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2023 SEC Tournament Preview and Predictions

(Brandon Sumrall / Getty Images)

2023 SEC Tournament Preview and Predictions

The SEC Tournament tips off on Wednesday, March 8 and finishes with the championship game on Sunday, March 12. This should be a fun tournament as the SEC was pretty competitive this year. The conference has a phenomenal 1-seed in Alabama, a handful of tournament teams and a few bubble teams.

Alabama secured the regular season title after finishing 16-2 in conference play. However, they lost two games late in the season, proving they are not invincible.

The SEC Tournament is up for grabs and whoever comes out on top will receive a big boost in NCAA Tournament seeding. The SEC Tournament also hosts 14 teams with teams seeded 6-10 receiving a one-round bye and the top four seeds receiving a two-round bye.

Here, is the full bracket for the SEC Tournament.

SEC Tournament Overview

This conference tournament should be a lot of fun as multiple teams could bring the title home. Alabama is the favorite to be named SEC champions but even if they fall short, their likely No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed is not significantly in jeopardy.

However, things get interesting for bubble teams like Auburn, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. A deep tournament run from any of these teams could give them the important wins to punch their tickets to the Big Dance. Meanwhile, big wins from teams such as Tennessee, Missouri and Texas A&M could give these programs one last chance at some better seeding in March Madness.

The SEC Tournament should have entertaining games across the board and I think this will be a conference tournament you will not want to miss.

Sleeper to Win: Kentucky 

I think the SEC has multiple sleepers to win because the conference was so talented this year and I was tempted to take long shots like Vanderbilt, Auburn or Missouri. But I’m not the best at finding Cinderella stories. However, I do like the No. 3-seed Kentucky Wildcats.

They have a truly impressive offense with four players scoring over 10 points. I think their biggest key to victory is big man Oscar Tshiebwe as he can take over games with his dominance in the paint and on the boards. Their defense is not great, which is not ideal, but it is good enough to frequently let their offense win them games. 

This will not be an easy task as they will likely face Texas A&M and Alabama on their road to an SEC championship. However, this is one of the better teams head coach John Calipari has had and they need to make up for their blunder in the NCAA Tournament. They have the offense to compete with the best of college basketball. This team is hot right now but they need to find some intensity on the defensive end. 

Players to Watch

These players can be big difference-makers in the 2023 SEC Tournament. If teams want to make some waves in their tournament then they will need great performances from the players listed below. 

Alabama Crimson Tide: Brandon Miller

Texas A&M Aggies: Wade Taylor IV

Kentucky Wildcats: Oscar Tshiebwe

Missouri Tigers: Kobe Brown

Tennessee Volunteers: Santiago Vescovi

Vanderbilt Commodores: Tyrin Lawrence

Auburn Tigers: Wendell Green Jr.

Florida Gators: Will Richard

Mississippi State Bulldogs: Tolu Smith

Arkansas Razorbacks: Anthony Black

Georgia Bulldogs: Terry Roberts 

South Carolina Gamecocks: G.G. Jackson ll

Ole Miss Rebels: Matthew Murrell 

LSU Tigers: KJ Williams

First Round Predictions

 No. 12 South Carolina vs. No. 13 Ole Miss

These teams split the season series but Ole Miss had the bigger-digit win. Also, even though South Carolina is the higher seed I just flat-out think Ole Miss is the better team. Ole Miss will be able to out-rebound South Carolina and their defense will be able to make the Gamecock offense uncomfortable. Also, while I expect a good game from Ole Miss guard Matthew Murrell, he has some secondary scoring help from forward Jaemyn Brakefield.

Prediction: Ole Miss 71, South Carolina 63

No. 11 Georgia vs. No. 14 LSU

Both teams are similar when it comes to the stats. They are separated by one point in their points per game and points against per game. They almost have identical rebounds, assists, blocks and steals numbers. Georgia went 1-0 vs. LSU in the regular in a 65-63 win at home. However, I’m leaning toward LSU because even though these teams are far from great I believe leave the Tigers to have the best player on the court in KJ Williams. A small upset in the first round.

Prediction: LSU 70, Georgia 66

Second Round Predictions

No. 5 Tennessee vs. No. 13 Ole Miss

Tennessee is no longer 100 percent after the loss of their starting point guard Zakai Zeigler due to an ACL tear. They are now without their All-SEC Defensive Team guard, but I do not think this will hurt them too much — at least for this matchup. Tennessee has a way better offense than Ole Miss and the Vols’ defense is arguably the best in college basketball. Even without one of their best players, they should be able to get the job done handily.

Prediction: Tennessee 72, Ole Miss 55

No. 6 Vanderbilt vs. No. 14 LSU

Vanderbilt is one of the hottest teams in college basketball, having won eight of their final nine games. They knocked off Tennessee, Kentucky and Auburn on this win streak. However, the one team they slipped up against was the LSU Tigers. Williams had a marvelous 35 points in this meeting. Even so, I trust Vanderbilt to stay hot and get the win. They have to emphasize containing Williams and then let their top three scorers, who average over ten points, go to work. 

