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The 2018 SEC Tournament has officially tipped off, as Georgia is squaring off with Vanderbilt in game one in St. Louis. Roughly 25 minutes after that, South Carolina and Ole Miss will participate in game two to close out the first round.
The field is as deep as it’s ever been, and many analysts are having trouble coming up with a clear-cut favorite as a result.
Auburn has been firing on all cylinders the entire season, Tennessee took home SEC COY and POY honors, Florida is on an impressive win streak, Michael Porter Jr. is back for Missouri, Kentucky is Kentucky, etc.
So many talented teams, yet no definitive leader of the pack.
The winner may be tough to figure out, but we’re going to give three bold predictions to watch out for this weekend.
First, the bracket:
Next, the predictions:
Michael Porter Jr. and Missouri could give Kentucky a scare
After head coach Cuonzo Martin announced Michael Porter Jr. was healthy and would likely participate in the SEC Tournament, national excitement built around the Missouri basketball program.
Porter Jr. has been sitting out with a back injury since November, but expectations are incredibly high for him to come in and lead Missouri to major success in the postseason. The sure-fire top-five NBA Draft prospect has the potential to be an immediate superstar for the Tigers.
Could he come in and put a hurting on the Wildcats, specifically matched up against Kentucky forward Kevin Knox? It’s entirely possible.
Could he come out flat with rust to knock off due to sitting so long? That’s certainly possible, too.
You have no idea what to expect out of the talented freshman as of yet, but the team is rallying around his addition regardless. They already feel they are an elite SEC team, and with their superstar back in fold, confidence around the program is growing by the minute. Combine that with the event being held in St. Louis and Tiger fans almost certainly giving them a home-field advantage throughout the weekend.
It’s a recipe for success.
If Missouri wins tomorrow against the Georgia Bulldogs, and they should, be prepared for the Tigers to give Kentucky a scare.
Jarred Vanderbilt is likely out for the game, and we still have major question marks surrounding Nick Richards and Sacha Killeya-Jones. Can one of them step up in his absence? Will Hamidou Diallo contribute enough in the scoring department? There are just so many moving parts due to Vanderbilt’s injury, and with Calipari’s lack of enthusiasm for this event, would it really surprise anyone for the Cats to come out struggling on Friday night?
Auburn will get upset in the opening round
If you had told me before the season Auburn would be able to win the SEC regular-season title without star sophomores Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy, I could’ve promised you were lying.
But here they are, 25-6 on the year and the No. 1 overall seed in the SEC tournament.
They’ve taken down Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas A&M (split season series), Arkansas, and a plethora of other talented teams. They’ve earned the praise.
Head coach Bruce Pearl has also been the center of attention for both good and bad. His team has been a key subject of the nationwide FBI investigation, and though his team has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season, he may be fighting for his job after the year as a result.
In their first postseason game on Friday, they will either take on freshman phenom Collin Sexton and the Alabama Crimson Tide, or the dynamic frontcourt of Texas A&M featuring Tyler Davis and Robert Williams.
Both are teams that managed to pull off victories against the Tigers earlier in the year. Both are teams that could certainly pull out the upset victory.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, they’ll be packing their bags and heading home after just one night.
Tennessee will contend for the SEC Championship
The Volunteers are rolling right now, and they have been for the vast majority of SEC play.
Tennessee is currently on a four-game winning streak and they have inched their way up to No. 13 in the nation, led by SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams, who is currently averaging 16 points, six rebounds, two assists, and nearly 1.5 blocks per contest.
Head coach Rick Barnes joined Williams with prestigious accolades, as he took home SEC Coach of the Year. Sophomore guard Lamonte Turner was also named the SEC Co-Sixth Man of the year.
UT is extremely well-coached, they’re talented across the board, and they’re meshing really well right now. Three solid factors for a team trying to make a run.
With only LSU/Mississippi State and either six-seed Arkansas or a streaky Florida team in their path to the SEC title game, I’d go ahead and say that’s easy money.
The Cats have lost to the Volunteers in both matchups this season, and if they make a run to the SEC Championship, be ready to take on a gritty Tennessee team for the third time this season.