Previewing and Predicting the Men's SEC Basketball Tournament

I'd like to begin by stating that I am by no means an expert on all the various basketball teams that encompass the SEC. Aside from an above-average knowledge of the Florida Gators (obvious), the Tennessee Vols (that's what I get from living in the state), and the Arkansas Razorbacks (not so obvious, but I've followed the Arkansas program for a long time), I don't know much from what the average basketball fan knows about the other teams.

However, as surely everyone knows by now, it is time for the 2011 Men's SEC Basketball Tournament, which of course takes place March 10-13 at the SEC Dome, errrr...I mean Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.

To start things off, the seeds are as follows:

1(E): Florida Gators, 24-6 overall (13-3 SEC)

2(E): Kentucky Wildcats, 22-8 overall (10-6 SEC)

3(E): Vanderbilt Commodores, 21-9 overall (9-7 SEC)

4(E): Georgia Bulldogs, 20-10 overall (9-7 SEC)

5(E): Tennessee Volunteers, 18-13 overall (8-8 SEC)

6(E): South Carolina Gamecocks, 14-15 overall (5-11 SEC)

1(W): Alabama Crimson Tide, 20-10 overall (12-4 SEC)

2(W): Mississippi State Bulldogs, 17-13 overall (9-7 SEC)

3(W): Ole Miss Rebels, 19-12 overall (7-9 SEC)

4(W): Arkansas Razorbacks, 18-12 overall (7-9 SEC)

5(W): Auburn Tigers, 11-19 overall (4-12 SEC)

6(W): LSU Tigers, 11-20 overall (3-13 SEC)

You can check out the entire bracket by visiting the SEC Digital Network. After the jump is a mini-preview of what each team brings to the party (per se) and my predictions (which are sure to be completely wrong) for the entire tournament.

The Florida Gators aren't going to jump off the stat pages at you from a team perspective, especially when it comes to scoring. The Gators are currently 50th or worse in the entire country at points per game (103rd at 71.5), rebounds per game (50th at 37.6), assists per game (104th at 13.9) and team field goal percentage (62nd at 46%). How did this team win the regular season championship? By never giving up, timely shots, scrappy play, good defense down the stretch in games, and the right players stepping up when needed. While no individual player stands out as an all-time great, the unquestioned leader of the team is Chandler Parsons who has quietly become one of the best overall players in the SEC. He does a little bit of everything in averaging 11.4 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game, 3.6 assists per game, 1.0 steals per game and shoots a very respectable .494 field goal percentage with a very good .393 from beyond the three-point line. If there is a weakness in Chandler Parsons game it is definitely at the free throw line where he shoots a disappointing (to say the least) .542 at the line.

The Kentucky Wildcats are a mix when it comes to team stats. The Wildcats enter the tournament averaging a very respectable 77.3 points per game (21st nationally), 38.3 rebounds a game (28th nationally), and they shoot a somewhat decent .463 field goal percentage (50th nationally). If there is a weakness when it comes to this edition of Kentucky Basketball, it is the fact that they don't share the ball all that often and would rather go one-on-one, which is evident in the Wildcats averaging only 12.7 assists per game (180th nationally). Once again, Kentucky is lead by a very talented freshman and this time it is Brandon Knight. Brandon Knight is averaging just under 18 points per game, dishes out more than 4 assists per game, pulls down 4 rebounds per game, all the while shooting above 40% from three and shooting just over 45% overall.

The Vanderbilt Commodores continue to be the same team it seems year after year. This years version averages 76.7 points per game (28th nationally), grabs 37.1 rebounds per game (65th nationally), dishes out 13.5 assists (133rd nationally), and shoot just over 46% from the floor as a team (57th nationally). Sophomore John Jenkins is the Commodores leading scorer at 19.4 points per game, while averaging just over 3 rebounds per game while shooting over 40% from beyond the three-point line. And don't foul the kid because he shoots a very good 89% from the free-throw line.

The Georgia Bulldogs came into the season with decent expectations, among them being preseason Player of the Year in Trey Tompkins. While Tompkins didn't disappoint all that much throughout the season 15.8 ppg and 7.6 rpg, those numbers are down from last year. Overall though, the Georgia Bulldogs averaged 69.1 points per game (167th nationally), 37.9 rebounds per game (40th nationally), 15.3 assists per game (36th overall), and shot 45.5% from the floor (82nd overall). Georgia is probably going to need to win a few games in the tournament to make it into the NCAA Tournament, but judging by the recent history of the selection committee, nobody really knows.

The Tennessee Volunteers are not what one comes to expect from a Bruce Pearl lead team and maybe that is the result of all the off-court (but they became on-court) distractions. Tennessee averages 70.8 points per game (120th nationally), 13.4 assists per game (138th nationally), and shoot a horrible 43% overall from the field (197th nationally). The one strong point the Vols bring to the tournament is their rebounding, which they average 38.5 rebounds per game (24th nationally). Scotty Hopson is the unquestioned leader of the Vols and is their best player. The junior continues to improve every year and is up to over 17 points per game, over 3 rebounds per game, and shoots just over 46% from the floor.

