SEC Basketball Tournament Betting Preview, Bracket & Odds: Which Team Will Cut Down Nets in Tampa?
Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images. Pictured: John Calipari (Kentucky)
There’s not a conference in America more loaded at the top this year in college basketball than the SEC. As a result, this week’s conference tournament in Tampa, Florida should be an absolute dandy.
There’s no shortage of storylines this week, either. Teams like Auburn and Kentucky are playing for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Arkansas and Tennessee are two of the hottest programs in the country, and both could get as high as a No. 3 seed with a strong showing.
Then there’s Florida and Texas A&M, both of which would need to win at least twice to get back on the right side of the cut-line for the Big Dance.
Most importantly, all 14 teams enter Tampa with the dream of earning a banner that would hang forever. Every team is looking to be the 2022 SEC Tournament champion, and claim the auto-bid for the conference.
Let’s start off by taking a look at the odds for each school to cut down the nets in Tampa.
SEC Tournament Bracket & Schedule
2022 SEC Tournament Odds
With 14 teams competing this week, there’s a pretty unique format for the tournament.
Here are the basics:
- Five total rounds starting on Wednesday and ending with the title game Sunday afternoon
- Four teams with double-byes into the quarterfinals (Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas)
- Six teams with single byes into the second round (LSU, Alabama, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Florida, Mississippi State)
- Two first-round matchups featuring Ole Miss vs. Missouri and Vanderbilt vs. Georgia
The Matchups We Know
First Round: Ole Miss vs. Missouri
I expect Ole Miss to open as a short favorite in this opening-round matchup, and I actually like Missouri in this spot as an underdog. Ole Miss limps into Tampa losers of four in a row and eight of its last nine.
The Rebels are simply not playing good basketball right now, and it’s hard to see that changing this week.
Missouri isn’t exactly the hottest team in the league either, but the Tigers have gotten much better as the year has gone on. I expect Mizzou’s motivation to be higher than Ole Miss, and I’ll look to play the Tigers in this game as a result.
First Round: Georgia vs. Vanderbilt
I’ll keep this one simple: Vanderbilt is the far better basketball team, and should cruise in this opening-round matchup.
This will likely be Tom Crean’s final game as the head man in Athens, and I expect it to play out just as his tenure largely has. Not well.
Second Round: Florida vs. Texas A&M
The first game of the day on Thursday will be the bubble battle in the SEC. The loser will be eliminated from any chance of making the NCAA Tournament, and the winner will stay alive and earn the right to face Auburn.
These two teams faced each other once this season, and Texas A&M squeaked out a 56-55 win at home in a game where both offenses struggled.
Expect another tight lower-scoring battle, and I actually give the slight edge to the Aggies once again here. Texas A&M should be a small underdog.
I’ll take TAMU with the points, and I expect Buzz Williams’ team to advance.
Second Round: Mississippi State vs. South Carolina
This is a matchup of teams that had contrasting seasons in conference play. South Carolina probably got the most out of the talent it had, finishing 9-9 with some notable wins.
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, simply could not finish a game. Mississippi State has several of the elite teams in the league on the ropes at various points during the year, and just could not get across the finish line.
These two teams split the regular season series, with the home team taking both. I don’t have a huge lean here, but I’ll take the Bulldogs to advance and face Tennessee.
The Matchups We Think We Know
If there’s one thing that conference tournaments have taught us over the years, it is to expect the unexpected.
Upsets happen all the time, and as a result, anticipated matchups don’t always come to fruition.
That said, there are a handful of quarterfinal and semifinal games that could materialize, so let’s take a look at them.
Quarterfinals: Arkansas vs. LSU
I think this game would likely be the best of the Friday quarterfinals. All that needs to happen for it to occur is LSU handling business against the Ole Miss/Mizzou winner. The Tigers should not have much trouble doing that.
Arkansas swept LSU in the regular season, but both games were tight, particularly last week’s battle in Fayetteville that the Hogs won, 77-76.
I think the third time will be the charm for Will Wade’s group. The Tigers are as healthy as they have been all year, and continue to defend at a high level.
LSU will likely be a 2-4 point underdog in this game, and I will be on the Tigers with the points.
Quarterfinals: Alabama vs. Kentucky
I actually do give Vanderbilt a slight chance of upsetting Alabama in the second round. The Commodores have quietly been competitive all season, and they played Alabama really tough a couple of weeks ago in Nashville.
While Vandy may have a chance, we will more likely than not be getting Round 3 of Bama vs. Kentucky Friday night.
Kentucky swept the regular season series, and unlike with Arkansas/LSU, I expect the Wildcats to take down the Tide once again.
Kentucky has a big rebounding edge inside, and is just more consistent across the board.
My Projected Semifinals
No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 5 LSU
I give Texas A&M a slight chance against Auburn in the quarterfinals, but it would need the perfect storm. As a result, this would be the first of two semifinal matchups Saturday afternoon.
If this is how it plays out, I expect the road to come to an end at this point for LSU. Walker Kessler should be able to have his way on the inside, and I’m still not sold on LSU’s half-court offense to be able to win three games in as many days.
Give me the No. 1 seed to move on to the title game.
No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 3 Kentucky
This would make for an absolutely electric second semifinal on Saturday. Tennessee should be able to handle the Miss State/South Carolina winner, and above, I touched on why I think Kentucky matches up well with Alabama.
These teams split the regular season meetings, with the home team taking both. In Round 3, expect Kentucky to open as a small favorite.
As good as Tennessee has been of late, I just don’t think it has quite enough offense to hang with Kentucky on a neutral floor.
Give me the Cats to find a way to get it done, and I will look to play them at -3 or better if this is the matchup we get.
Although Auburn is the top seed, if it squared off with Kentucky in the title game, the Wildcats would be the slightest of favorites.
When this Kentucky team is at its best, I think it is the best team in the league, and quite possibly the country.
Give me BBN to get it done in Tampa, and hang another banner in Lexington.
SEC Tournament Futures
Despite Kentucky being my pick to win the tournament, at a price of +190, I don’t think there is enough value there to bet on the Wildcats.
It won’t be an easy path, so if you like UK’s chances, I’d recommend just betting the Cats on a game-by-game basis.
Despite that, I will throw a bit of a coin on a couple of teams at steeper prices.
Let’s start with the LSU Tigers at +1000. As mentioned earlier, I do like LSU’s chances to get some revenge on Arkansas. And if the Tigers do get to the semis, there could be some hedging opportunities from there.
I’ll also throw in one true long shot here. Give me Texas A&M at +7000 for a few pennies. Auburn has been somewhat vulnerable away from home against less talented teams, so if the Aggies got by Florida, they would have a legitimate chance in the quarters against the top seed.
From there, you’re playing with house money and can hope Buzz’s team finds some magic in the semifinals. It’s not likely, but I do want one long shot in this event.
- Early leans (both short underdogs): Missouri against Ole Miss | Texas A&M against Florida
- LSU as a dog against Arkansas | Kentucky to cover against Bama
- Kentucky ML against Auburn in a hypothetical title game
- LSU to win the tournament +1000
- Texas A&M to win the tournament +7000
I can’t wait to sit back and watch what should be a fantastic week of basketball in Tampa Bay.
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