SEC College Basketball Conference Futures: Arkansas Deserves Betting Attention
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Moses Moody.
The ideology of the double-bye started in the SEC once Missouri and Texas A&M became conference members.
The new format of giving a handful of teams an extra two days of rest started in 2013. Since then, a team starting the SEC Tournament on Day 3 with a double-bye has won the championship every season with the exception of Auburn in 2019.
That Tigers team was also the only seed outside of the top four to even participate in the championship game.
The focus this past week was the race for the double-bye, with Arkansas securing the best results. The Razorbacks notched consecutive road wins at Kentucky and Missouri. The Hogs are now in a tie for the second seed with LSU, while Florida, Tennessee and Missouri fight for the coveted double-bye fourth seed.
This column will look at the Southeastern Conference race and the top teams vying for the championship along with a deep run during March Madness.
We start with adjusted efficiency margin, which is a direct indicator of a team that can win the national championship. As of this writing, only LSU fits the qualifiers of at least 113.9 in adjusted offensive efficiency and under 96 in adjusted defensive efficiency.
With those numbers in mind, we look at the current odds for any kind of betting value for the conference championship.
Alabama Crimson Tide
17-5 (12-1) • 1st in SEC • 13-8-1 ATS
The Crimson Tide had a no-sweat week with victories on the road at South Carolina and at home versus Georgia.
The Alabama defense continues to rank as one of the highest in the nation, now second in adjusted defensive efficiency nationally only behind Loyola Chicago.
Ranking first in effective field goal percentage defense in the SEC, the Gamecocks and Bulldogs combined to hit just 8-of-44 shots from beyond the arc. Offensively, Alabama continues to be flammable.
That's It. That's the Tweet. pic.twitter.com/STsbN5R66y
— Alabama Men’s Basketball (@AlabamaMBB) February 13, 2021
Most college basketball investors are looking for regression in Alabama’s shooting, particularly from beyond the arc.
The Crimson Tide hit 18-of-30 attempts from beyond the arc against Georgia. Those numbers are not expected to decline at any time soon with Texas A&M and Vanderbilt on deck. The Aggies are the worst defense in the SEC in 2-point defense, while the Commodores are dead last in defending the perimeter.
Alabama has a three-game cushion to enter the SEC Tournament as the No. 1 seed, but odds of +225 may be steep in comparison to the Crimson Tide winning three straight games on an open moneyline parlay card.
- Wednesday, Feb. 17 | at Texas A&M
- Saturday, Feb. 20 | vs. Vanderbilt
- Wednesday, Feb. 24 | at Arkansas
- Saturday, Feb. 27 | at Miss State
- Tuesday, March 2 | vs. Auburn
13-6 (8-4) • 2nd in SEC • 8-11 ATS
After losing four of their last five, the Tigers recently got back on track with victories over Mississippi State and Tennessee.
Although the win over the Volunteers was at home, LSU combined stellar shooting, defensive rebounding and a 17-of-18 performance from the free-throw line for a winning margin of 13.
Eric Gaines….. just filthy. 🤢
📺 ESPN pic.twitter.com/LOCo37fOiu
— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) February 13, 2021
The Tigers’ victory over Tennessee helps in the Quadrant 1 victory department, but the defensive issues still remain.
LSU is outside the top 10 in plenty of defensive categories from defensive efficiency, 2-point defense and blocks. Ole Miss may not be able to expose the defense in this week’s upcoming game, but hosting Auburn could be a different story.
The Tigers are all but guaranteed a top-four seed in the conference tournament, but better odds may exist after a date with Sharife Cooper next Saturday.
- Wednesday, Feb. 17 | at Ole Miss
- Saturday, Feb. 20 | vs. Auburn
- Tuesday, Feb. 23 | at Georgia
- Saturday, Feb. 27 | at Arkansas
- Tuesday, March 2 | vs. Vanderbilt
16-5 (8-4) • 2nd in SEC • 12-7-1 ATS
Woo Pig Sooie indeed.
The Razorbacks recorded two road victories over the past week at Kentucky and Missouri. The Hogs have all but locked up a double-bye for the conference tournament.
The biggest change for the Razorbacks has been stellar execution from contributors such as Justin Smith, Davonte Davis and Jalen Tate.
Eric Musselman started the season with a Minutes Continuity rank of 337th, but have the Hogs firing on all cylinders at the right time.
