College Basketball State of the SEC Betting Report: Breaking Down All 14 Teams
Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images. Pictured: Tari Eason (LSU)
From the beginning of January to the end of March, college basketball offers as good of a three month stretch as it gets in sports.
Teams begin by battling out in conference play, with every game going a long way in determining seeding for both the conference and NCAA Tournaments, as well as the opportunity to fight for a regular season title.
The pieces of the puzzle slowly come together, and it all leads up to March.
One conference in particular that I will have my eye on the rest of the way is the SEC. This is a league that has as much depth as arguably any conference in the country, as shown by the seven projected bids in the first edition of Bracketology.
In this first SEC State of the Union, I’ve sorted the conference into four distinct tiers and will touch on where things currently stand for all 14 schools.
As the year goes on, I will continue to focus on the conference race, as well as marquee matchups, dangerous tournament teams, players to watch and other injury news.
We all know about the SEC in football, but this league can hoop too.
Odds via DraftKings
Tier 1: The Big Boys
|Alabama Crimson Tide||+500|
Bruce Pearl has been machine-like in his tenure at Auburn, and the 2021-22 season is no different. Pearl has the Tigers off to a 14-1 start, including a 3-0 mark in conference play.
Auburn has already pounded LSU and Florida at home, and won convincingly in Columbia against South Carolina.
The Tigers are getting it done on both ends of the floor, boasting adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency rankings inside the top 20.
Auburn has the goods to contend for an SEC regular season title and possibly even a one seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky continues to get better as the year goes on. John Calipari’s team is absolutely loaded with talent per usual, and Cal also used the transfer portal to bolster his roster.
The biggest story has to be what Oscar Tshiebwe is doing on the backboards for the Wildcats. The WVU transfer is averaging a whopping 15.2 rebounds per game, and is absolutely dominating opponents on the interior.
Kellan Grady gives Kentucky a veteran guard who can get very hot from behind the arc, and freshman TyTy Washington Jr. will keep getting more and more comfortable as the year goes on.
I don’t expect UK to finish atop the SEC standings, but it very well could be the most dangerous bunch in this league come March.
You truly don’t know what you’re going to get each night with this Alabama team. The Tide have looked like a top-five team in the country for moments, including in wins over Gonzaga, Houston and Florida.
Then there was last time out at Missouri, where Bama found itself trailing by 13 late in the second half to the lowly Tigers, and ultimately lost 92-86.
Jahvon Quinerly and Jaden Shackelford run the show for this offense, but Nate Oats could really use a third consistent scorer to emerge.
Auburn comes to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday night, in what will be a huge game for both teams. Alabama just opened as a 1.5-point home favorite for that contest.
What a start to the season it has been for Will Wade and the LSU Tigers. LSU currently sits at 14-1, with its lone loss to Auburn on the road.
The Tigers are winning with absolutely suffocating defense. Per KenPom, LSU is No. 1 in the entire country in adjusted defensive efficiency, and it is turning opponents over on 26% of their possessions.
Not many people were that high on this team in the offseason given what it lost, but LSU has emerged as a group that can certainly contend for an SEC title.
A trip to Gainesville is next for the Tigers on Wednesday night, which could be tough, as it will be a game the Gators desperately need.
Tier 2: Tournament Teams with a Limited Ceiling
|Texas A&M Aggies||+5000|
It’s been a so-so start to 2021-22 for Tennessee. The Vols split early non-conference games with Villanova and North Carolina, but then added a great resume win at home over Arizona to close out December.
Following that, Tennessee really let one slip away to start conference play at Alabama, and then struggled offensively its last time out on the road at LSU.
Just like last year, the Volunteers are far better on the defensive end than they are with the ball.
The defense will keep them in most games, and should put them in position to finish in the top six of the league.
That said, I have serious doubts about how far this team can go due to some of its shortcomings on the offensive end.
There may be some panic from those in Gainesville after an 0-2 start in conference play, but I think the Gators will be just fine.
Mike White’s team needs more consistent guard play, particularly from Tyree Appleby and Myreon Jones.
