Tournament to be played at Sprint Center, Kansas City, Missouri.
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Georgia Bulldogs (-1.5, 143)
The ninth-seeded Volunteers also need a string of victories in Nashville to have any shot at the NCAAs, after dropping six of their final nine conference contests. Tennessee’s freshman class has accounted for 47.3 percent of the team’s scoring and 46 percent of minutes played, and the Volunteers won two more SEC games than it did a season ago (8-10 vs. 6-12 in 2015-16). One of those freshmen, Grant Williams, leads the team in rebounding (six per game) and field-goal percentage (50.2 percent). Senior Robert Hubbs III leads the Volunteers in scoring at 13.9 points per game while shooting a team-best 83.8 percent from the free-throw line. Williams, an all-SEC freshman team honoree, averaged 12.8 points overall and a team-best 14.2 points in conference games.
Georgia opens the SEC tournament against Tennessee on Thursday in Nashville, Tenn., without all-SEC first-team honoree Yante Maten, who is sidelined with a knee injury. Should Georgia find a way to reach the NCAA tournament, the belief is Maten would be able to return, but his status for the league tournament is murky – and so are the Bulldogs’ NCAA hopes. Eighth-seeded Georgia has played well down the stretch, winning three of its final four games after Maten was injured early in a loss to Kentucky, but a bevy of close losses throughout SEC play and the lack of a signature win likely means the Bulldogs need a deep run this weekend. Senior J.J. Frazier has picked up the scoring load in Maten’s absence, averaging 29.6 points per game in his past five contests to rise to third in the SEC in scoring at 18.7 points per game (tied with Maten).
* Volunteers are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 neutral site games.
* Bulldogs are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games as a favorite.
* Under is 8-2 in Volunteers last 10 games as an underdog of 0.5-6.5.
* Over is 7-0 in Bulldogs last 7 neutral site games as a favorite.
Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (OFF)
The 12th-seeded Bulldogs advanced with a one-sided win over LSU, but lost twice to Alabama during the regular season. Team scoring leader Quinndary Weatherspoon had a game-high 19 points in the first-round triumph over LSU, giving the Bulldogs their first winning streak in nearly two months. Freshman Tyson Carter was the other offensive star for Mississippi State, pouring in 18 points off the bench on 7-of-14 shooting while knocking down four 3-pointers. The Bulldogs’ defense was even more impressive, limiting LSU to 33.3 percent from the field while holding the Tigers to one made 3-pointer on 22 attempts. Mississippi St. have failed to cover the point spread the last four games following a win of 20 or more points.
Alabama’s biggest win of the season came in a four-overtime stunner against nationally-ranked South Carolina, and the fifth-seeded Crimson Tide would love nothing more than to repeat the feat but first they will need to get past Mississippi State on Thursday. The Crimson Tide haven’t won the conference title in more than a quarter-century, but certainly have the defense to compete as coach Avery Johnson’s team was among the league leaders in points per game allowed (64.7) and field-goal percentage against (39.9) while finishing in the top 25 nationally in rebounding (39.4). Alabama has also had the upper hand against Mississippi State, prevailing 68-58 in Starkville, Miss. on Jan. 3 and following that up with a 71-62 triumph at home to close out the month. The Crimson Tide offense was the team’s biggest question mark coming into the season, and that concern will follow Alabama into the postseason as it has produced 55 or fewer points in three of its last four games.
* Bulldogs are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 Thursday games.
* Crimson Tide are 2-10 ATS in their last 12 home games vs. a team with a losing road record.
* Under is 8-1 in Bulldogs last 9 vs. a team with a winning straight up record.
* Under is 4-0 in Crimson Tide last 4 vs. Southeastern.
* Under is 8-2 in the last 10 meetings.
Texas A&M Aggies vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (-4, 131)
Texas A&M lost to Kentucky in overtime in last year’s SEC tournament title game, but this hardly is the same team as it has lost four of its last seven. Vanderbilt swept the season series from the Aggies, winning 68-54 at Texas A&M on Jan. 31 and 72-67 at home on Feb. 16. The Aggies are big in the frontcourt with a pair of 6-10 players in Tyler Davis (14 points, 6.9 rebounds) and Tonny Trocha-Morelos (8.4, 5.1) along with 6-9 freshman Robert Williams (12, 8.1). Admon Gilder (13.8 points, 3.9 assists) also can light it up, but the Aggies miss swingman DJ Hogg (12, 5.1 rebounds), who is done for the season with an ankle injury.
Depending upon which prognosticator is doing the talking, Vanderbilt may or may not have a shot at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. But one thing is for certain – the Commodores must defeat Texas A&M in their first game of the SEC tournament in Nashville on Thursday to remain anywhere in the vicinity of the bubble. The seventh-seeded Commodores maintained some hope of an at-large bid with a strong finish to the regular season, winning five of their last six contests – including home triumphs over two ranked opponents in South Carolina and Florida. Their only loss during that stretch was a 73-67 setback at Kentucky. The Commodores are the best long-range shooting team in the SEC, leading the league in 3-point percentage (38 percent) and 3-pointers made (9.9 per game), but they beat the Gators on Saturday despite a season-low five 3s.
* Aggies are 3-13 ATS in their last 16 neutral site games as an underdog.
* Commodores are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games overall.
* Under is 4-1 in Aggies last 5 overall.
* Under is 12-1 in Commodores last 13 games following a straight up win.
* Favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings.
Missouri Tigers vs. Ole Miss Rebels (OFF)
Missouri is playing to extend its season as well as coach Kim Anderson’s career with the Tigers, as he will be let go at the end of the campaign. Kevin Puryear averaged 11 points during the regular season but he came up big against Auburn, scoring 30 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer at the overtime buzzer, so he’ll look to keep the hot hand. An eight-win team may not seem dangerous, but looking at the Tigers, they have a number of positives heading into another matchup that they’re not expected to win. The players love Anderson and don’t want to see his time as coach end, so they’re motivated to play hard, plus they have nothing to lose, considering no one expected them to last more than one game in the tournament. And after the comeback from a 10-point deficit against Auburn, the players will certainly believe that they can deal with any adversity and keep their season from ending, especially facing an Ole Miss squad that beat them twice this season but only by a combined seven points.
The No. 6 seed Rebels have a shot at a 20th victory on the season for the ninth time in coach Andy Kennedy’s 11 seasons, but they’ll have to beat the 14th-seeded Tigers, who are coming off a come-from-behind overtime victory over Auburn in the opening round Wednesday night. Ole Miss is a high-scoring team, averaging 77.6 points, but it also allows a lot of points, with opponents going for 76.2 per game. The Rebels have a trio of double-figure scorers in Deandre Burnett (16.5 points), Sebastian Saiz (15.1) and Terence Davis (14), and six different Ole Miss players have hit at least 20 3-pointers this season, led by Burnett’s 57. Davis could be a big key for the Rebels’ chances against Auburn as well as any other opponents in this tournament but only if he can stay on the court. The sophomore guard has had his playing time limited because of foul trouble lately, playing fewer than 28 minutes in seven of the last nine games. Davis can be a prolific scorer when he gets hot, but he didn’t score more than 12 points in any of the Rebels’ last four regular-season game, and his offense will be needed if the Rebels hope to make a run in the tournament.
* Tigers are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games following a straight up win.
* Rebels are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 Thursday games.
* Over is 4-0 in Tigers last 4 vs. a team with a winning straight up record.
* Over is 6-0 in Rebels last 6 games vs. a team with a winning % below .400.
* Over is 4-0 in the last 4 meetings.