Tournament to be played at Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee
Georgia Bulldogs vs. Kentucky Wildcats (-10, OFF)
Anything short of winning the SEC Tournament probably won’t be enough to get Georgia into the NCAA Tournament field, but the Bulldogs would like to make their resume a little more appealing to the selection committee. The Wildcats swept the regular-season series, winning 90-81 in overtime at home and 82-77 at Georgia, but the Bulldogs led in the final minute of regulation and covered the spread in both games. The Bulldogs played most of the second matchup without big man Yante Maten, who injured his knee in the first two minutes and only returned to the lineup Thursday, scoring 12 points and grabbing five rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench. Georgia’s weakness is its bench production, which could become a factor with the Bulldogs playing on back-to-back days against a fresh Kentucky team.
Kentucky closed the regular-season with eight straight wins (4-4 ATS) to claim its third straight SEC crown, but the Wildcats’ larger focus is on the NCAA Tournament beginning next week. “This tournament is our way of getting ready,” Kentucky coach John Calipari told reporters. “It’s our way of getting ready and every one of these teams is capable of beating us. We know that. This is about, how are we getting in a frame of mind of how you’re going to have to play in another week.” Georgia’s weakness is its bench production, which could become a factor with the Bulldogs playing on back-to-back days against a fresh Kentucky team.
* Georgia is 10-2 ATS in its last 12 games as an underdog.
* Kentucky is 1-5 ATS in its last six games as a favorite of between -7.0 and -12.5.
* Over is 6-0 in Georgia’s last six games following a SU win.
* Under is 4-0 in Kentucky’s last four games overall.
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (-3.5, OFF)
Alabama routed Mississippi State 75-55 on Thursday and hopes to keep the momentum going, perhaps with a chance to play its way back onto the bubble or even claim an automatic bid with an SEC Tournament title. The key to the Crimson Tide’s success is at the defensive end, and they held the Bulldogs to 39.1 percent overall and 2-for-12 from 3-point range in their tournament opener. Alabama lacks a consistent go-to guy at the offensive end, as freshmen Braxton Key (12 points, 5.6 rebounds) and Dazon Ingram (10.5 points, 4.5 rebounds) are the only players averaging double-digit scoring, but a deep bench is full of role players who can step up at any time.
The Gamecocks lost four of their last six and five of their last eight, going 1-7 against the spread in the process, to close the regular season, beginning with a 90-86 four-overtime home loss to the Crimson Tide on Feb. 7. Coach Frank Martin’s team is still widely considered a lock to make the 68-team field for the first time since 2004, but another loss to Alabama would lead to some restless moments while the brackets are announced Sunday evening. The Gamecocks also hang their hats on their defensive prowess – they rank second nationally in 3-point defense (29.2 percent) and fifth in turnovers forced per game (17.4). Martin also has at his disposal one of the SEC’s most dynamic offensive players in guard Sindarius Thornwell (21.2 points, 7.3 rebounds), who had 11 20-point games in conference play.
* Alabama is 1-4 ATS in its last five neutral site games.
* South Carolina is 1-8 ATS in its last nine games overall.
* Under is 4-0 in Alabama’s last four neutral site games.
* Under is 4-0 in South Carolina’s last four neutral site games.
Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Florida Gators (OFF)
Vanderbilt has defeated No. 13 Florida twice this season and might need to do it a third time to solidify a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The seventh-seeded Commodores are on the bubble and will be in must-win mode when they square off against the second-seeded Gators in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament. The Commodores are making a dash down the stretch with six wins in their last seven games, going a perfect 7-0 against the spread in those games and they limited Texas A&M to its lowest-scoring output of the season during the quarterfinal win.
Florida was frothing to get another chance at a team that won both regular-season meetings by two points. “We can’t control who wins,” Gators guard KeVaughn Allen said at a press conference. “But if they win, we’ll be prepared for what they do and just be ready.” The Gators are playing for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the Commodores are aware they may need another win over Florida to assure they get an invitation. Allen (13.9 points) was an All-SEC First Team selection while senior Canyon Barry (12.5) exceeded all expectations as a graduate transfer and was named the league’s Sixth Man of the Year.
* Vanderbilt is 7-0 ATS in its last seven games overall.
* Underdog is 7-0 ATS in the last seven meetings.
* Under is 6-1 in Vanderbilt’s last seven games following a ATS win.
* Over is 15-7 in Florida’s last 22 games following a SU loss.
Ole Miss Rebels vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (OFF)
Ole Miss is thriving with eight wins in its past 11 games, including an 86-74 win over Missouri on Thursday. The Rebels feature a fierce interior player in senior forward Sebastian Saiz, who had 14 points and 16 rebounds against the Tigers for his 20th double-double of the season. Saiz is a first-team all-SEC selection who averages 15.1 points and 11.1 assists while junior guard Deandre Burnett averages a team-best 16.8 points. Burnett missed the regular-season finale with a knee injury but displayed no issues against Missouri as he hit 4-of-5 3-point attempts while scoring 23 points in the victory over Missouri. Burnett and sophomore guard Terence Davis (14.2) both played well in the earlier loss to the Razorbacks — Burnett scoring 27 and Davis adding 24.
The Razorbacks rolled to a 98-80 win over Ole Miss earlier in the season but coach Mike Anderson said that has no bearing on Friday. “In a tournament setting each game is going to have its own characteristic,” Anderson told reporters. Senior center Moses Kingsley is a second-team all-SEC choice with averages of 12 points and a team-leading 7.8 rebounds and he also has rejected 80 shots. Second-leading scorer Daryl Macon (13.1) will be watched closely by the Rebels after the junior guard erupted for career highs of 30 points and six 3-pointers in the earlier meeting.
* Ole Miss is 5-1 ATS in its last six games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
* Arkansas is 6-1 ATS in its last seven games overall.
* Over is 6-1-1 in Ole Miss’ last eight overall.
* Under is 4-1 in Arkansas’ last five neutral site games.