NCAA Tournament Instareaction: SEC Teams

Posted by David Changas on March 11th, 2018

For the first time ever, the SEC has placed eight teams into the NCAA Tournament field. Here are some quick impressions of the draws each of those teams received.

Tennessee

Admiral Schofield has been a beast for Tennessee down the stretch. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

  • Seed: #3, South
  • Quick First Round Preview: The Volunteers draw Horizon League champion Wright State. The Raiders are solid defensively, ranking 53rd nationally in defense, per KenPom, but struggle mightily on the offensive end (#248). Tennessee needs to get guard Jordan Bowden going, but the Vols should be able to take care of business here.
  • Intriguing Potential Matchup: Texas in the Sweet Sixteen. Sure, the Longhorns would have to upset both Nevada and Cincinnati to get to the regionals, but who wouldn’t want to see Rick Barnes take on the school he led to 16 NCAA Touranment bids in 17 seasons.
  • Final Word: The Volunteers need to be more efficient offensively, especially inside the arc, but they are a threat to make a deep run as they rarely play themselves out of games.

Auburn

  • Seed: #4, Midwest
  • Quick First Round Preview: The Tigers open with College of Charleston and should be able to exploit the Cougars’ shoddy three-point defense to find immediate success.
  • Intriguing Potential Matchup: Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen. Bruce Pearl had his fair share of success at Tennessee against Bill Self, and if the Tigers can right the shaky ship to make it to the second weekend, they could be dangerous upon arrival.
  • Final Word: Auburn has struggled mightily on the offensive end down the stretch, and may have run out of gas this season. An early exit from the SEC Tournament this weekend might have been a blessing in disguise.

Kentucky

  • Seed: #5, South
  • Quick First Round Preview: A trip to Boise to play Atlantic 10 champion Davidson is not an easy draw. Davidson is a patient offensive machine and could frustrate the young and inexperienced Wildcats.
  • Intriguing Potential Matchup: Arizona in the Second Round. Insert all the FBI jokes here. The bottom line is that the committee did the SEC Tournament champion no favors with this draw.
  • Final Word: Kentucky has shown marked improvement in winning six of its last seven games and another SEC Tournament title, but a run to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament would be a quite a feat given such a difficult draw.

Florida

  • Seed: #6, East
  • Quick First Round Preview: The Gators get the winner of the St. Bonaventure-UCLA play-in game, and, as usual, they will need to be proficient from behind the arc to have a chance to advance.
  • Intriguing Potential Matchup: Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen. The Boilermakers’ potent size and offensive efficiency would present quite the challenge for Mike White’s team, especially given the Gators’ lack of a recognizable inside game.
  • Final Word: Florida has been up and down all season and the feast-or-famine Gators could very easily make a deep run or be one-and-done this year.

Arkansas

  • Seed: #7, East
  • Quick First Round Preview: Butler has better KenPom numbers than the Razorbacks, so this is a classic spot for a seeding “upset.” Mike Anderson’s team must be better on the defensive end than it was in Saturday’s blowout loss to Tennessee.
  • Intriguing Potential Matchup: Purdue in the Second Round. Like Florida, Arkansas will have a tall order in getting past the offensively efficient Boilermakers if they take care of business against Butler.
  • Final Word: Like seemingly every Arkansas team under Anderson, there is little reason to believe this is a team that can win more than one game in the Big Dance. If the Razorbacks were to make it to a game with Purdue, they’d have to pull off a major upset to advance beyond that point.

Texas A&M

  • Seed: #7, West
  • Quick First Round Preview: Providence is a shaky offensive club (KenPom #104), and that weakness plays right into the Aggies’ core strength (#12 KenPom defense) — this appears to be a favorable match-up for Billy Kennedy’s club.
  • Intriguing Potential Matchup: North Carolina in the Second Round. The Aggies’ size and athleticism could present major problems for the Tar Heels, although the game would be played in Charlotte as a de facto road contest.
  • Final Word: It may sound clichéd, but the Aggies are a very dangerous team that, with solid guard play, could put everything together to make a deep run.

Missouri

Michael Porter, Jr.’s return in the SEC Tournament was shaky, but the NCAA Tournament offers a chance for redemption. (USA Today)

  • Seed: #8, West
  • Quick First Round Preview: The Tigers open with Florida State in Nashville. With Michael Porter, Jr.’s return to the lineup, it is difficult to anticipate what to expect from this group. Hopefully for Cuonzo Martin, things go better in Music City than they did in St. Louis.
  • Intriguing Potential Matchup: Xavier in the Second Round. If Missouri can figure how to properly utilize Porter to survive the Seminoles, they could be a dangerous out for the region’s top seed.
  • Final Word: Not only does Martin have to work Porter into the mix, he has to figure out how to play without Jordan Barnett (13.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG), who was arrested for DWI after Missouri bowed out of the SEC Tournament on Friday. Martin has drastically improved a moribund program this season, but everyone will wonder what might have been had his superstar freshman not gotten hurt in the season opener.

Alabama

  • Seed: #9, East
  • Quick First Round Preview: The Crimson Tide draws Virginia Tech in what should be a very entertaining First Round game. Alabama has been wildly inconsistent on the offensive end this season, though, and needs the team from Friday’s upset over Auburn rather than the subsequent loss to Kentucky to show up in Pittsburgh.
  • Intriguing Potential Matchup: Villanova awaits the winner of the game between the Crimson Tide and Hokies. Playing the Wildcats in Pittsburgh is as tall an order as any team in the NCAA Tournament could have, but that is to be expected for a #9 seed.
  • Final Word: Collin Sexton is the type of player who can transform a team in March, but Alabama may just be too young, inconsistent, and inexperienced to be a threat to advance to the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend.
David Changas (157 Posts)


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