SEC Tournament Recap
Ole Miss defeated Florida 66-63 on Sunday (Mar. 17) to capture its first SEC championship in over 30 years. Rebel sharpshooter Marshall Henderson, who scored 21 points against the Gators, was named tournament MVP. Forward Murphy Holloway posted a double-double against Florida with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
The Rebels opened the tournament by defeating Missouri, 64-62, on a buzzer-beater. In the semifinals, Ole Miss handled Vanderbilt, 64-52, behind 23 points from Henderson. Florida knocked off LSU, 80-58, in the Gators’ opening round game, then defeated Alabama, 61-51, in the semifinals.
NCAA Tournament Preview
Only three SEC teams received NCAA tournament bids, which is less than seven other conferences. Florida, the regular season champion, earned a No. 3 seed, while Missouri was awarded a No. 9 seed. Conference champion Ole Miss received a No. 12 seed.
Missouri faces eighth-seeded Colorado State in the Midwest Region. The Rams finished second in the Mountain West Conference. The winner of this matchup likely will play Louisville in the third round.
Florida plays 14th seeded Northwestern State in a se-cond-round game in the South Region. If the Gators win, they will face the winner of sixth-seeded UCLA and 11th seeded Minnesota in the third round.
The selection committee did not do any favors for the SEC champion, as Ole Miss takes on fifth-seeded Wisconsin in the West Region. These two teams have very contrasting styles of play. The Badgers prefer a slower tempo, while the Rebels like to run. If Marshall Henderson does not have a big day shooting, the Rebels might be heading home early.
Only one SEC team will make it out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. Missouri should beat Colorado State, but the Tigers will fall to Louisville in the third round. Ole Miss is in the easiest region, but they will be one-and-done after they fall to Wisconsin.
Since Florida did not win the SEC tournament, the Gators dropped from a No. 2 seed down to a No. 3 seed. Fortunately for the Gators, they actually received a better draw, as Florida should have no problem with Northwestern State. Florida’s third round opponent will either be UCLA or Minnesota, and Billy Donovan has had success against both Ben Howland and Tubby Smith. While the SEC had a down year overall, Florida is still capable of making a run deep into the NCAA tournament.
Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee all received National Invitational Tournament bids. Kentucky was awarded a No. 1 seed, although the Wildcats had to travel for their first game due to NCAA tournament games being played at Rupp Arena. Kentucky lost to Robert Morris, 59-57, on Tuesday (Mar. 19).
Alabama was also given a No. 1 seed, and the Crimson Tide easily handled Northeastern, 62-43, on Tuesday. Alabama takes on Stanford on Saturday (Mar. 23) in the second round.
Tennessee earned a No. 2 seed, and the Vols squared off against Mercer last Wednesday (Mar. 21). Mercer, who defeated Alabama earlier in the season, knocked off Tennessee, 75-67.
Alabama is the only SEC team left in the NIT. The Crimson Tide’s road to New York City for the NIT Final Four is far from easy. If Alabama defeats Stanford, they likely will have to play Maryland to make it to Madison Square Garden.
NCAA Tournament Predictions
Favorites: Louisville (1), and Indiana (1).
Dark Horses: Saint Louis (4), VCU (5), Wisconsin (5), Butler (6).
Overrated: Gonzaga (1), Georgetown (2), Marquette (3), Michigan (4).
Final Four: Louisville (1), Indiana (1), Ohio State (2), Florida (3).
National Championship: Louisville over Indiana.