SEC Tournament Betting Odds & Picks: Arkansas Heads to Nashville as the Hottest Team In America
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Jalen Tate.
There is plenty of history with the SEC Basketball Tournament.
Dating back to the 1940s, Tulane had played in the championship game three separate years. Despite not being in the conference, Georgia Tech has more tournament championships than current members Missouri, South Carolina and Texas A&M.
The addition of the Tigers and Aggies started the double-bye era of the conference tournament in 2013. This new format made playing on Day 3 of utmost importance.
In the eight years since the inception, only one team has ever played in the championship game and been seeded outside of the top four. Thanks to a Sunday win over the Gators, Tennessee joins LSU, Arkansas and Alabama as one of the double-bye seeds.
The 2021 #SECMBB Tournament Bracket is SET!
See y'all in Nashville 🤩 pic.twitter.com/9j2Csj4IYd
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) March 7, 2021
This article will review the odds on the SEC Tournament and look for numbers that are worthy of a play.
The tournament will be played in Bridgestone Arena, a different venue than Memorial Gym in Nashville, where Vanderbilt plays its home games.
Bridgestone Arena first hosted the tournament in 2010 and has been the primary site since 2015. Kentucky has won the SEC Tournament four times in Bridgestone Arena, with Ole Miss and Auburn also cutting down the nets in Nashville over the past decade.
Here are the odds for the 2021 SEC Tournament:
From the season-long statistics, Alabama is pure domination from the 3-point line on both sides of the ball.
The Crimson Tide finished as the top team in 3-point shooting in the conference and 11th nationally in perimeter defense. The "3-and-D" is used heavily in the NBA but has worked well for head coach Nate Oats in his second season.
While the defense is legitimate, there was regression due for the offense. Shooting close to 40% from long distance through the first six weeks of conference play, Alabama had plenty of rough shooting games down the stretch.
A 25% day against Vanderbilt or starting 0-for-10 against Arkansas were some of the instances when the shooting went ice cold. At the end of the regular season against Georgia, the Crimson Tide trailed at halftime by six to a Bulldogs team that ranked dead last in defensive efficiency in the SEC.
The Crimson Tide have shot just 34% from 3-point territory since the beginning of February. The interior defense also experienced a downfall, allowing 50% over the past five weeks compared to 46% through conference play.
One area that never improved was free-throw rate. Alabama suffered at both ends with double-digit rank in getting to foul line offensively and sending opponents to the charity stripe defensively.
Any team that can guard the perimeter and disrupt the second-fastest offensive tempo in the nation has a shot to knock off top-seeded Alabama.
Woo Pig Sooie, this is the hottest team in America.
The knock on Arkansas through late January was the lack of Quadrant 1 victories. Since then, the Razorbacks have won 11 straight conference games led by the most ebullient head coach in Division I, Eric Musselman.
The coaching job has been an absolute masterpiece after losing two stars to the NBA in Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe. Musselman gets the most out of a roster that entered the season 339th in minutes continuity.
📋Best Drawn up ATO's among AP 25📋
Coaches that drew up the highest quality shots!
Mark Few leading… pic.twitter.com/f1z7Bj1xv0
— ShotQuality (@Shot_Quality) March 5, 2021
The Venezuelan National Team drills led to an increase in free-throw percentage in a campaign that ranked second in the SEC in free-throw rate.
The Hogs have been one of the best in SEC in ball security and continually increased productivity in the paint with the return of Justin Smith from injury in mid-January.
— Collin Wilson (@_Collin1) March 6, 2021
The season-long statistics do not do the Razorbacks justice for how hot play has been through the winning streak.
Jalen Tate is one of the best slashers in the nation, while Devo Davis continues to move up the ranks individually in steals. How scorching is Razorback basketball? Per Torvik, only Illinois has more wins above bubble in the nation since Feb. 1.
The Razorbacks' most likely path is against a Missouri team they recently beat in Columbia and an LSU team that was never close on Feb. 27.
To win the SEC Tournament, a team must disrupt the passing lanes of uptempo offenses, rebound and hit free throws. Arkansas does all of those elements better than anyone in the conference.
There is a clear path to the championship game on Sunday, and the Razorbacks are worth an SEC Championship wager at +350.
The Gators did themself no favors with a loss to Tennessee to end the regular season.
Florida must now have a warm-up game against the winner of Vanderbilt or Texas A&M before a rematch in the quarterfinals with Tennessee. The loss of star point guard Tre Mann before Sunday's game was crushing to a roster that played most of the season without Keyontae Johnson.
Head coach Mike White is expected to get Mann back in Nashville, hopefully rebounding from consecutive losses that would have provided a double-bye in the tournament.
Florida is the top shooting team in the SEC from the interior, and it's led by Colin Castleton.
The defense has been just as fierce since the beginning of February. The Gators have fielded the best perimeter defense and ranked third in adjusted defensive efficiency in the SEC over the past five weeks of play.
At 10/1 odds, Florida is worth consideration and deserves a play if better odds are found. The health of Mann is the No. 1 factor in backing Florida after it committed 16 turnovers against Tennessee.
The Gators should get past the Volunteers if fully healthy, and the perimeter defense could cause tons of issues for an Alabama team that is slumping from long range.
The COVID-19 pandemic will limit the crowd at Bridgestone Arena, but make no mistake that the seats that are filled will be blue.
Kentucky has won the SEC Tournament 31 times in school history, four more than all the other current conference teams combined.
Head coach John Calipari has one of the youngest rosters in the nation, entering the season 336th in experience. For the Wildcats to have more postseason after the tournament, it must win four games in a row.
Kentucky gets the mention in the longshot section not just because of history, but double-digit victories over Tennessee and LSU show this team can hang. When ball movement is stagnant, Kentucky can go into long stretches of no scoring. When this young squad has learned to share the ball, the results have been impressive.
— OTH Kentucky Wildcats #BBN (@OTHwildcats) March 6, 2021
Kentucky's ball movement has created more scoring opportunities and an increase in free-throw rate. Only Georgia and Mississippi have gotten to the line more since the beginning of February.
With an average height that ranks fifth in the nation, the Wildcats have fielded one of the best defensive shooting numbers inside the paint.
To win the SEC Tournament and not have a double-bye start takes depth. Kentucky had nine players log 10 minutes of action in the season finale against South Carolina. That kind of bench productivity is crucial to a team winning four straight in Nashville.
The history is there, and the ball movement has shown the flashes of old Kentucky teams.
If the Wildcats continue to find open looks and trips to the free-throw line, the Alabama-Tennessee side of the bracket should be put on notice.