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Around the SEC

Analyzing Every SEC Team’s NCAA Tournament Path

The NCAA Selection committee has finally made their long-awaited decisions, and the brackets have been officially made. Seven SEC teams will be dancing for a shot at winning the National Championship. Here is the path that each team may face in their run for One Shining Moment.

East Region

Mississippi State: 5 Seed, 23-10 Overall Record

While Miss. State did not end the year particularly strong (lost 3 of their last 5), the Bulldogs have put together a relatively good resume on their way to a five seed. They have multiple wins over NCAA Tournament teams like Arizona State, Saint Mary’s, Cincinnati, Auburn, Ole Miss, and Florida.

They have a very fascinating first round matchup against Liberty University. The Flames are not going to be an easy out by any stretch of the imagination. This is an experienced ball club which won 28 games. Also, with this being a 5/12 matchup there is naturally going to be a lot of talk of an upset.

However, I would bet against it. Without question, the Bulldogs will have the best player on the floor in Quinndary Weatherspoon. No one on Liberty averages over 13 points per game, and the Flames did not beat a single opponent from a major conference.

The bad news for Miss. State is that the road ahead of them is extremely tough. If they handle their business against Liberty, they will most likely have to play a good Virginia Tech squad in the next round. Simply put, the Hokies are just a better team and will be favored in the matchup.

The really, really bad news for the Bulldogs is that they have a potential Sweet Sixteen matchup with Duke even if they manage to make it out of the first weekend. Overall, if Miss. State makes it out of the first weekend, it would be a massive success. However, their championship fate already seems sealed.

Prediction: Losing in the Round of 32 against Virginia Tech

LSU: 3 Seed, 26-6 Overall Record

Look, the Tigers are possibly the biggest wildcards in this year’s tournament for a multitude of reasons. The recent FBI scandal involving Head Coach Will Wade and freshman guard Javonte Smart has put a dark cloud over anything LSU has accomplished this season.

How will that affect the team in the tournament? Their loss against Florida in the SEC Tournament was bad, however, it came on a last second shot. This is still an insanely athletic team with a ton of talent.

They will be on upset alert right off the bat against 14-seed Yale. Make no mistake about this: Yale is a better team than Liberty is. LSU obviously has more talent than the Ivy League Champion, but we just don’t know if the Tigers will be ready to play against such an experienced squad.

If they can just get past Yale, I really like their chances in the second round against Belmont/Maryland. In the sweet sixteen they would most likely have to play Michigan State which would normally be a good matchup for LSU. However, the Tigers are at a disadvantage without Wade on the sidelines. That will hurt their chances against Izzo.

Even if they do defeat the Spartans which is certainly possible, they are not getting past Duke in the Elite Eight. That is the ceiling for this LSU team this season.

Prediction: A Sweet Sixteen loss to Michigan State.

West Region

Florida: 10 Seed, 19-15 Overall Record

I think this is the one SEC team that is destined to lose in the first round of the tournament. I don’t think that the Gators are particularly a bad team, but I think they got a terrible draw by playing Nevada in the first round.

Don’t forget that the Wolfpack pulled off a big run in the tournament last season where they unfortunately lost to Loyola-Chicago in a classic Sweet Sixteen game. Almost everyone returned from that team, and Nevada managed to have another great season by winning 29 games in the regular season.

The Wolfpack will have the best player on the floor in Caleb Martin, and they will have the better head coach in Eric Musselman. Anything can happen on any given day, but I think Nevada beats Florida nine times out of ten. Even if the Gators luck up and win, they are not beating Michigan in the second round.

Prediction: First round exit to Nevada.

South Region

Ole Miss: 8 Seed, 20-12 Overall Record

The Rebels got one of the more favorable 8/9 matchups as they will be playing Oklahoma in Columbia, South Carolina. Even though Oklahoma is favored by ESPN’s matchup predicator, I really like Ole Miss in this matchup.

Do not bet against Kermit Davis in the first round. As the head coach at MTSU, Davis led the 15-seeded Blue Raiders to a monumental upset of Michigan State in 2016. Then in 2017 he led MTSU to a 12/upset over Minnesota. Davis gets his guys ready to win in the first round.

Also, I just think the Rebels have the more talented team. The best squad the Sooners beat all season long was a Kansas team that is reeling from injuries and suspensions. After that, the best team they beat was Florida by five points.

Ole Miss is winning this game. They have the better coach, and the Rebels will also have the two best players on the court in Breein Tyree and Terrance Davis. After that, well…..they won’t be advancing any further. Virginia will be awaiting them in the second round, and the Cavaliers are the better team.

Prediction: Round of 32 loss to North Carolina

Tennessee: 2 Seed, 29-5 Overall Record

The Volunteers are the first team in this list which has a real shot at reaching the Final Four. Outside of potentially playing Cincinnati in the second round, they have a favorable path to Minneapolis.

