Thursday, March 8, 2007

SEC Tournament Preview

Click here for a complete index of all the conference tournament previews.

The SEC came into the season as the clear-cut #1 conference in the country, as they were expected to have three Final Four contenders, and several other quality clubs. However, a few of the league’s teams have disappointed, and the SEC West has been simply awful. Despite that, the SEC may have more decent teams than anyone in the country. Florida won the league with several weeks left, going 13-3 after dropping three of their last five. Tennessee and Vanderbilt finished 10-6. The SEC West was split by Mississippi and Mississippi State, who went 8-8.

Favorite: Florida, despite their recent struggles, is clearly the best team in the conference. They are one of the most complete teams in the country, and are a legit threat to become a repeat National Champion. Joakim Noah leads the way for the best frontcourt in the country. He is athletic and can do many things. Al Horford is a very good rebounder in the post, while Corey Brewer is one of the best two-way players in the country. Taurean Green is an underappreciated point guard, while Lee Humphrey is one of the best three-point shooters in the country. Chris Richard is a banger off the bench that would start for most teams.

Contenders: Tennessee is one of the hottest teams in the country, and has risen to a potential protected seed in the NCAA Tournament. They love to get after you on the defensive end and pressure the ball in an attempt to force turnovers. Chris Lofton is arguably the best three-point shooter in the country—when he gets hot, it’s lights-out for opponents. JuJuan Smith is another good scorer on the wing. Ramar Smith is a quick point guard. Dane Bradshaw does a little of everything, while freshmen Duke Crews and Wayne Chism anchor the post. Vanderbilt was extremely hot during the middle part of the SEC season, but was up and down since then. The Commodores are led by the best wing tandem in the conference in Shan Foster and Derrick Byars. Foster is a terrific shooter from long-range, while Byars is an all-around performer who can do everything. He was in the mix for SEC Player of the Year. Dan Cage is another good shooter, while Alex Gordon runs the show. Ross Neltner leads the way up front. Kentucky has struggled in SEC play for the most part, but they have the pieces to make a run in the Tournament. Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford are good scoring guards, while Randolph Morris is a dominant big man at times. Bobby Perry is a nice inside-outside option. Mississippi State is tied for first in the SEC West, but they likely won’t get a bid to the Dance. However, they are a quality team that could make a run. Jamont Gordon is one of the top all-around players in the country, with the ability to get points, rebound, and assists with the best of them. Freshman Barry Stewart is a good scorer, while Dietric Slater and Reginald Delk are also part of a deep wing group. Charles Rhodes has the potential to be one of the best big men in the SEC.

Sleepers: The entire SEC West could be looked at as a sleeper. I already mentioned Mississippi State, but Ole Miss is another team that could win a game or two. Clarence Sanders and Bam Doyne form one of the best wing duos in the conference—both can fill it up. Dwayne Curtis is one of the top post players in the league. Arkansas needs a run to get an at-large bid. They have two versatile forwards in Charles Thomas and Sonny Weems, and a host of big bodies down low. Patrick Beverley is an impressive freshman on the wing, while Gary Ervin is an inconsistent point guard. Alabama is very talented, but has underachieved this season. If Ronald Steele is not healthy, this team struggles. Still, Jermareo Davidson and Richard Hendrix form one of the best post tandems in the country, and Alonzo Gee can score on the wing. Don’t forget Auburn, either. They are balanced—five guys average at least 11 points per game—and very athletic. The Tigers can take teams out of their game plan with their pressure defense. Josh Dollard and Korvotney Barber are a solid forward tandem. In the East, Georgia could make noise. Sundiata Gaines and Levi Stukes form one of the better backcourt duos in the league, while Takais Brown has come on strong towards the end of the year in the post.

Prediction: This league has too many middle-of-the-pack teams for anyone to feel completely safe guaranteeing Florida winning the automatic bid. Eleven of the twelve teams in this league are decent (South Carolina? Not so much), and have good talent. In other words, if Florida has an off-night, they are ripe for the picking. Their recent struggles exemplify that. However, the Gators are the clear-cut best team in the SEC, and will win the tournament. Their semi-final against Tennessee should be interesting, though.

First Round
#4E Kentucky 65, #5W Alabama 61
#3W Arkansas 75, #6E South Carolina 63
#4W Auburn 77, #5E Georgia 74
#3E Tennessee 73, #6W LSU 64

#4E Kentucky 68, #1W Mississippi State 66
#2E Vanderbilt 72, #3W Arkansas 70
#1E Florida 77, #4W Auburn 68
#3E Tennessee 74, #2 Mississippi 67

#2E Vanderbilt 70, #4E Kentucky 65
#1E Florida 76, #3E Tennessee 71

#1E Florida 75, #2E Vanderbilt 69

1 comment:

  1. Just a quick comment about Vandy-- it's Dan Cage, not Dan Gordon. And not only was he in the mix, Byars DID win SEC POTY (coaches poll)...

    Thanks for all your work on the site!