Colin Castleton has been really good for the Gators on the interior, both as a back-to-the-basket scorer and as a rim protector.
As mentioned earlier, Wednesday night against LSU presents a big opportunity for this team to get back on track. I think it will.
You simply cannot bet against Buzz Williams in year three as a head coach. Buzz took a big step in his third seasons at both Marquette and Virginia Tech, and he appears well on his way to doing the same in College Station.
Texas A&M is probably the most pleasant surprise of any team in this league, aside from LSU. The Aggies currently sit at 13-2 overall and 2-0 in SEC play.
I don’t know anyone in Aggie Land who wouldn’t have signed up for that start to the year back in November.
The schedule will certainly get tougher in the coming weeks, but I think this team is built to last. I may be higher on the Aggies than most, but I believe this is a team that will hear its name called on Selection Sunday.
Tier 3: The Unknown Commodities
|Mississippi State Bulldogs||+1800|
|Ole Miss Rebels||+3000|
It’s been a very pedestrian start to the year for the Bulldogs thus far. This team is winning the games it’s supposed to and coming up short in its more challenging matchups.
The good news for Ben Howland’s team is that there is not a single bad loss on the resume to this point. In addition, there will be ample opportunities to add quality resume wins throughout January and February.
This feels like a group destined to enter March squarely on the bubble.
Ole Miss could easily be 2-0 in the SEC had it been able to finish off the overtime battle at Tennessee last week. The Rebels were able to flush that one quickly and handle Mississippi State at home in their next time out.
Mississippi has wins over Dayton and Memphis, but the losses to Samford, Western Kentucky and Boise State could definitely hurt its resume come March.
The defense has been the backbone of this team thus far in 2021-22.
Kermit Davis needs Matthew Murrell to continue to play like he did on Saturday, when the sophomore went 10-of-11 from the field and 5-of-5 from 3-point range. Murrell’s emergence would be a much-needed spark to a somewhat sputtering offense.
Tuesday night in College Station will be a big one for the Rebels.
While LSU and Texas A&M have been pleasant surprises in the SEC thus far, the Razorbacks have undoubtedly been the league’s biggest disappointment.
Arkansas currently sits at 10-5 overall, but 0-3 in conference play. Even worse, the three SEC losses have come to Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M. The schedule won’t get any easier as the year goes on.
The Hogs didn’t really beat any team of note in non-conference play, so it’s going to be a serious challenge for Eric Musselman to get this group back in the tournament picture.
Beating Missouri at home on Wednesday night is a must to start getting things back on track.
Tier 4: Teams That Will Struggle to Stay Above Water
|South Carolina Gamecocks||+10000|
Vanderbilt had actually won four games in a row before the narrow loss at home to South Carolina on Saturday.
The Commodores have wins over BYU, Arkansas and Pittsburgh, and this is clearly a much improved team from a year ago.
Despite that improvement, I don’t see enough weapons for Vandy to be able to do enough to even flirt with finishing .500 or better in conference play.
It will be very interesting to see if Jerry Stackhouse can win enough to stay off the hot seat and return next year.
The Gamecocks are just a mess offensively right now. South Carolina is shooting 31% from the 3-point line and 66% from the charity stripe as a team. Those types of numbers are simply not going to keep pace with some of the potent offenses in this league.
Non-conference losses to Princeton and Coastal Carolina certainly don’t help matters when taking a look at the overall resume.
Frank Martin has a track record of improving his teams during the second half of the year, so I do think the Gamecocks will continue to get better.
But will it be enough to move the needle at all in Columbia this year? I don’t think so.
We’re barely into January and Mizzou has already lost seven games on the season. That said, the Tigers are fresh off of a shocking upset of Alabama in their last time out.
I think you’ll see this team become more and more competitive as the year goes on, but Missouri doesn’t have the depth to compete with most of the teams in this league on a consistent basis.
As I’m writing this, Georgia just won its first National Championship since 1980 in college football. That’s about the only positive I can say in this piece.
Tough times in Athens, and you have to wonder if Tom Crean will survive the year.