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2024 SEC Tournament Preview

The sun has set on the 2023-24 Southeastern Conference regular season and now, all eyes turn towards Nashville. Bridgestone Arena will play host to all 14 schools once again as they battle it out across five nights to crown an SEC Tournament Champion. \

This will be your viewing guide to help get you ready for all the action from the conference where "It Just Means More". 



Tennessee (24-7, 14-4 SEC)

The Vols won the SEC outright for the first time in over a decade with a 14-4 conference record, besting  Kentucky, Alabama, Auburn, and South Carolina, who all finished 13-5 in conference play. Tennessee has always had an elite defense under Rick Barnes, but it's the offensive weapons that have pushed the Vols to the top of the conference.

Northern Colorado transfer Dalton Knecht has transformed the offense with his scoring ability from all three levels. Knecht enters the SEC Tournament coming off of a 40-point performance in a loss to Kentucky and will most likely win the Player of the Year in the league. Zakai Zeigler returning from a torn ACL at the end of last season and getting back in form during conference play has been another key reason why Tennessee won the league.

Coach Barnes has arguably his best team during his tenure in Knoxville, utilizing a Top 5 defense and Top 25 offense with a legitimate superstar in Knecht, putting Rocky Top atop the list of favorites to cut the nets down in Nashville this weekend. 


Kentucky (23-8, 13-5 SEC)

At the beginning of February, when Kentucky lost back-to-back home games to Florida and Tennessee, not many thought the 'Cats would be in this spot. Certainly not after a buzzer-beating loss on the road in Baton Rouge, a game in which they lead by 15 points early in the second half. The defensive breakdowns negated the historic offensive numbers John Calipari's bunch was putting up.

Since the LSU loss however, Kentucky has gotten red hot, winning five in a row and seven of their last eight, including wins against Auburn, Mississippi State, Alabama, and Tennessee. There's not a better backcourt than the combination of Antonio Reeves, Reed Sheppard, DJ Wagner, and Rob Dillingham. Justin Edwards has started to find his rhythm in the last three weeks. Kentucky's offense makes it difficult to guard with the sheer amount of guys who can beat you nightly, along with the fact that they shoot a nation-best 41% from 3pt land and don't turn the ball over.

The defense is still a work in progress, but during the win streak, they have found just enough stops to win games. The 'Cats are dangerous and will have Big Blue Nation in full support in Nashville. 


Alabama (21-10, 13-5 SEC)

The Crimson Tide led the conference title race heading into the February 24th showdown against Kentucky inside Rupp Arena. The Tide lost that game and would limp their way to the end of the regular season, losing three of the last five games. The defense is a major concern for Bama as they rank 102nd in adjusted defensive efficiency and allowed 117, 88, 81, 105, and 88 points in their final five games.

The good news for Tide fans is the offense is elite. Mark Sears is having an SEC Player of the Year type of season, averaging 21.1 points per game on 44% from three. Alabama has five guys on the floor at all times who are scoring threats. There are not many teams in college basketball that want to play a fast-paced, high-possession game with Bama because of how quickly the Tide can put numbers on the board. The defense will need to be better in order for Alabama to win the Tournament as a 3-seed, but the offense will always make them dangerous.  




Auburn (24-7, 13-5 SEC)

Bruce Pearl's club tied with Kentucky, Alabama, and South Carolina record-wise for 2nd place in the league standings, but settled for the four seed due to tiebreakers. The Tigers have the deepest rotation in the SEC as Pearl plays eleven guys. Johni Broome leads the Auburn front court as an All-SEC First-Team member. Broome is a terrific rim protector, will always find a way to get back to his left hand on the block, and has turned into a decent enough passer out of double teams. Aden Holloway is an electric guard capable of making big shots as a Freshman, but it's hard to fully trust the guards on this team.

