SEC College Basketball Conference Futures: Time to Buy or Sell Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama?
Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Josiah-Jordan James (left) and Rick Barnes (right).
As an early teenager growing up in Arkansas, the move from the Southwest Conference to the Southeast Conference was massive from a basketball perspective.
The Razorbacks had multiple trips to the Final Four in the recent decades and went to join a conference that had been dominated by longtime stronghold Kentucky.
Since 1992, the SEC Championship game has featured the Wildcats or Razorbacks in all but five seasons. That stat is very much in jeopardy this season, as Arkansas and Kentucky are fourth and 10th, respectively, in the standings.
This weekly column will take a look at the SEC conference as we navigate to the conference tournament in Nashville on March 10.
We will feature the top-six seeded teams looking for value in national title futures while handicapping the weekly scheduled slate.
Alabama Crimson Tide
15-5 (10-1) • 1st in SEC • 12-7-1 ATS
The Crimson Tide had an eventful week in conference play, bulldozing LSU at home and losing to Missouri on the road.
The loss to the Tigers was the first conference defeat of the season for Alabama, although the Tide did not go down without a fight.
Head coach Nate Oats generated a 21-2 run late in the ball game with a chance to take the lead with under 1:10 seconds to play.
🏀 WATCH: With the game on the line, Mitchell Smith DENIED Alabama at the rim to secure one of Missouri’s biggest wins of the season over the Tide, 68-65. Fortunate enough to be on the call again for a thriller on @KCOUSports. What a game! pic.twitter.com/JVUOZ7XRCI
— Harrison Vapnek (@harrisonvapnek) February 6, 2021
Alabama left Columbia with one of its worst shooting nights of the season, posting 32% inside the arc and just 57% from the free-throw line.
Missouri has the second-best defense in the conference from inside the arc, but it’s worth monitoring whether or not Alabama’s shooting percentages will regress in futures games.
The Crimson Tide will play four more times on the road during the regular season before the conference tournament, with South Carolina the first stop on Tuesday.
The Gamecocks rank 10th in effective field goal percentage defense and 13th in defensive rebounding, making this a great bounce-back spot for the Tide.
A home spot against Georgia on Saturday is similar to South Carolina, as the Bulldogs are dead last in defensive rebounding and 12th in defending the perimeter through SEC play.
This may be a perfect opportunity to grab Alabama for the national title after a loss on the road. The remaining schedule does not have a single team in the KenPom top 50.
- Tuesday, Feb. 9 | at South Carolina
- Saturday, Feb. 13 | vs. Georgia
- Wednesday, Feb. 17 | at Texas A&M
- Saturday, Feb. 20 | vs. Vanderbilt
13-3 (6-3) • 2nd in SEC • 9-6 ATS
The Tigers conquered the top team in the SEC this past Saturday despite shooting 3-of-20 from long distance.
Missouri was led by nine blocks and almost twice as many assists as Alabama. The Crimson Tide boast the best defense in the SEC in effective field goal percentage, but that did not keep the Tigers from shooting 60% from inside the arc.
The path for head coach Cuonzo Martin is not as easy as Alabama’s with Arkansas and Florida still on the schedule.
A trip to Oxford is on deck for Wednesday, when the Tigers will look to avoid a hangover against a Rebels defense that excels in the paint. Ole Miss sits eighth in the country in turnover percentage, as both guards Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith will have an emphasis on ball security.
Missouri will likely get a bump in national title odds with the victory over Alabama, but the upcoming slate may produce a loss.
If the Tigers can survive a trip to Ole Miss, look for conference and national title odds they host an Arkansas team that has no quadrant 1 wins.
- Wednesday, Feb. 10 | at Ole Miss
- Saturday, Feb. 13 | vs. Arkansas
- Tuesday, Feb. 16 | at Georgia
- Saturday, Feb. 20 | at South Carolina
11-6 (6-4) • 3rd in SEC • 5-9 ATS
LSU did not have a game over the weekend due to COVID-19 concerns within the Florida program.
This may have been the perfect break for the Tigers, who have lost four of the previous five games. LSU led Texas Tech in the Big 12/SEC showdown with 30 seconds remaining before losing the game by five. The Tigers had no juice heading the Tuscaloosa, losing to the Tide by 18.
Mac McClung came up HUGE in the final minute of Texas Tech's win over LSU.pic.twitter.com/8hxawgmfwS
— Heat Check CBB (@HeatCheckCBB) January 30, 2021
Head coach Will Wade has not led his squad to a quadrant 1 victory while breaking even in quadrant 2 games.
Hosting Tennessee on Saturday will give LSU a chance to pick up an all-important win in the quadrant 1 range, increasing its chances of making the tournament with a better seed.
