II is the silky smooth jump shooter who is shooting at a 45% clip from behind the three point line.

This is an experienced bunch who have their sights set on Dallas, Texas in the next few weeks. But can one of our sleepers take them down?

SLEEPERS

Kentucky (12-6, 22-9 SEC)

It’s odd calling Kentucky a sleeper to win the SEC Tournament. Not only because they are the two seed but because of the stellar recruiting class John Calipari brought in and the expectations that game with it. Remember this big blue nation?

But with the combination of how good Florida is and how badly this young group of Cats have fallen short of those outrageous expectations, many are doubting Kentucky’s chances to win this weeks tournament.

While, opponents will not be overlooking the Cats, fans and media need to realize the potential for this team is still very real. There have been spurts of greatness with this team. Sure, they have been few and far between but it’s within the realm of reason that they may be able to play well for forty minutes just for a few games.

It might be too late, but if Kentucky somehow figures it out between now and Friday, they may clinch their automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament.

Tennessee Volunteers (20-11, 11-7 SEC)

With bad losses to UTEP and Texas A&M (twice), one may be thinking why on earth would UT be considered a contender for the SEC Championship. Well, in this not-so-competitive league, who else? (Other than Florida, obviously)

No one was catching Florida but almost all throughout conference play, the Volunteers were in shouting distance of second.

Tennessee will most likely face Arkansas in the third round, a team they have already beaten once.  Then comes the colossal task of having to upset Billy Donovan’s Gators to get to the Championship game.

In their last meeting with Florida, UT led at halftime and had the game within one point just before the final media timeout. Jarnell Stokes finished with 20 points and 11 boards in that game and if the big guy could have a repeat performance, maybe Tennessee will have a chance.

THE LONG SHOT

Mississippi State (13-18, 3-15 SEC)

While most teams were trying to win games in an attempt to make the NCAA Tournament or just get a better seed in their conference tourney, Mississippi State was trying a different approach.

Maybe they were just wanting to tank for the first pick in the draft (sarcasm) but whatever the reason, the Bulldogs lost their last 13 games to close out the regular season.

To say they are a long shot might be a little bit of an understatement but we have seen teams make wild runs in the SEC Tournament before.

Georgia was the low seed in 2008  but was able win 4 straight and the tournament.

THURSDAY’S GAMES

#12 Auburn vs #13 South Carolina

Previous meetings:
Auburn Beat USC twice in the regular season.

Leading Scorers:
Chris Denson averaging 19.2 points per game.
Brenton Williams 15.2 ppt. 94% free throw shooter

Notes: South Carolina beat Kentucky and lost to Baylor by two at Baylor.

Editors Prediction: Auburn 64-57

Where to Watch: ESPN3

#11 Vanderbilt vs #14 Mississippi State

Records:
The Commodores come in 7-11 in the SEC 15-15 overall.
Mississippi State is 17-18 (3-15 SEC)

Last Meeting:
Vandy beat Mississippi State 55-49 at Vandy.

Leading scorers:
Vanderbilt: Rod Odom 13.6 PPG 38% from three
Mississippi State: Craig Sword 13.4 PPG

Notes: The Bulldogs have lost 13 straight games to close out the season.

Editors Prediction: Vanderbilt 61-56

Where to Watch: ESPN3

FULL BRACKET

SEC Tournament

 

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