The offense tends to bog down too much because of the guards' lack of shot-making as a whole. The Tigers defense and toughness keep them competitive.  The path for Auburn could potentially be South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky/Alabama/Florida to win the SEC Championship. It's also worth noting that Auburn went 2-4 against the top 6 in the SEC this season.  The talent is there as long as the guards play well, but the likely scenario is a trip to the semis and losing to Tennessee.  


Florida (21-10, 11-7 SEC)

The Gators will have to play on Thursday night in the late game against the winner of Missouri/Georgia, but Florida should cruise by either one of those teams. That would set up the rubber match against three-seed Alabama on Friday Night. They split the regular season series in two high-scoring affairs, the second game ending with Florida hanging 105 points on the Crimson Tide. Neither team plays much defense, but both have incredible offenses capable of going for 100+ points. Then Florida would likely see Kentucky for a third time in the semis on Saturday (also split series) in another high-scoring, offensive-minded affair, and presumably Tennessee in the championship game.

What makes Florida dangerous is their guards scoring ability and ranking 4th nationally in offensive rebounding. Walter Clayton Jr, Zyon Pullin, Will Richard, and Riley Kugel are dynamic guards who attack off the bounce but also make defenses pay if given too much space from three. Tyrese Samuel transferred in from Seton Hall and has given the Gators toughness on the interior.  Fellow big man transfer, 7-1' Micah Handlogten has been a rim protector and lob threat. Florida can absolutely play with anyone in the country with the way they score the ball and hit the offensive glass. However, defense is optional for this year's Gators.





Arkansas (15-16, 6-12 SEC)

After back-to-back seasons of making the Elite Eight, the Muss Bus began to slow down this year. The Hogs' came into the year with high expectations and another roster full of stud transfer portal gets, but Arkansas never really gelled into a cohesive unit. The Razorbacks finished conference play 6-12 overall, good enough for a 12 seed in the SEC Tournament.

After an underwhelming performance in the regular season, why should we buy into them as sleepers?

Arkansas is playing their best basketball of the season in the past month, despite only going 3-4 in their last seven games. Three of the losses were on the road against NCAA Tournament teams in which the 'Hogs led in each with six minutes left, and each loss was under nine points. They grabbed a seven-point win on the road at Texas A&M and scored 94 points en route to a win against a streaking LSU team. Khalif Battle has averaged 28 points per game during the final seven games, Tramon Mark has consistently scored double digits, and Arkansas's offensive production has jumped significantly.

They should beat Vanderbilt in the first round. That sets up a game versus South Carolina where there won't be a talent gap. Auburn would be next after that in the quarterfinals, yet another winnable game should the offense continue to score in the upper eighties. That would put Arkansas in the semis on Saturday and anything could happen after that. The talent is there and the Razorbacks are playing better than they did earlier this season. 





First Round:  


12 seed Arkansas over 13 seed Vanderbilt 92-77, see above for reasons why.  


11 seed Georgia over 14 seed Missouri; Georgia started off conference play good but faded. Missouri went winless in SEC play. Georgia has better guards in Silas DeMary Jr, Blue Cain, Noah Thomasson, etc. Bulldogs cruise 86-69 


Second Round: 


9-seed Mississippi State over 8-seed LSU. State won the only meeting between these two in Baton Rouge by 20 a few weeks ago. The Bulldogs are also on the bubble and playing for their tournament lives, so expect to see a motivated Mississippi State team. MSU 78 LSU 73 


12 seed Arkansas upsets 5 seed South Carolina 71-67. South Carolina has been so good because of their physicality, stingy defense, controlling tempo on offense, and ability of guys like Meechie Johnson to bury threes late in the clock. Arkansas has enough athletes and size to stifle SC and the Gamecocks don't make the same shots they have all season. 


