Franklin’s SEC Tournament Cheat Sheet: Who’s Hot, Who’s Not, and Who I’m Picking to Win
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- The SEC Tournament gets underway on Wednesday with Kentucky and Tennessee as the betting favorites.
- Which teams arrive in Nashville hot? Which schools are slumping? And what the hell should we make of LSU? Drew Franklin answers all.
The Southeastern Conference Tournament kicks off Wednesday night in Nashville, the official home of country music, hot chicken, bachelorette parties and more bachelorette parties. But for five long days this week, basketball will take center stage in the Music City as the 14 teams of the SEC battle it out in Bridgestone Arena for the coveted SEC Tournament trophy.
As The Action Network’s resident SEC basketball expert and new contributor to its college basketball coverage, I’m here to get you ready for all of the exciting SEC basketball in the days ahead.
Now, many of you may be asking yourselves: Who are you and/or why should I listen to you? It’s a fair question, one I will happily explain before we get started.
This will be my ninth year covering the SEC Tournament for Kentucky Sports Radio (known to many across the Internet as KSR). That grueling assignment involves writing about the tournament for KentuckySportsRadio.com and doing live remote radio and television shows from Nashville, all while staying out until the wee hours of the morning on Broadway only to wake up early to do it all again.
I’m also the rare defender of the tournament’s Wednesday night session, which features the four worst teams in the conference playing in front of a small crowd of friends and family members and people who wandered in off the street by accident — and me, the only person there on purpose without a relative on any of the teams. I’m unapologetic in my love of SEC Tournament basketball at all levels.
So now that we’ve got all that out of the way, allow me to catch you up to speed on the teams of the tournament. Let’s begin with a Who’s Hot/Who’s Not breakdown of the field to better prepare you for your gambling endeavors related to the tournament, should you decide to participate in such activity.
Tennessee may have lost its last game of the regular season, but the Vols enter the SEC Tournament hotter than the three-piece platter at Hattie B’s in Midtown. Prior to dropping the finale at Auburn in the final minute, No. 3-seed Tennessee beat fellow conference runner-up Kentucky and Mississippi State by a combined 36 points in Knoxville.
Tennessee finished the regular season with 27 wins, the Player of the Year in Grant Williams, and is now the second betting favorite to win the SEC Tournament at +200. On top of all that, the veteran Vols will be out for revenge after losing to Kentucky in last year’s championship game.
Kentucky is hitting its stride as the season winds down, as is tradition with John Calipari-coached teams. The status of starting forward Reid Travis is still uncertain, but the Cats won four of five without him to end the regular season, the only loss coming at Tennessee, a game Kentucky was never going to win without Travis’ physicality inside.
If you’re looking for my pick to win the whole thing, Kentucky is it (the odds are just shy of +200 last I checked). I think the tournament will be decided when Kentucky and Tennessee meet for a rubber match in the second Saturday semifinal, and with Tennessee playing on very short rest after a very late Friday evening game, I give Kentucky the slight edge (assuming Travis returns).
If the seeds were reversed, I would say the same of Tennessee. That game is going to be a war and I think the winner will take care of whatever team is waiting in the title game on Sunday, assuming Saturday’s game doesn’t kill whichever team advances.
Since losing at Kentucky by about a million in late February, Auburn won four straight games to close the year, including a regular season-ending defeat of Tennessee in a game the Vols needed to win to clinch a share of the league title.
Bruce Pearl’s team is a group that loves to shoot the long ball (Auburn is ranked seventh nationally in 3-point field goal attempts) and can beat any team in the field when the shots are falling. The Tigers average more than 11 three-pointers per game, good enough for fifth in the country in that category.
On top of its shooting prowess, Auburn hasn’t won an SEC Tournament game in three years, so basic logic says it is due for a run. The Tigers were upset last year as the No. 1 seed.