NCAA Tournament Instareaction: SEC Teams

Posted by David Changas on March 17th, 2019

The days of the SEC getting only three or four teams into the NCAA Tournament appear to be over. After getting a record eight bids last season, the league will send seven teams to the Big Dance this year, including a pair of #2 seeds, a #3 seed, and a couple of #5 seeds. The league hopes for a bit more success this year, however, when none of those eight squads advanced past the Sweet Sixteen a year ago. Here are our instant impressions on each team’s draw:

Grant Williams and Tennessee have a potentially dangerous second-round matchup ahead with Cincinnati in the Bearcats’ back yard (USA Today Sports/Randy Sartin)


  • Seed: # 2, South
  • Quick First Round Preview: Colgate is a relatively dangerous #15 seed that shoots 39 percent from deep. Tennessee struggles to defend the perimeter at times and will need to recover from Sunday’s debacle against Auburn to do a better job guarding the three.
  • Intriguing Potential Match-up: Virginia in the regional final. Tennessee would seem to match up better against the Cavaliers than the other #1 seeds based on athleticism alone. A game between the region’s top two teams would be a tremendous display of offensive efficiency.
  • Final Word: Assuming the Volunteers beat Colgate, a Second Round battle against an under-seeded Cincinnati team in the Bearcats’ backyard (Columbus, Ohio) would be a tall order. Another early exit is a real possibility for a team that has spent the entire season ranked among the nation’s top 10.


  • Seed: #2, Midwest
  • Quick First Round Preview: A battle of Wildcats will take place, with Kentucky facing Abilene Christian. On talent alone, Kentucky should coast to a victory here.
  • Intriguing Potential Match-up: North Carolina in the regional final. The Wildcats handled the Tar Heels in Chicago just before Christmas, holding North Carolina to just 0.87 points per possession, one of its worst offensive outputs of the year. The Tar Heels have improved immensely since that game, however, although Kentucky could probably make the same case. This is a late March game that everyone who loves college basketball should want to see.
  • Final Word: Kentucky is good enough to win it all, and we will be mildly surprised if the Wildcats do not make it to Minneapolis with a somewhat favorable draw ahead in the Midwest region.


  • Seed: #3, West
  • Quick First Round Preview: The Tigers open with Ivy League champion Yale in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs will be a popular pick to upset the program on shaky ground, although LSU will have a significant talent advantage here.
  • Intriguing Potential Matchup: Michigan State in the Sweet Sixteen. From a talent standpoint, LSU is one of the few teams in the country that can match up well with the Big Ten Tournament champion. But would anyone expect a team coached by Tony Benford to beat a Tom Izzo squad in March? Didn’t think so.
  • Final Word: LSU is in turmoil, and getting out of the First Round later this week will not be easy. But the Tigers are supremely talented and have the requisite guard play to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Still, getting past Sparty may just be too much to ask for a team playing without its head coach.


  • Seed: #5, Midwest
  • Quick First Round Preview: The Tigers open with New Mexico State, a team that could give Auburn some trouble on defense. As always, 5/12 games are extremely dangerous, and this game is no exception.
  • Intriguing Potential Match-up: Kansas in the Second Round. If Auburn can survive the Aggies, it will have a good chance to beat a somewhat depleted Kansas team to get to Kansas City.
  • Final Word: Unlike last season, when the Tigers limped into the NCAA Tournament, this year’s team has now won eight straight games, including an impressive run to the SEC Tournament title. Bruce Pearl has to feel much more confident about getting to the second weekend than he did a year ago, and it is time for some NCAA Tournament success in his fifth season at the school.

Missississippi State

Quinndary Weatherspoon hopes to lead a capable Mississippi State offense to success in the Big Dance (Trevor Birchitt/MSU Athletics)
  • Seed: #5, East
  • Quick First Round Preview: Liberty will be a very popular upset pick in this game on Friday in San Jose. The Flames are 0-2 against two SEC teams that did not make the field, however, and the Bulldogs should be able to handle their business.
  • Intriguing Potential Matchup: Duke in the Sweet Sixteen. Who wouldn’t want to play the Blue Devils on that kind of stage? If Ben Howland‘s team can handle Liberty and pull off a mild upset over Virginia Tech, it will get its chance to take down the overall #1 seed. Given how dangerous the Bulldogs are from the perimeter, anything is surely possible.
  • Final Word: Mississippi State generally has handled its business against teams it should beat this year, while struggling against elite competition. That bodes well for their opener against a Liberty team that will be overmatched, but if the Bulldogs can win there, anything beyond that should be considered gravy.

Ole Miss

  • Seed: #8, South
  • Quick First Round Preview: The Rebels appear to be relatively evenly matched with its First Round opponent, Oklahoma, and will have a chance to advance in their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015.
  • Intriguing Potential Match-up: Virginia in the Second Round. Based upon the UMBC result from last year, everyone likely thinks they have a chance against the Cavaliers. Realistically, if both teams advance, Ole Miss beating the #1 seed would be a major upset, but the Rebels’ excellent guard play would give them a prayer.
  • Final Word: That Ole Miss is in the field is a complete surprise based upon preseason expectations, so anything positive it does in the Big Dance is a bonus. Given this season’s success, Kermit Davis will likely have the Rebels in the NCAA Tournament somewhat regularly in the future.


  • Seed: #10, West
  • Quick First Round Preview: The Gators take on Nevada, which many pundits were calling a Final Four contender for much of the season. Florida struggles mightily on offense, but its defense keeps it in most games and will give it a chance against the Wolf Pack.
  • Intriguing Potential Match-up: Michigan in the Second Round. The Gators might be able to slow down a Wolverines’ offense that is susceptible to offensive lulls. The problem would be that they might not be able to score enough to hang with John Beilein’s team.
  • Final Word: Florida was no sure bet to get into the NCAA Tournament, but its SEC Tournament win over Arkansas and the upset of top-seeded LSU sealed the bid. This, however, has the look of a one-and-done team simply based upon its keen inability to score.
David Changas (166 Posts)

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