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The 2016 SEC Tournament Preview

No Mizzou, No Problem!

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Listen, as Mizzou fans we can just sit around and pretend there isn't a conference tournament going on just because our favorite team isn't participating in it...but nope, I'm here to force feed just a bit more SEC basketball into you. I mean, you've sat through at least three months of it, what's another five days? After the SEC tournament concludes you can shift your focus back to whatever other sport that Mizzou does participate in and wring your hands as they tussle on the mat, get hit in the face on the non elevated mound or watch as pitchers three though five get lit up more than the Griswold family home each and every Christmas season.

So in this space I'll recap the season of all 14 SEC teams, how they got to Nashville and what we can expect from them. Consider it a primer and a reminder of what the SEC was at the start (this conference has so many good teams!) and the finish (Texas A&M and Kentucky, that's it?!). I've included each team's best wins and worst losses (SEC is gonna SEC) as well as how I see them doing in Nashville and beyond.

Alabama (17-13, 8-10 SEC) 10 Seed

Best Win: Wichita State (sans VanVleet), Worst Loss: Auburn (this becomes a theme)
In their first season under smurf in hiding the Tide had a not bad little season, that included a nice stretch in February where they won five games in a row including wins over Texas A&M (impressive) and LSU (been done to death) but then came back down to earth and

First Opponent: Ole Miss
Nashspectation: Bama's a funny case, when they're hitting their threes they're very good, but if they're not they become very, very ordinary.  So, they'll come out and either blow Ole Miss' doors off, or get run off the court by Stefan Moody...I'm thinking option B.

March Moments? Alabama will have an opportunity, probably in the NIT if things go their way in other conference tournaments, but the future looks brighter in Tuscaloosa than it has in sometime. Not that it matters, since Nick Saban owns the months of April through January, and Johnson merely has a tentative on February and March.

Arkansas (16-15, 9-9 SEC) 9 Seed

Best Win: Texas A&M (at home, surprised?), Worst Loss: Auburn (Auburn was not good)
Coming off of a solid season that had the Hogs back into the dance in the Mike Anderson era, on the backs of Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls, the Razorbacks made it to the first weekend of the NCAA tournament before bowing out to UNC after almost bowing out to Wofford Thursday night. This season, things went back to normal in Fayettville where the Hogs won at home and then lost on the road, it's called the Mike Anderson recipe for college basketball in a rebuild year.

First Opponent: Florida
Nashspectation: The Hogs have a pretty active defense, as you'd expect from the 40 minutes of hell defense and have been quite adept altering team's shots around the rim, but have been mostly ordinary on the offensive side of the ball. That all being said, this game is not in Arkansas, so they will lose and head home...I'm glad the Arkansas being bad on the road thing is back, felt weird not to have it.

March Moments? If Arkansas wants to play more basketball, they're going to have to go to one of the acronym tournaments that honestly no one cares about. So, take some time off, hope the JUCO kids coming in next year can play well enough to get the grumbly Hog fans off Mike Anderson's back and watch the clown show that is Bret Bielema.

Auburn 13 Seed (11-19, 5-13 SEC)

Best Win: Kentucky (Because #SECBASKETBALLFEVER), Worst Loss: Harvard (σας πιπιλίζουν)
The second year of the Bruce Pearl time was weird, wild and wonderous. Lose to Mizzou, beat Kentucky, it was that kind of year on the Plains. Right from day one Auburn was in trouble with injuries and a key loss of a player due to the NCAA just never quite figuring out if Purifoy was eligible or not. Was he, wasn't he? I'm still not sure we know and maybe it will drag into forever because that's what the NCAA does sometimes. On top of that Kareem Canty just up and left in early February, because well he wants to be a pro and when you're ready to go, you're ready to go. That all being said, Auburn beat Kentucky, so, yeah...