The South Carolina Gamecocks were far and away the worst team in the Eastern Division and it shows. When you average 68 points per game (200th nationally), 38 rebounds per game (37th overall), 10.8 assists (315th nationally), and shoot under 40% (320th nationally) as a team, you aren't going to win very many basketball games. Bruce Ellington is the Gamecocks best player averaging 13 points per game, over 3 assists and 3 rebounds per game.

The Alabama Crimson Tide weren't pretty at times during the season, even in their wins, but sometimes stats don't tell the whole story. Alabama finished the regular season averaging 67 points per game (230th nationally), 36.8 rebounds per game (82nd nationally), 12.6 assists per game (189th overall), and shot just under 45% from the floor (117th nationally). JaMychal Green is the leader of the Crimson Tide averaging 16 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game and over 2 blocks per game.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs are another team that prove the theory that stats don't mean anything. The Bulldogs averaged 69.5 points per game (156th overall), 36.1 rebounds per game (107th nationally), 12.5 assists per game (196th nationally), and shot over 43% from the field (199th nationally). Ravern Johnson is the Bulldogs leading scorer at over 17 points per game and he shoots roughly 40% from beyond the three-point line.

The Ole Miss Rebels are a team that does a decent job scoring as a team, but not much else. They average 74.4 points per game (46th nationally), 35.9 rebounds per game (122nd nationally), 12.5 assists per game (204 nationally), and shoot just over 44% as a team (121st nationally). Senior Chris Warren is the best Rebel (he earned some preseason player of year talk) and didn't disappoint while averaging 18.9 points per game, 3.8 assists per game, and 2.3 rebounds per game.

The Arkansas Razorbacks are a team nobody can figure out. They are a team that can beat Kentucky one night, then get blown out by Georgia the next night. Arkansas averages 70.8 points per game (124th nationally), 34.5 rebounds per game (195th nationally), 12 assists per game (242nd nationally), at shoot 43.5% overall as a team (174th nationally). Rotnei Clarke can seriously shoot the ball. He averages over 15 points per game, 3 rebounds per game and dishes out 1.5 assists per game, all while shooting 45% from beyond the three-point line. Every team that plays the Razorbacks has one goal in mind, and that goal is to stop Rotnei Clarke.

The Auburn Tigers don't do much of anything well. 62.7 points per game (303rd nationally), 34.7 rebounds per game (193rd nationally), 11.4 assists per game (292nd nationally), and shot a dreadful 39% from the floor (319th nationally). The only good thing that game from Auburn Tiger basketball this season was Earnest Ross who averages over 13 points per game and just under 7 rebounds per game.

The LSU Tigers surprisingly found a way to be even worse than the Auburn Tigers. LSU finished with averages of 62.6 points per game (306th nationally), 34.8 rebounds per game (185th nationally), 11.4 assists per game (289th nationally), and shot just over 40% (310th nationally). Ralston Turner (I guess) is LSU's bright spot with averages of 12.8 points per game, 2.6 rebounds per game and 1.6 assists per game.

As for the tournament itself, it sets up like this.....

Game 1 = W5 (Auburn) plays E4 (Georgia) 1 PM
Game 2 = E6 (S. Carolina) plays W3 (Mississippi) 3:30 PM
Game 3 = E5 (Tennessee) plays W4 (Arkansas) 7:30 PM
Game 4 = W6 (LSU) plays E3 (Vanderbilt) 10:00 PM
Game 5 = Winner of Game 1 vs. W1 (Alabama) 1:00 PM
Game 6 = Winner of Game 2 vs. E2 (Kentucky) 3:30 PM
Game 7 = Winner of Game 3 vs. E1 (Florida) 7:30 PM
Game 8 = Winner of Game 4 vs. W2 (Miss. State) 10:00 PM
Game 9 = Winner of Game 5 vs Winner of Game 6, 1:00 PM, ABC
Game 10 = Winner of Game 7 vs Winner of Game 8, 3:30PM, ABC
Game 11 = Winner of Game 9 vs. Winner of Game 10, 1:00 PM, ABC

Give me....

Georgia over Auburn
Ole Miss over South Carolina
Tennessee over Arkansas
Vanderbilt over LSU
Alabama over Georgia
Kentucky over Ole Miss
Florida over Tennessee
Vanderbilt over Mississippi State
Kentucky over Alabama
Florida over Vanderbilt
Kentucky over Florida

Let's see what happens in the Georgia Dome though. Should be an exciting weekend of basketball. Go Gators!

What do you think?

Please be kind and use good grammar.

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