Win sixth straight SEC game ✅
End four game losing streak in CoMo ✅
Beat a top ten team on the road for the first time since 2006 ✅
— Arkansas Razorbacks Basketball 🐗 (@RazorbackMBB) February 14, 2021
With an 8-4 conference record, the Hogs can lock up a Day 3 start in Nashville with a victory over Florida on Tuesday.
Despite being tied for the second seed in the tournament, DraftKings offers the Razorbacks at 20/1 to win the SEC. Those odds are certainly worth an investment considering the history of success with teams that receive a delayed start.
The Hogs play three of their final five games at home, as Florida, Alabama and LSU all visit one of the toughest arenas in college basketball. The Razorbacks have the inside track to the second seed and avoiding Alabama until the conference finale.
- Tuesday, Feb. 16 | vs. Florida
- Saturday, Feb. 20 | at Texas A&M
- Wednesday, Feb. 24 | vs. Alabama
- Saturday, Feb. 27 | vs. LSU
- Tuesday, March 2 | at South Carolina
10-5 (6-4) • 4th in SEC • 8-7 ATS
Florida has risen to a double-bye seed by simply not playing due to COVID-19.
Its 6-4 conference mark has the Gators on the fringe as they travel to Bud Walton Arena to take on Arkansas on Tuesday.
This will be their first time on the court since a Feb. 3 loss to South Carolina. A victory over Arkansas would go a long way in SEC Tournament seeding along with it being an all-important Quadrant 1 victory.
Teams that have come off more than an eight-day break since New Year’s Day are winning 54% against the spread.
- Tuesday, Feb. 16 | at Arkansas
- Saturday, Feb. 20 | vs. Georgia
- Tuesday, Feb. 23 | at Auburn
- Saturday, Feb. 27 | at Kentucky
- Wednesday, March 3 | vs. Missouri
14-5 (7-5) • 5th in SEC • 10-9 ATS
Tennessee has been supplanted by Alabama as the best defensive team in the conference over the past week.
The Volunteers continue to struggle in putting points on the scoreboard. A loss to LSU had a root-cause of sub-40% shooting from the floor despite a plus-10 margin in offensive rebounding. After a quick 3-2 lead against the Tigers, it was nothing but LSU for the remainder of the game.
LSU needs a big win, and they lead Tennessee by 5 at half. pic.twitter.com/ioc7xH3X7F
— College Basketball Bonanza (@CollegeBonanza) February 13, 2021
The Volunteers have slipped to the fifth slot in the SEC standings, which would make Rick Barnes’ squad a Day 2 start in the conference tournament. Offensive issues continue to plague the team, as it ranks 12th in offensive efficiency through conference play.
Tennessee gets the bulk of its points from the free-throw line, ranking first in the conference in point distribution. The shooting percentage has not been complimentary at 69.5% against the SEC.
South Carolina has the worst defensive free-throw rate in the conference, which should translate to plenty of free points for Tennessee.
A loss to Kentucky in a weekend game in Thompson-Boling Arena could seal the Volunteers’ fate from being a double-bye team in the conference tournament.
- Tuesday, Feb. 16 | vs. South Carolina
- Saturday, Feb. 20 | vs. Kentucky
- Wednesday, Feb. 24 | at Vanderbilt
- Saturday, Feb. 27 | at Auburn
13-5 (6-5) • 6th in SEC • 10-8 ATS
No team took more of a nosedive than Missouri over the past week.
Both KenPom and NET ratings dropped with two crucial losses to Ole Miss and Arkansas. Despite shooting 40% from 3-point land and outrebounding the Razorbacks, an overtime loss can be attributed to a 14-of-21 performance from the free-throw line.
Missouri is dead last in the SEC on shooting percentage from the charity stripe, now at 66.5% through conference play.
The Tigers are now faced with going on the road twice against teams in the bottom of the SEC. Both Georgia and South Carolina are the worst defensive rebounding teams in the conference, which may forecast a rebound this week for Missouri.
More importantly, head coach Cuonzo Martin fields a defense that is 11th in perimeter defense, which cannot be exposed over the next two games.
Missouri should rebound from consecutive losses, but odds of +325 are short for a team that is not slated to receive a double-bye in the tournament.
- Tuesday, Feb. 16 | at Georgia
- Saturday, Feb. 20 | at South Carolina
- Tuesday, Feb. 23 | vs. Ole Miss
- Saturday, Feb. 27 | vs. Texas A&M
- Wednesday, March 3rd | at Florida