First Opponent: Tennessee
Nashspectation: Auburn is a lean team at this time, leaner than some of their conference mates and State is playing pretty passable basketball right now. This Auburn team made a little bit of a run last year and popped A&M's tournament bubble, but I wouldn't expect that this year. Your stay in Nashville will be short Auburn, don't get unpacked.

March Moments? Well March is happening, and the calendar will turn, so yeah, there will be March, but that's about it. Year three is gonna be the year for Bruce Pearl, at least that's what Tigers fans will have to tell themselves for the next 8 or so months.

Florida 8 Seed (18-13, 9-9 SEC)

Best Win: West Virginia (All the velour belongs to Mike White), Worst Loss: Tennessee (sometimes you eat the bear...and well you know the rest)
After Billy Donovan abruptly left Gainesville to babysit Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook last year, the Gators went out and made the best hire of any team by nabbing Mike White from Louisiana Tech who had taken the Bulldogs to three straight NITs.  White brought to Florida his ability to coach the hell out of some defense and the Gators bought in. However, they forgot how to offense, think of Mizzou's football team if you need something to ping back to in your brain.  For most of the SEC season, Florida was having a nice season but right around Valentine's Day it all went south. The Gators lost (AT HOME) to Alabama and careened to close out the season by losing four out of five and putting any March plans in serious Jeopardy...maybe even...DOUBLE JEOPARDY!

First Opponent: Arkansas
Nashspectation: The Gators have a tough row to hoe in Nashville. Their first game against Arkansas should bring them a victory and great joy, but then they run into the #1 seeded Texas A&M Aggies (I KNOW!) who they lost in a close one to earlier this season. Could Florida make a move on a complacent and still giddy over being gifted the conference title share by Pat Adams? Maybe, but probably not. Expect the Gators to be heading home around 3:00 PM Friday and enjoy the weather at home.

March Moments? Barring a win in the SEC Tournament, the Gators will be NIT bound, and that feels about right for this squad that can't do anything on the offensive side of the ball. Then they'll build off whatever comes this spring and be a contender for the crown in the years to come because Mike White is just that good, he will succeed and we will all be jealous.

Georgia 6 Seed (17-12, 10-8 SEC)

Best Win: Clemson (for a second that meant something), Worst Loss: Auburn (These Tigers are still bad)

The Bulldogs came into the 2015-2016 with expectations after last season's run to the NCAAs having returned most of the major contributors and a decent recruiting class, then it all went to mediocrity. Georgia could literally not get out of its own way and couldn't beat anyone of consequence, usually that's Ole Miss' job. But the Bulldogs were just kind bland in their season, nothing great, nothing terrible, above .500 but that's about it. Really if no one was watching Georgia's season, would anyone have missed it? Probably not.

First Opponent: Mississippi State
Nashspectation: I'm calling for the upset here in the night cap Thursday evening. Slippery ol' Ben Howland is gonna knock off Mark Fox and people are going to be upset, most likely somewhere Dominique Wilkens will punch a pillow and slug down some Fiji water then lay that plastic bottle into the recycling bin, not everything has to be dunk, what's with you people? Hasn't the man jumped and skied enough?!

March Moments? I suppose they could pop into the NIT dependent on how things shake out, but for Bulldogs fans just spend some time getting excited about what Kirby Smart is doing and mourn Kirby Puckett.

Kentucky 2 Seed (23-8, 13-5 SEC)

Best Win: Duke (Everyone hates Duke and rightfully so), Worst Loss: Auburn (This reeks of an attempted point shaving)

Stop me if you've heard this, Kentucky had a bunch of freshman phenoms leave last year's team, and this year's team is good but not as good, but hey they're coming together because TALENT! Well, this is not Kentucky of 2012, no matter what Big Blue wants to tell you. Kentucky won a good amount of games this season and the narrative for about a month now is that they'll just turn it on in the Dance because Kentucky. Well I say no!  Honestly this team hasn't beaten anyone special in quite some time (DAMN YOU SEC) and still would have won the conference outright if not for one of the lamest calls at A&M of all time.  But they'll probably win the whole thing ‘cause Kentucky.

