The big boys enter the fray for the SEC basketball tournament, completely rested and presumably ready for action. While each should advance, but as we saw what happened to Kansas yesterday when you are not mentally prepared, you can be ousted.
It has been a while since Kentucky (26-5, 15-15 ATS) has not been favored to cut down the nets, in this tourney. The Wildcats have all the components to win this again, but as we have seen, they do have flaws which could be exploited. If the Wildcats are forced into half court game, they are not nearly as effective when they can push the ball up the court and generate easy shots. This is why coach John Calipari will be harping at his guys to keep pushing the ball and try and take Georgia’s legs away early, having played in tense game with Tennessee yesterday afternoon. The ‘Cats have faced the Bulldogs twice this season, but failed to cover the spread either time and they are only 6-8 ATS outside of Lexington.
Georgia’s defense and rebounding saved them again the Vols in 59-57 squeaker as one-point favorite. The Bulldogs (19-13, 15-13 ATS) held Tennessee to 32.8 percent from the field and out-rebounded them by 10. That spread winner lifted the Dawgs to 12-3 ATS away from Athens. To upset Kentucky or at the very least be the right choice for college basketball picks, coach Mark Fox’s team has to keep this matchup in the 140’s for total. Anything above this negates Georgia’s chance to win, though they could cover the number again. Strong defense and dribble drives for buckets and free throws is the Bulldogs only chance. Sorry Georgia, not enough today.
South Carolina (22-9, 11-16-1 ATS) might have received a double-bye, but they could be one and done unless the defense from earlier in the season shows up. The Gamecocks were one of the top scoring defenses in the country through January and have seemed to wear down. After permitting just over 60 PPG, since February 4th, coach Frank Martin’s squad has been burned for 73.3 PPG. With the Gamecocks not an offensive juggernaut, if they are conceding this many points, they struggle and that is shown by 3-6 and 1-8 ATS records. Quite fortunately, they will face an opponent who is very similar.
Alabama (18-13, 14-15 ATS) played their game in mauling Mississippi State by 20, holding the Bulldogs to 55 points on 39.1 percent shooting. If you are thinking about the Crimson Tide for college basketball picks, you have to hope they can come close to yesterday’s three-point accuracy of 50 percent (8 for 16). Alabama can match South Carolina for defensive intensity, thus, this matchup will be about making shots and rebounding. Given the nature of both these clubs, it seems unfathomable their previous meeting was a 90-86 final score with the Tide winning as 8-point road underdogs. Alabama wins and covers and advances to semi-finals.
There is no denying, Vanderbilt (18-14, 19-11 ATS) is a hot team right now, after blasting Texas A&M last night 66-41, thanks to a 43-21 second half. The Commodores will have to be sharper to knock off Florida, especially on offense and senior forward Luke Kornet has to have more of a presence than scoring four points like last night. Confidence-wise, Vandy should be dandy, having upset the Gators twice this season, both by two points (68-66 in Gainesville and last Saturday at home 73-71). Having home city backing can only benefit the ‘Dores.
Motivation will not be a issue for Florida (24-7, 17-12 ATS), as it might for other tournament teams playing in their first contest. The Gators have not asserted themselves in the prior two meetings, letting Vanderbilt hang around and building confidence. Coach Mike White’s strategy has to be for his club to take the game to the Commodores. This means guards KeVaughan Allen and Kasey Hill coming off ball screens and penetrating to shoot, be fouled or finding teammates in the paint for dunks. For college basketball picks, I am anticipating Florida to be favored by 6.5 to 7.5 points and be mentally dialed in to win and cover.
Mississippi (20-12, 18-13-1 ATS) jumped on Missouri early last night in building 10-point lead and coasted home to a 86-74 triumph. Last evening’s victory was the perfect way coach Andy Kennedy’s team has to play. When Ole Miss scores 80 or more points like they have since Nov. 20th, they are 13-1 and 11-3 ATS. When the Rebels reach that benchmark and play a bit more defense and hold the opposing team to 79 or fewer points, they are money for college basketball picks at 8-1 ATS.
Arkansas (23-8, 16-13 ATS) will be the last SEC to take the court in this tourney and they have the fire-power to go with Mississippi, averaging 80.6 PPG. The Razorbacks are led by Dusty Hannah (14.6 PPG) and Daryl Macon (13.1 PPG) and this group can score in bunches and go on hellacious runs. That is what happened when the roughed up the Rebs at home in 98-80 thumping last month. This Hogs team has more balance than many previous Arkansas clubs, having the ability to just not play well at home, but on the road also and they are 8-5 and 7-5 ATS when not playing at home. At this time, anticipating the Razorbacks will be a 3 to 4-point favorite and this turns into highly entertaining high-scoring affair with Arkansas winning by a point or two.