They will cruise in the first-round game against Colgate, neither Purdue nor Villanova posts a real threat to the Volunteers in a potential sweet sixteen matchup, and Virginia is a beatable No. 1 seed. But before we look that far, let’s look at that Cincinnati matchup.

First off, the Bearcats are not a team that deserves a seven seed. The committee basically ignored that Cincinnati won the AAC Tournament over a very good Houston team on Sunday. Jarron Cumberland (18.8) is one of the better players in college basketball, and he will give the Volunteers problems.

Even with this game being played in Columbus, Ohio, I still think Tennessee will barely emerge victorious. That leads us to that mammoth Elite Eight showdown with Virginia. I’ll be up front with this: I think this is the year the Cavaliers make the Final Four. After the UMBC disaster, I think this team will be on the war path in this year’s tournament, and I love their talent.

Plus, I just do not trust Rick Barnes in March. I think he is holding back Tennessee to a certain extent. Can the Volunteers make the Final Four? Of course. They just need to get lucky and stay clear of Virginia.

Prediction: Elite Eight loss to the Cavaliers.

Midwest Region

Auburn: 5 Seed, 26-9 Overall Record

Here is the second biggest wildcard out of the SEC teams and possibly the entire tournament. How far the Tigers advance in the tournament has everything to do with their first-round matchup with New Mexico State.

This is very much so a dangerous 5/12 game because the Aggies are a 30-win team on a 19-game win streak who also just so happens to play a fascinating brand of basketball. There are 12 (!) players on NMSU’s team who play at least 10 minutes a game. The Aggies will consistently throw fresh guys at Bruce Pearl’s team all game long.

The only question is how good are these guys compared to Auburn? Overall, I have to barely go with the Tigers because of their backcourt. Jared Harper and Bryce Brown will get the job done.

If they get past the Aggies, I think the flood gates will open up. They would take care of business against Kansas, and I LOVE their matchup against North Carolina. The biggest thing I’ve noticed about the Tar Heels this season is that once a team makes a huge run against them, they don’t come back.

Auburn loves to go on huge stretches where they hit 4-5 straight threes. Plus, I think Harper will cause problems for Coby White defensively. Is this a bit bold when the Tigers could lose in the first round? Yes, but fortune favors the bold. Just don’t bet on the Tigers to beat Kentucky in the Elite Eight.

Prediction: Elite Eight loss to Kentucky

Kentucky: 2 Seed, 27-6 Overall Record

We finally reach the dear ole’ Wildcats. Let’s get this out of the way now: I think this team is destined for the Final Four. UK’s side of the Midwest bracket is favorable. Seton Hall and Wofford will provide a scary second round game, as could Iowa State in the Sweet Sixteen.

But I really do think that Kentucky is marginally better than all of those teams. This leads to that huge potential rematch against UNC. For one, I have a sneaky suspension that the Tar Heels will not make it that far. Even if they do, I really like how the Wildcats matchup with them. It’s the whole reason why UK was victorious in December. Don’t forget that Reid Travis is from Minneapolis which would make for a great Final Four storyline.

In the Final Four they would most likely play Virginia. Normally, a really good, defensively tough team that likes to slow it down would beat Kentucky. But this is a different Wildcat squad from year’s past because they play so well in the half court. Plus, Kentucky is playing elite defensively at the moment.

I sincerely think Coach John Calipari and company will find themselves in the National Championship game. Your guess is as good as mine to what happens next. Can the Wildcats beat Duke in a rematch? Does Duke even make that far with their poor three-point shooting? UK’s destiny depends on if Ashton Hagans can play at a championship level. Dominant guard play always determines which team will have that one, true shining moment. This year will be no different.

Prediction: National Championship Game Appearance

Happy March Madness!

Enter KSR’s Thursday SEC Tournament Pick’em Challenge

The minds behind the Free Money podcast are giving KSR fans a chance to win free money.

Today KSR is hosting an SEC Tournament Pick’em Challenge through the Action Network.  If you correctly pick the last three SEC Tournament games of the day, you can win $250.  It’s that simple.

Here’s how you can enter the contest:

1. Download the free Action Network app.
2. Click on “Enter Now” on the KSR Tourney Challenge.
3. Register your e-mail address for a free Action account.
4. Make three picks ATS and insert a tiebreaker.
5. Win money.

You do not need to pay for the premium service to enter the contest.  Even if you’re unsure about the over/under in the Alabama-Ole Miss game, a good guess can get you $250.

Submit your picks before Auburn and Missouri tip-off around 3:30.  While you’re waiting for the games to get started, enjoy a new episode of the Free Money podcast. Good luck!

Hey Kentucky Previews the SEC Tournament

Hey Kentucky Previews the SEC Tournament

Are you ready for the SEC Tournament?  Before it tips-off Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Matt Jones and Mary Jo Perino preview all of the action on Hey Kentucky!

Click here to see the rest of today’s episode of Hey Kentucky.