7 seed Texas A&M over 10 seed Ole Miss. These two just played in the final regular season game with TAMU smoking the Rebels on their home floor 86-60. Not much changes in less than a week's time other than the final score. TAMU 79 Ole Miss 68 


6 seed Florida over 11 seed Georgia. Florida swept Georgia in the regular season by a combined ten points. Both possess good guard play, but Florida's elite ability to pound the offensive glass will be the difference again. Expect another close game. UF 88 UGA 84 





1 seed Tennessee over 9 seed Mississippi State. Mississippi State won the only matchup of the two in Starkville. The Vols will be out for revenge and will have a heavy fans advantage in Nashville, they also have Dalton Knecht. Look for a close contest for a while before Knecht and company get hot shooting. Tenn 85 MSU 77 


4-seed Auburn over 12-seed Arkansas. The third game in three days catches up to Arkansas here against a deep Auburn team. I don't fully trust the Auburn backcourt, but they are capable of making big runs on the offensive end. Auburn wears Arkansas down by grinding on them in the half-court defense and pushes the action off turnovers or missed shots. Auburn 90 Ark 76 


2-seed Kentucky over 7-seed Texas A&M. TAMU won the only matchup of these teams back in January in an overtime thriller. Wade Taylor IV and Tyrece Radford combined for 59 points on the night. Kentucky has gotten much better since then and the elite offense is damn near impossible to slow down. TAMU will need to score enough to keep pace and Kentucky will have to find defensive discipline to keep Taylor/Radford at bay. The 'Cats find enough stops while scoring a ton of points to win.  UK 99 TAMU 86 


6 seed Florida over 3 seed Alabama. The season series was split 1-1, each winning on their home floor. Neither wants to play defense, and both have elite offenses. This might be the first to 90 wins the game. The Gators get more stops than the Crimson Tide and dominate the glass to beat Bama for the 2nd time in under two weeks.  UF 96 Bama 91 





1 seed Tennessee over 4 seed Auburn. Everything Auburn does well, Tennessee does it better. The Tigers will need to hit shots from the outside to have a chance, something they only do at an average level. Johni Broome could have a monster game going against Jonas Aidoo on the interior. Again, however, Dalton Knecht is the best player on the floor, Zakai Zeigler runs the show, and the Vols move to Sunday.  UT 73 Auburn 66 


2 seed Kentucky over 6 seed Florida. Another matchup in which will be the rubber game with both winning on the road against the other. Walter Clayton Jr and Zyon Pullin combined for 44 points on 8-14 three-point shooting in the Rupp Arena win for Florida. Clayton Jr hit seven of them himself. The Gators had 17 offensive rebounds that night. Kentucky blocked 14 shots. Reed Sheppard had 24 points and Rob Dillingham pitched in 20 points. Both guards come off the bench for the 'Cats nightly as an immediate offense. Similar to what we've seen from Kentucky during this streak of 7 wins in the last 8 games, they find just enough stops.  UK 93 UF 89 




2 seed Kentucky over 1 seed Tennessee. The best two teams in the Southeastern Conference will do battle one more time. Tennessee won big in Rupp Arena, and Kentucky returned the favor last Saturday in Knoxville. We've seen that Kentucky has learned to fight through physicality and Dalton Knecht can drop 40 on your head. Bridgestone Arena will be LOUD with "Go Big Blue" chants and "Rocky Top" blaring approximately 100,000 times.

The key question for the Vols; can Tennessee's role players like Josiah Jordan-James, Santiago Vescovi, and Jonas Aidoo step up to add scoring, and will the Vols establish control early like they did in Rupp Arena? This should be another barn burner, with a Final Four atmosphere, but Kentucky is playing with so much confidence and momentum is on their side. I trust Kentucky's shot-making to find stretches of any game to go nuclear. For that reason, I believe Kentucky wins their first SEC Tournament Championship since 2018. 

UK 87 UT 82 


Final Thoughts

The SEC has arguably been the second-best conference this season behind the Big 12. The depth in the league from top to bottom has maybe been its best in at least two decades. There's a case to be made for up to eight different teams that CAN cut the nets down on Sunday in Nashville. Bridgestone Arena is in store for five incredible nights of action from the "Dirty South's" best. To quote the legendary country music singer Toby Keith (RIP) since we're in Nashville, it's time for " A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action". 


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