Prediction: Vanderbilt 80, LSU 73

No. 7 Auburn vs. No.10 Arkansas 

This is a great matchup even though their one meeting in the regular season was an Auburn blowout of Arkansas. I honestly have no idea who to pick because I think both teams are talented.

Forward Johni Broome and guard Wendell Green Jr. are a dynamic scoring duo. However, I think, although young and inexperienced, Arkansas has the more complete roster. I want to take Auburn but I have to go with Arkansas. There is no way they shoot 12% from deep and 59% from the free throw line in this meeting. Also, I expect them to win the battle on the boards and break their losing streak in a nail-biter. 

Prediction: Arkansas 77, Auburn 75

No. 8 Florida vs. No. 9 Mississippi State

These teams met once in the regular season and Florida defeated Mississippi State 61-59. Florida forward Colin Castleton is a real problem for teams as he is averaging 16.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. However, he is not playing and the Mississippi State defense is one of the best units in college basketball. I expect the Bulldogs to shoot better in this matchup. Forward Tolu Smith has 12 points and 11 rebounds in the first game and I think his play will be the key to success. I think it will be a low-scoring affair where Mississippi State will find enough offense to come out on top.

Prediction: Mississippi State 65, Florida 62

Quarterfinals Predictions

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 9 Mississippi State

Alabama will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and they are the top seed in the SEC Tournament. Mississippi State went on the road and almost upset Alabama but they came up short, 66-63. The Crimson Tide shot an abysmal 5-of-28 from three and I don’t see that happening again. The Bulldogs have a great defense but Alabama’s defense is even better. Ultimately, Alabama is the better team with more talent I expect the Crimson Tide to advance. Although, it might be a close game. 

Prediction: Alabama 68, Mississippi State 64

No. 2 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Arkansas

Texas A&M is currently 4-1 in the last five games and they are coming off a huge win against Alabama. These teams split the regular season with each team winning handily on their home court. However, in this match, I’m going to take the hotter team and assume Texas A&M can keep up their good play. Also, the Aggies played their best ball around this time in the SEC Tournament last year. I expect Texas A&M to control the boards and win the turnover battle. Their offense just has to keep clicking against another good defense but then again the Aggies did just beat Alabama and Tennessee.

Prediction: Texas A&M 69, Arkansas 64

No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 6 Vanderbilt

Kentucky’s offense has been on fire lately as they have scored over 80 points in three of their last four games. However, that one game was a loss to Vanderbilt where the Wildcats scored 66 points. Vanderbilt had two 20-point explosions and Kentucky shot terribly. In the rematch, I’m expecting more of a shoot-out between these two high-powered offenses. However, I think Kentucky big man Oscar Tshiebwe will dominate against Vanderbilt since the Commodores will not have their big man Liam Robbins.

Prediction: Kentucky 76, Vanderbilt 69

No. 4 Missouri vs. No. 5 Tennessee 

Missouri was able to bounce back after some losses and finish the season 3-0 in their last games. Also, they defeated Tennessee on a buzzer-beater to win 86-85 in February. Both teams were shooting incredibly at all three levels in this game. I think Vescovi might have another great performance for Tennessee but without fellow starting guard Zeigler, I lean toward Missouri. Missouri has scored over 80 points in three straight games and I think they will ride another scoring performance from impressive senior guard Kobe Brown.

Prediction: Missouri 75, Tennessee 73

Semifinals Predictions

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Missouri 

Alabama earlier in the season 21-pieced Missouri at Missouri. However, Brown did not play in this game. Nevertheless, I am going to stick with the better team in this one and pick the Nate Oates-coached Crimson Tide. I think Alabama’s defense will be too much for the Tigers. Also, I think Alabama live by the three die by the three offense will overpower Missouri. I just don’t think Missouri will have two big upsets in them. The Crimson Tide have looked destined for an SEC championship all year and I think they will keep their fantastic year going into the next round. I feel like this one can get out of hand early. 

Prediction: Alabama 83, Missouri 71

No. 2 Texas A&M vs. No. 3 Kentucky 

Kentucky defeated Texas A&M in the only game they played this season. I think Kentucky guards Antonio Reeves and Cason Wallace can match the scoring of Aggie guards in Taylor and Tyrece Radford. However, I don’t think Texas A&M has an answer for Tshiebwe. He only had seven points in the first out, which I think will increase in this matchup, but he had a monstrous 17 rebounds. I expect Kentucky to control the glass and win in a shootout. 

Prediction: Kentucky 76, Texas A&M 72

SEC Championship Prediction

No. 1 Alabama vs No. 3 Kentucky

Alabama dismantled Kentucky 78-52 in the regular season. Kentucky was terrible in this game but I think they will turn in a better performance this game. Their offense simply has to shoot better in this one and Tshiebwe will have to prove why he is one of the best players in college basketball. However, once again Alabama is too good on offense and defense and I think they will show that on their way to an SEC championship.

If you cannot tell already, I am big on Bama this year. I think Miller will demonstrate why he is a potential lottery pick and help deliver Alabama an SEC title. 

Prediction: Alabama 80, Kentucky 72


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