SEC Tournament Second Round Should Be Highly Competitive


Day 2 of the SEC Tournament has some tight spreads. Other than Kentucky and Florida, the 12 remaining teams in the tournament are rather close talent-wise, which could make great theater.

#9 Tennessee vs. #8 Georgia

Tennessee’s trek through the SEC was filled with up and downs. The Volunteers (16-15 and 15-14 ATS) started 2-5 SU and ATS, then rattled off four straight wins and covers, including one over Kansas State in out of conference play and upsetting Kentucky in Knoxville 82-80. Tennessee lacks height and needs to play fast and avoid the half court game, where opposing teams can take advantage of them, which is why the Vols were 2-6 SU and ATS in their next eight outings before Senior Day win over Alabama. Tennessee has to get into transition game with Georgia and the SU winner of their games is on 21-0 ATS streak.

Georgia (18-13, 14-13 ATS) confounds backers, playing at times like one five best teams in the SEC and on other moments like LSU or Missouri. The Bulldogs would have picked three or four more wins if games were 36 minutes in length, not 40, being unable to finish late. One game they did finish was at Tennessee, being a 76-75 winner as 4.5-point road favorite. The Dawgs opened  as a 1.5-point favorite and they have not excelled in that role at just 4-10 ATS. Nonetheless, coach Mark Fox has the better squad and if senior guard J.J. Frazier gets his guys to put forth max effort, Georgia has date with Kentucky on Friday. For college basketball picks, it’s the Bulldogs by 8.		#12 Mississippi State vs. #5 Alabama

Alabama (17-13, 13-15 ATS) begins SEC tourney action and the Crimson Tide were as consistently as good defensive team as the SEC had in allowing only 64.7 points a game this season. Truth be told Bama needed to focus on defense because it’s offense is scattershot. Alabama had the occasional outbursts where they scored 90 points against both LSU and South Carolina, but they also had several games where they never sniffed connecting on 40 percent of shot attempts and the Tide has failed to reach 60 points in five of their past seven tries.

Not unexpectedly, Mississippi State (16-15, 18-11 ATS) routed LSU yesterday 79-52 and the tournament schedule-maker did them no favor, with only 20 hours between games. The Bulldogs lost twice to Alabama this season, by 10 and 9 points respectively, failing to cover either time. Mississippi State’s best chance to win and or beat the spread is to not allow the Tide to dictate pace and run at every opportunity and make this a quicker-paced game. Though no official line was out when article was submitted, based on previous games, I anticipate the Bulldogs will be +3 to +4 point underdogs. Would love to make a call on Mississippi State for college basketball picks, but Bama’s size, defense and freshness will be the difference.

#10 Texas A&M vs. #7 Vanderbilt

Though Texas A&M (16-14, 10-16 ATS) had a solid defensive club which only surrendered 67.9 PPG, they often labored on the offense end and had scoring droughts that seemed to Aggies fans that lasted for hours, not minutes. The center piece of Texas A&M basketball is 6’10 sophomore Tyler Davis. The offense runs through the big man in part because the perimeter players are mostly mediocre shooters. The Aggies have already lost twice to Vanderbilt, largely because the shooting differences between the two teams.

It took Vanderbilt (17-14, 18-11 ATS) players awhile to understand first-year head coach Bryce Drew’s teachings, after Kevin Stallings had been in Nashville for 17 years. But once the Commodores players bought in, they finished the season on a roll at 8-3 (9-2 ATS). The sense became the players began to trust each other and became less afraid to take shots from distance, which opened up the floor for drive and dish opportunities. Vandy was sent out as four-point favorite and they should advance, but for college basketball picks, have a sneaking suspicion the Aggies come to play and this ends up as nail biter, with the Commodores escaping by two points before the home town fans.

#14 Missouri vs. #6 Mississippi

Mississippi (19-12, 17-13-1 ATS) better not look at Missouri’s body of work and assume they march to the SEC quarterfinals or they will end up like Auburn, being sent home. The Rebels like most SEC squads can be very dangerous and this team more than most in the conference plays off how events as they are unfolding. If Ole Miss starts making shots early, the defense plays better and they pursue loose balls with more aggression. However, coach Andy Kennedy has also seen his club come out with zero emotion and play without purpose and half their losses have been by double digits.

Missouri (8-23, 13-13-2 ATS) did the two things underdogs need to do to engineer upsets like they did in OT against Auburn last night. The Tigers were deadly behind the arc (16-34, 47.1%) and they committed six fewer turnovers. Missouri has matched up well with Mississippi, losing 75-71 and 80-77 (1-0-1 ATS). As bad as Mizzou has been this season, they have covered seven of their past 10 contests and if they are +6 to +7 as I anticipate, they should have a real chance to push the Rebels again and could be a nice choice for college basketball picks in the nitecap.


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