2022 SEC Tournament preview, odds and best bets: Tiger Kings
It is time for Madness. March is here! With the regular season wrapping up, the college basketball season will shift to postseason play this week. Every team in the country will have one last chance to earn its spot in the Big Dance, as the winner of each conference tournament earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The college basketball experts at Pickswise will have you covered by providing predictions, odds, and best bets for each of the Power 6 conference tournaments this week – starting today with the SEC.
2022 SEC Tournament odds
Let’s take a look at the odds, courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook:
Mississippi State +5000
Texas A&M +7000
South Carolina +10000
Ole Miss +50000
Gone are the days when the conference was dominated by Kentucky, as the SEC has seen a steady rise in talent across the entire league. This rise in talent has resulted in the development of quite a strong conference that has been represented by six or more teams in every NCAA tournament since 2016. In fact, the SEC is the second-best conference in the country this year per KenPom’s metrics.
There are arguably 6 teams who have a realistic shot to cut down the nets in Tampa this year. DraftKings lists Kentucky as the favorite at +190, but Auburn +260, Tennessee +330, Arkansas +750, LSU +1000 and Alabama +1500 each have the ability to beat any team on any given night. Every other team has +4000 odds or greater, but I do not think these long-shots have enough firepower to win 3 or 4 straight games against the SEC’s best teams in as many days.
Kentucky has the best chance to win the conference tournament after an impressive turnaround from last season’s 9-16 record, but the Wildcats have been inconsistent against the top teams in the country. Auburn being listed as a near co-favorite should be no surprise since the Tigers won the regular-season title and spent time at #1 in the AP Poll.
Tennessee, Arkansas, and LSU have grown into NCAA Tournament regulars in recent years and continued that trend this year, as each team won more than 20 games. These teams defend at a high level and rank in the top 20 in KenPom’s efficiency, so I would not be surprised to see any of them make a deep run later this month.
After winning the regular-season title and the SEC Tournament last year, Alabama took a step back this year. The Crimson Tide went 19-12 (9-9) with impressive wins against Gonzaga and Houston, but had some head-scratching losses to teams like Iona, Missouri, Georgia, and Texas A&M.
2022 SEC Tournament best bets
I like the Auburn Tigers at +260 to win the SEC Tournament. Since 2010, the SEC regular season champion has won the conference tournament 5 times. While they have struggled in some games away from home, keep in mind most of those games were against some of the nation’s best defenses.
Behind the leading shot-blocker in the country, Walker Kessler, the SEC regular season champions have consistently been the best interior defense all season. The Tigers are also elite offensively, as they are second in the SEC in efficiency (22nd nationally) and have 4 players that average more than 11.5 ppg. They are led by arguably the best shot-maker in the country in Jabari Smith, who can make shots consistently from anywhere and can utilize his size to shoot over defenders. If his shot is not there, players like Wendell Green, KD Johnson, Zep Jasper, and Kessler have shown they can be relied upon when needed.
Outside of Auburn, I think the LSU Tigers (+1000) have the best odds to win the SEC tournament. LSU has been one of the nation’s premier defenses all year long and currently ranks 5th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency. The Tigers are relentless on the perimeter, as they lead the SEC in turnover rate and opposing 3-point%. At one point, LSU lost 6 out of 7 games, but that was when starting point guard Xavier Pinson was injured. With Pinson in the lineup, LSU scores 0.98 ppp and holds opponents to 0.81 ppp, compared to 0.90 ppp and 0.87 ppp respectively when he is not on the floor. The Tigers have shown they can hang with anyone in the conference at full strength, and I would not be surprised if they were to cut down the nets in Tampa.