The 2017 SEC men’s basketball tournament gets rolling on Wednesday from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, and the top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats look to three-peat as tournament champions. Last year’s tournament final between the Wildcats and Texas A&M Aggies was a riotous, back-and-forth affair, but this year’s championship bracket feels more like a foregone conclusion.
John Calipari’s roster is studded with blue chip talent from top to bottom, highlighted by the standout performance of Malik Monk, a true freshman guard who’s averaging over 21 points per game this season. Monk is flanked by fellow freshman De’Aaron Fox, who suffered a minor injury last month but doesn’t appear slowed by it now. Sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe has done a masterful job, as well. From a talent standpoint alone, virtually no one in the conference deserves to play in the same gym as this team.
There are two teams, however, that hung around the AP Top 25 throughout the season, but while Florida has more or less maintained its No. 12 ranking, South Carolina has faded fast in the season’s closing stretch. The Gamecocks have taken some bad losses this year to Clemson, Memphis, and Alabama, and last Saturday head coach Frank Martin announced that he was suspending freshman Sedee Keita for one game due to disciplinary reasons.
Florida’s a difficult team to pin down in its own right, though. The Gators can defend teams to death, but their scoring has at times grown icy. They held all conference opponents to 67.1 points per game, best in the SEC, but they’ve scored less than 70 in five games this year and threw up 53-point and 57-point efforts against South Carolina and Mississippi State, respectively.
Outside of Kentucky, Florida, and South Carolina, one would be hard-pressed to find another tournament-ready team in the SEC this year. Arkansas, Alabama, and Georgia sit just below the top three, but all of their resumes feature sloppy losses. Vanderbilt might have played itself into the bubble discussion with a season-ending win over Florida on Saturday, s it’s a hodgepodge of #SECBasketballFever after the top three clubs.
All 14 SEC teams are seeded into a standard bracket, with the top four seeds receiving byes into the quarterfinal round. The bottom four seeds will battle on opening day for the right to advance to the second round on Thursday. The finals are at noon ET on Sunday.
- South Carolina
- Ole Miss
- Texas A&M
- Mississippi State
Schedule and results (all times Eastern)
Wednesday, March 8 (first round)
Game 1: No. 12 Mississippi State 79, No. 13 LSU 52
Game 2: No. 14 Missouri 86, No. 11 Auburn 83 (OT)
Thursday, March 9 (second round)
Game 3: No. 8 Georgia vs. No. 9 Tennessee, 1 p.m., SECN/WatchESPN
Game 4: No. 5 Alabama vs. No. 12 Mississippi State, 3:30 p.m., SECN/WatchESPN
Game 5: No. 7 Vanderbilt vs. No. 10 Texas A&M, 6 p.m., SECN/WatchESPN
Game 6: No. 6 Ole Miss vs. No. 14 Missouri, 8:30 p.m., SECN/WatchESPN
Friday, March 10 (quarterfinals)
Game 7: No. 1 Kentucky vs. Game 3 winner, noon, SECN/WatchESPN
Game 8: No. 4 South Carolina vs. Game 4 winner, 2:30 p.m., SECN/WatchESPN
Game 9: No. 2 Florida vs. Game 5 winner, 6 p.m., SECN/WatchESPN
Game 10: No. 3 Arkansas vs. Game 6 winner, 8:30 p.m., SECN/WatchESPN
Saturday, March 11 (semifinals)
Sunday, March 12 (finals)
Game 13: Game 11 winner vs. Game 12 winner, noon, ESPN/WatchESPN