First Opponent: Alabama/Ole Miss Winner
Nashspectation: Kentucky is going to roll through whatever comes out of Bama/Ole Miss, then run through what is churned out of the State/South Carolina game (hint State!) and the win the finals Sunday afternoon, get over seeded and then...we wait...

March Moments? You're damn right they're playing in March! And, I expect they'll get through the first two rounds before falling in the sweet sixteen/elite eight area. I just don't see it working out for this team and Ashley Judd will be sad. Also, Skal will leave get drafted really high because he's tall and we'll never have a moment with him in a meaningful way.

LSU 4 Seed (18-13, 11-7)

Best Win: Kentucky (Despite Johnny Jones), Worst Loss: Wake Forest (Because Johnny Jones)

Going into the year LSU was going to win the SEC, dance on everyone's faces and Ben Simmons would be starring in a reboot of the Crocodile Dundee franchise with the role of Reginald Vel Johnson played by former Mizzou head coach Frank Haith, "Crocodile Bendee: The Bayou Brouhaha." But then the games started and no matter how many stars you have, and how many recruiting stars they have, you just can't get by stupid, dumb, terrible coaching. Johnny Jones should go to basketball jail for not having coached this team well enough to be in the NCAA Tournament. Personally Ben Simmons playing in March is not an interesting debate for me, he plays, great, he doesn't, who cares, but he should be! But Johnny Jones is just that bad, it's criminal!

First Opponent: Vanderbilt/Tennessee-Auburn Winner
Nashspectation: LSU is gonna lose and lose to Vandy. Not because they're worse than Vandy but because they are led by a man who probably needs instructions to put his shoes on.  Honestly, if the bus gets lost on the way to arena and they end up on Vandy's campus trying to get into Memorial Gymnasium no part of me would be surprised, in fact, I'll be surprised if that doesn't happen.

March Moments? If they can win the SEC Tournament (weirder things have happened) they're in (duh) but when they lose they're looking squarely at a trip to the NIT. And let's be honest Ben Simmons doesn't want to NIT, he just wants to go to IMG work on being more selfish with the basketball and get as far away from college as possible...but they'll make him.

Mississippi State 11 Seed (14-16, 7-11 SEC)

Best Win: Vanderbilt (DAGGER!), Worst Loss: University of Missouri - Kansas City (It's a new SEC tradition)

For many, many years, basketball was merely a myth in Starkville, but this season after the hiring of Ben Howland and all his baggage (that's what we're calling Final Four trips now) State fans are positively sort of intrigued again. State had a nice little season, ceasing to embarrass themselves after the non conference season and stayed close with everyone. They also almost killed Kevin Stallings career in Nashville, and the implosion of their gym. The future is bright in Starkvegas, so I hope you enjoyed beating up on State while you could SEC, that tradition looks to be ending in 2016-2017 (note if Newman leaves tradition may be re-booted).

First Opponent: Georgia
Nashspectation: Every year some team makes a run that no one saw coming and it raises expectations for the next season that are at times unrealistic. Welcome Mississippi State as this year's team.  State will not only beat Georgia in game one but they'll go on to upset South Carolina in their second game before falling to Kentucky in the Semi finals, because, c'mon let's not get crazy.

March Moments? If State wants to go to a pay your way in tournament they can, but really, they should head home and start working for next year, because without Dak they could be the new stars on campus.

