SEC Conference Tournament Preview, Odds & Best Bets

Alabama Crimson Tide guard Jaden Shackelford (5) goes to the basket against Kentucky Wildcats during the second half at Coleman Coliseum.
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March Madness is right around the corner, and with last year’s tournament getting canceled this year’s promises to be even more special than usual. Before we get to the main event though, we’ve still got a whole lot of conference tournament action to unpack. All of the big conferences will be having their tourneys this week, and we’ll be previewing each one. Today we’ll be taking a look at the SEC. First let’s check out the odds:

The SEC is essentially split in half this season. There’s the first group of six teams, which all have odds of +600 or lower to win the conference tournament. Then there’s another group of seven teams which all have odds of 30/1 or greater. Auburn isn’t in the tournament due to sanctions, so they don’t have odds.

Alabama leads the pack at +220, followed by Arkansas at +320 as near co-favorites. It’s been a wild year in the conference, as two of the programs with the most success in recent years, Auburn and Kentucky, both had extremely disappointing years. Kentucky was expected by many to lead the way once again, but they fell flat on their faces.

Tennessee had high aspirations at first, but they fizzled in conference play. Missouri had a brief moment in the spotlight, but they were quickly exposed as mostly fraudulent. Alabama wasn’t on too many people’s national radars after a middling 16-15 campaign last year, but they quickly took everyone by surprise.

The Crimson Tide emerged out of nowhere to emerge as the SEC’s best team by playing lockdown defense. Arkansas went 21-5 by playing a similar style of fast-paced basketball. LSU was flying under the radar too, but they went an impressive 11-6 in conference play on the back of 23.1 point per game scorer Cameron Thomas.

Alabama Crimson Tide guard Jahvon Quinerly (13) shoots against Georgia Bulldogs guard Tye Fagan (14) during the second half at Coleman Coliseum

© Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

SEC Tournament Best Bets

Let’s cut right to the chase, I like Tennessee at +525 here. Obviously in a tournament setting what you’re looking for is upside, the ability to string together multiple wins against top competition. Though they haven’t always been consistent, Tennessee has demonstrated they have the high ceiling necessary to thrive in this kind of environment.

The Volunteers showed that with two really good non-conference wins, beating top 25 caliber Colorado and Kansas (by 19) teams. In their one game against Alabama they played the Crimson Tide very close and ended up losing by eight. They’re balanced offensively, with a whopping seven players averaging at least 8.2 points per game. Their defense is also essentially just as good as Alabama’s, as they rank fifth nationally in defensive efficiency according to Kenpom.

If I was going to sprinkle a few bucks on any of the long-shots just for fun, it would be Kentucky at +3000. Obviously with their recruiting efforts, they’ve got a ton of high-end talent capable of making a run. They underachieved big time, but finished the season strong and showed consistently they can hang with the SEC’s best teams. They’ve already beat LSU, Tennessee, and Florida, and lost to Arkansas by just a single point in their one meeting. They’ve got some serious value at 30/1, especially in this unprecedented year where upsets should be abundant.

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