It’s conference tourney time around the country, and the drama that comes along with March Madness will be no higher anywhere else than it is in Nashville Tennessee – Site of the 2015 SEC Tournament. Not necessarily due to there being numerous teams with a shot to win the tournament, but almost solely due to one team and their quest to make history and go undefeated. The Kentucky Wildcats. The Wildcats come in to the tourney with a 31-0 (18-0 in SEC) record. The Cats have been pushed in several games, but no one has been able to finish the deal. Can anyone do it in Nashville? If so, who? What kind of impact would a loss have on Kentucky, as they move forward and try to win the national championship? More importantly for the league itself, how many teams will go dancing into the NCAA Tournament next week? Let’s take a look and answer these questions and more in the 2015 SEC Tournament Preview.
After receiving only three bids to last year’s NCAA Tourney, the SEC seems to be in much better shape this season. Of course, Kentucky is locked in to a number one seed. Arkansas, with a solid 24-7 record looks destined for a seeding between 5 and 8, depending on how they play in the SEC Tourney, LSU with solid wins out of conference and a 22-9 record, and Georgia at 20-10 with an RPI in the 40’s seem set to join the Wildcats. After that, Ole Miss and Texas A&M could give the SEC six bids. But, the Rebels and the Aggies need to have a strong showing in Nashville to feel good at all about their chances on Selection Sunday. One feather in the Aggies and Rebels hats is that they each may have played Kentucky better than anyone else. Both lost in overtime to Big Blue. Ole Miss losing in Rupp Arena. A&M at home.
Players to Watch
Kentucky – Everyone. We all know just how talented the Wildcats are. This team would give the Knicks a serious run for their money. Of course, the Harrison Twins gave us many memorable moments during last season’s run to the National Title Game. Then, there’s Willie Cauley-Stein, and freshman Karl-Anthony Towns. Don’t forget about Trey Lyles, Devin Booker, and Dakari Johnson. There are too many to name. Most of them coming to an NBA team near you soon.
Ole Miss – Stefan Moody is must see TV. If, you haven’t seen the leading scorer (19.0 ppg) in SEC games play, make sure you do. Hopefully, Moody and the Rebels will make the dance to really show off his skills to the nation. His coming out party came at Kentucky in Rupp Arena on national TV, where he scored 25 points.
Arkansas – Bobby Portis is athletic as they come. The Razorbacks are a totally different team for the worse when he isn’t on the floor. When he’s on the floor, the Hogs are a dangerous team that could make noise in the NCAA’s.
LSU – Jordan Mickey is an athletic swing-man, that could have a bright future in the NBA if he continues to develop. The Tigers can also be dangerous in the dance.
Florida – Dorian Finney-Smith plays on a disappointing Gators team. But, the upside on this guy is through the roof. Which happens to be how high this guy can jump. He can also step out and shoot the ball from distance. Really nice player for Billy Donovan.
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Kentucky winning this tournament. The Cats aren’t perfect, but they’re size is so hard to deal with. Few teams in the country can come close to matching their size inside, and none of those teams reside in the SEC. Big Blue Nation will also be out in force, as they always are anywhere Kentucky plays. I’m sure Ashley Judd will make her presence felt at some point, as well. However, if the Wildcats meet Texas A&M in the semifinals, or Ole Miss in the final, things could be interesting. Arkansas, and LSU can also make Kentucky sweat for a while. Georgia, could also be a threat. Just a week ago, the Bulldogs held a nine-point lead in the second half before succumbing to the pressure. But, can either of them finish the deal? Against that team? Against those fans? Probably not.
Looking for a sleeper? Look no further than the aforementioned Ole Miss Rebels. They won this thing a couple of years ago in route to a Round of 32 run in the NCAA’s. Head coach Andy Kennedy, has done what is one of, if not his best coaching job. Not much was expected out of the Rebels this season, but here they are with a pretty good shot at reaching the NCAA Tournament. I guess you have to throw Vandy into the mix, since they’re virtually playing at home. That could be beneficial for the Commodores to win a couple of games if they’re fans can find tickets before Big Blue Nation does. Good luck. It should be a good show in Nashville, especially if you wear Blue.