Mizzou Seed? No sir, we don't like seeds. (10-21, 3-15 SEC)

Best Win: South Carolina (Frank Martin owed Mizzou one), Worst Loss: Illinois (No braggin' yet again)

Coming into season two of the True Son Era, no one thought it could be as bad as year one, and everyone was right! Mizzou won one more game and moved up 40 spots in KenPom, take that haters, things are looking up!
But then the evil tyrant Frank Haith decided that leaving Mizzou after a down NIT year wasn't bad enough, NAY he would cripple Kim Anderson by having his staff and compliance office run amok handing out jobs that weren't jobs and the NCAA came calling. After a sad press conference Mizzou removed itself from all post season play (because otherwise, National Championship #1) and somewhere Frank Haith just rubbed his hands together, smoked a cigar and laughed hysterically from a bunker somewhere in Tulsa. His master plan had worked, he had destroyed a second basketball program all by himself (never mind what Jim Larranaga is doing at Miami...I SAID NEVER MIND!) I assume in the Ghost Busters remake, instead of a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow man destroying New York, it will be a giant Frank Haith, wearing a fancy watche and designer glasses with lenses that have no prescription. You didn't know? Frank just wears the glasses for show.

First Opponent: Uh, Bueller....Bueller?
Nashspectation: Listen, Mizzou's going to come out the big winner in all this, the sheer amount of money saved on gas, hotels, meals, not having to enact a buddy system, seriously, there's the winner of the SEC tournament and then Mizzou then the rest of the conference.

March Moments? Well Mizzou is out recruiting the next set of Tigers, so I guess they're out earlier than a lot of teams...even though most teams have their rosters set for next year...but details! Quick, everyone look at the softball team with your good eye.

Ole Miss 7 Seed (20-11, 10-8 SEC)

Best Win: Vanderbilt (That new arena smell), Worst Loss: George Mason (Virginia drivers are the worst)

Ah Ole Miss, you can always count on the Rebels to be a nice team that doesn't ruffle any feathers now that Marshall is gone. This team was Stefan Moody with a dash of Sebastian Saiz and that was it. But who cares that they're a perennial .500 team under Andy Kennedy, LOOK AT THE BRAND NEW ARENA! It's got working lights, toilets that flush and concessions that won't give you E-coli, like at a Chipotle or Starbucks.

First Opponent: Alabama
Nashspectation: Stefan Moody is going to single handedly beat Bama by himself and then in the second game against Kentucky will slip away at half time and watch the game from the stands giggling and enjoying some popcorn as Andy Kennedy looks everywhere for him.

March Moments? Not here. The Rebels will work hard in the offseason, bring in some recruits and then end up right back in the squishy center of the conference next year and as Mike White continues to improve Florida Ole Miss fans will think back on the missed opportunity to relieve themselves of the Andy Kennedy Coaching experiment and curse the Gators from now until forever. Also Bryce Drew, cause it's March.

South Carolina 3 Seed (24-7, 11-7 SEC)

Best Win: Texas A&M (Frank Martin owns the old Big 12), Worst Loss: Mizzou (Well maybe not...)

As they did last year, the Gamecocks ran through their nonconference season but unlike last year, they didn't get into SEC play and barf all over themselves. I mean, there were moments when it looked like the wheels were coming off and the bus was about go off the cliff and burst into flames as it slammed front first into the NIT, but no, SC managed to bounce back from a Mizzou loss and finish strong. Also, Frank Martin did really well keeping it together all season, kudos to you Frank, we all know you're a moment away at all times from eating a chair or fan in a fit of rage.

First Opponent: Mississippi State-Georgia Winner
Nashspectation: As much as I would love to see SC and their senior laden squad running through the SEC tournament, the part of me that likes fun and knows that Columbia, MISSOURI is the only true Columbia in the SEC thinks they're getting upset by Mississippi State on Friday evening and people in CoSC will be sad.  Frank will lose it and he'll probably throw a pedal pub or two, but c'mon, they have insurance for that.

March Moments? Guess who's dancing? The Gamecocks that's who. SC will be in the dance in the middle seed range and probably lose two a mid major team like St Mary's or get bounced by a team from the Dayton area, but hey, you're still dancing so take it!

