How Will the SEC Fare In The NCAA Tournament?
Tennessee’s overtime win over Iowa in the First Four last night put all three of the SEC’s NCAA tournament teams into the Round of 64. However, the SEC won more First Four games than BCS Bowls this year. Even though SEC fans “don’t care” about basketball, they sure as hell seem to care if they’re winning. Tennessee fans started “SEC, SEC” chants last night in Dayton. The SEC’s hopes hinge on the Florida Gators, and only them. Tennessee and Kentucky can be surprises, and maybe bracket busters, but Florida is the only true contender. Here is an overview of the SEC representatives in this year’s NCAA Tournament:
#11 Seed – Tennessee Volunteers
With Tennessee’s win over Iowa last night, the Vols will travel to Raleigh, NC to face UMass on Friday at 2:45 pm ET on CBS. The Vols have won six of their last seven and almost beat #1 Florida in the SEC Tournament. Now that they are officially in the Big Dance, this team can really do some damage in the tournament. G Jordan McRae can really put the ball in the bucket and they have some serious meat in the post in forwards Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes. Maymon and Stokes are both 260-pound bruisers in the frontcourt. UMass is chugging their protein shakes right now in preparation. If Tennessee can get past Massachusetts, they’ll likely have a Round of 32 meeting versus Duke, who I think would have trouble with the Vols. First things first though, and head coach Cuonzo Martin will have to prove his worth as a coach if he wants to advance once again in his first NCAA Tournament appearance as a head coach.
#8 Seed – Kentucky Wildcats
As everyone knows, the Wildcats were the preseason No. 1 team in the land. They have had a roller-coaster of a season but if the SEC Tournament is any indication, this team is peaking at the right time and is showing a different edge. It is really hard to overlook the talent that Kentucky boasts, especially when you consider how well they’ve played as of late. Most NCAA Championship teams have had at least 1, usually 2 future NBA players on their roster. Kentucky likely as eight. They have been wildly inconsistent all year, a dysfunctional group who seems to lack the desire to play defense when their shots aren’t falling. It’s hard for some to trust this team because of the freshman-heavy rotation it boasts. Julius Randle is a dominating, physical force, who is arguably the best freshmen in the country. James Young is a long, lengthy, lights-out shooter, and the UK freshman I actually enjoy watching the most. The Harrison twins have looked like lost causes most of the season but Kentucky has been moving the ball and getting better shots as of late, something I attribute to the Twins. I think John Calipari is underrated as an X’s and O’s coach, and he knows March, he’s taken three teams to the Final Four and won a National Championship. They first have to get by Kansas State, but if they can, a very interesting match-up awaits the Wildcats in the Round of 32, the Wichita State Shockers. Arguably the two most scrutinized teams in college basketball this season could hit the hardwood in St. Louis. Kentucky could break some brackets, but I don’t expect them to make it to Indianapolis or Dallas.
#1 Seed – Florida Gators
Billy Donavan, the SEC Coach of the Year, is one of five Finalists for the Naismith Coach of the Year Award. The Gators boast a 26 game winning streak and haven’t lost since December 2nd. They are also unbeaten this season with their current roster. Florida obviously has talent, but they also have Madness experience, the Gators have reached the Elite Eight three years in a row. They are the deepest, most complete team in the country and boy do they get after it. Per Ken Pomeroy, Florida forces their opponents into turnovers on approximately a fourth of their possessions and are third in the country in opponents points per game. The Gators don’t have a go-to star but they have a senior quartet of Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather, Will Yeguete, and Patric Young. I also have to mention that William Frazier II shoots the 3-ball better than almost anyone in the country and that Dorian Finney-Smith might be the best bench player in the country. SEC Player of the Year, Scottie Wilbekin, is backed up by freshman Kasey Hill, a future NBA talent and ESPN’s #2 PG in the Class of 2013. They Gators are calm, cool, and collected, just like their coach. Can Billy Donavan win his third title? Only time will tell but Florida is the safest bet to get to Dallas, and the SEC’s only hope for a National Championship.
Help us Billy Donavan, you’re our only hope.