Before the game with the Volunteers, the Tigers must face Mississippi State. LSU loves to get to the free-throw line with a point distribution rate in the top 50 on a national level. Mississippi State has the best defensive free-throw rate in the conference and a clear advantage on the boards.
Both Tennessee and Auburn will visit Baton Rouge while road trips to Arkansas remain on the schedule. LSU must recover from a string of recent losses before any kind of future investment consideration is made.
- Wednesday, Feb. 10 | at Mississippi State
- Saturday, Feb. 13 | vs. Tennessee
- Saturday, Feb. 20 | vs. Auburn
14-5 (6-4) • 3rd in SEC • 7-7 ATS
Woooo Pig Sooie… as much as I love my Hogs and the job Eric Musselman is doing, there is one stat that stands out: Arkansas is 0-5 in quadrant 1 games.
The Hogs will have at least two more chances to notch a victory, with upcoming travel to Missouri and a late February visit from Alabama.
Of the teams featured in this column, there may be no tougher schedule than that of the Razorbacks, as they take a trip to Kentucky and host Florida and LSU.
Much like their head coach, the Razorbacks rely on hustle.
Many of the stat categories in the conference are middling in comparison to their peers. The one area Arkansas has improved through conference play is defensive rebounding with a rank of second in the SEC.
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman and his staff placed over 100 rebounding signs on players' cars and throughout their locker room.
It worked 😂 his team out-rebounded Mississippi State 45-34 Tuesday night.
— ESPN (@espn) February 4, 2021
The formula is pretty simple, as Arkansas has won every game that is not considered quadrant 1 (at home against top 25 teams; on the road against top 50 teams).
This should lead to a victory in Lexington against Kentucky, where KenPom projects a 1-point victory for the Razorbacks.
Musselman’s team is expected to make it to the big dance, but a signature victory is lacking.
- Tuesday, Feb. 9 | at Kentucky
- Saturday, Feb. 13 | at Missouri
- Tuesday, Feb. 16 | vs. Florida
- Saturday, Feb. 20 | at Texas A&M
10-5 (6-4) • 3rd in SEC • 7-6 ATS
Florida was scheduled to play Tennessee this week, but the Gators will go through their second straight cancellation thanks to COVID-19.
These games come on the heels of a bad loss to South Carolina at home, where the Gators shot 28% from beyond the arc and was dominated on the glass. Florida is 3rd in the SEC in effective field goal percentage and will look to the weekend for redemption against Texas A&M.
SEC basketball musical COVID-19 chairs continue. Georgia at Texas A&M and Florida at Tennessee both postponed from Wednesday. Georgia at Tennessee, scheduled for March 3, will instead be played Wednesday.
— John Clay (@johnclayiv) February 7, 2021
The Gators are currently slotted as a 7-seed in the latest bracketology.
Head coach Mike White will continue to lean on Tre Mann and Colin Castleton in the continued absence of Keyontae Johnson.
With recent victories over Tennessee and West Virginia, Florida has the ability to hang with the upper echelon of Division-I when the shots were going down.
- Saturday, Feb. 13 | vs. Texas A&M
- Tuesday, Feb. 16 | at Arkansas
- Saturday, Feb. 20 | vs. Georgia
13-4 (6-4) • 3rd in SEC • 10-6 ATS
With seven minutes remaining in the game, Tennessee showed why it has one of the best defenses in the nation in a victory over Kentucky.
Trailing the Wildcats for most of the game, the Volunteers held their opponent to just 24% shooting from beyond the arc and 44% from 2-point range.
Keon Johnson finished with 27 points after going 9-of-11 from the free-throw line down the stretch.
Combined for 50 points for Tennessee lottery prospects Keon Johnson, Jaden Springer vs. Kentucky. Both with some big time defensive plays as well.
Keon turns 19 next month, Springer 19 late September. pic.twitter.com/UEOhLtljXT
— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) February 7, 2021
The Volunteers rank first in all Division-I in adjusted defensive efficiency led by top-15 ranks in effective field goal percentage, turnover and block rate.
When the offense is making shots, there is no better team in the SEC. The offense has not always complemented the defense, however, shooting less than 43% in road losses to Florida and Ole Miss.
The remaining schedule is one of the easiest among the teams competing for the conference tournament double-bye.
A trip to Baton Rouge on Saturday is the only game left against a KenPom top-50 team.
Considering the remaining schedule and the potential for a double-bye in the conference tournament, this may be the last call for the Volunteers’ future market with a defense that can shut down plenty of teams in the dance.
- Wednesday, Feb. 10 | vs. Florida
- Saturday, Feb. 13 | at LSU
- Tuesday, Feb. 16 | vs. South Carolina
- Saturday, Feb. 20 | vs. Kentucky