Tennessee 12 Seed (13-18, 6-12 SEC)

Best Win: Kentucky (I'm as confused as you are), Worst Loss: Auburn (The Road is difficult)

Tennessee entered last season getting ready to Tyndall for what for another year and then that whole plan went straight to crap when apparently what happens in Hattiesburg doesn't always stay in Hattiesburg. So the Vols called up Rick Barnes, asked if he'd like to be head coach and as luck would have it, he had many orange ties and it just worked out. What didn't really work out was the whole season thing. Sure there was Kevin Punter scoring at will...and other people...I mean there had to be right, or was this like Hoosiers where someone had their team out there? Anyway, the story of the Vols season was win at home and never ever win on the road. It was Arky Lite if you will.

First Opponent: Auburn
Nashspectation: It's the first game of the SEC tournament and it's tonight! Sure you could say "Why watch two crap teams play?" but why would you? When two crap teams play fun things happen! Either way, whoever comes out of this game has a date with Vanderbilt that they will lose. So I think Tennessee wins because you never know if Auburn will be able to fill the squad...just like in Hoosiers.

March Moments? Well, they'll get to watch the games on TV and yeah, that's about the size of it.

Texas A&M 1 Seed (24-7, 13-5 SEC)

Best Win: Kentucky (Thanks Reffs!), Worst Loss: Alabama (Not too shabby)

Last year at this time, A&M NEEDED to win one game, just one and they'd be dancing in March, instead they ran into the buzz saw that was Auburn and it all went to hell. A&M was out, they were in the NIT and Alex Caruso was so, SO, sad. Now, what a difference a year makes! A&M is the one seed (thanks Pat Adams!) and they're just winging their way to March Madness. Sure there was the five game stretch of really, really poor SEC play, but they turned it around and won out. Now they're sitting atop the heap just getting ready to roll into March.

First Opponent: Florida-Arkansas Winner
Nashspecation: Oh, A&M is going to the finals, it's gonna happen. They're going to beat Florida who just looks sad right now, then beat Vandy who's going to beat LSU because Johnny Jones and then meet Kentucky! Then they will lose and all will be right with the world, also the crowd will be 80/20 UK fans.

March Moment? You better believe it reader! A&M is going to the dance and there is nothing that can change that now. The concern being that they run into a midmajor in the dreaded 5/12, 4/13 matchup and get bounced and this will have all been for naught. But there will be cheer, because Johnny Manziel's buying everyone a new IROC!

Vanderbilt 5 Seed (19-12, 11-7 SEC)

Best Win: Kentucky (Devil Court!), Worst Loss: Mississippi State (The buzzer got beaten)

After a strong end to their season last year, and a plethora of NBA talent with size coming back to Nashville, the Fancy Pirates were primed to take the SEC down and make it their own, much like LSU was. Then, also like LSU, things got sideways for quite some time. They ‘Dores were losing winnable games and looking just plain bad doing it. Kevin Stallings was going to get fired and the fans had given up, the Magic was dead. Then, they beat Florida on the road and hit an 80 foot shot in the process, followed that up with a win over Kentucky and everything was suddenly gravy! SO MUCH GRAVY! But things are flimsy in Vandy's Nashville...flimsy...

First Opponent: Tennessee-Auburn Winner
Nashspectation: Listen, the Commodores have got to win at least one, probably two games in the tournament to feel completely comfortable on Selection Sunday. And lucky for them the bracket is kind and they should be the most well rested, what with the tournament being at home and all. So they'll beat up Tennesse, then beat LSU and then things get funky with A&M. That game will be tough because they'll need it SO much, but won't win because A&M is A&M.

March Moment? Their March Moment could be just sitting around Kevin Stalling's one bedroom condo (in my head he's a bachelor with milk crates for shelves) just hoping Greg Gumbel gives them the words they want to hear. I think they get in and then who knows? Size is tough to beat and Vandy's got lots of it. Represent the conference well, we're all counting on you.

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And that should do it, you should feel very ready to watch a lot of mediocre basketball. Gamble with these picks at your own peril, I haven't actually watched a single minute of SEC Basketball this year...