SEC Burning Questions: NCAA Tournament Edition

Posted by David Changas on March 21st, 2019

The SEC enjoyed another successful season, with the league earning seven bids and potential for a few of those teams to get to the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend. Just a few hours before the first tip, let’s take a look at the biggest questions facing the league as the Big Dance begins.

P.J. Washington’s breakout season gives Kentucky a chance at a deep March run. (Courtesy:
  • Which SEC team has the best chance to go deep? Tennessee and Kentucky have been the league’s best two teams all year, despite LSU claiming the regular season title and Auburn winning the SEC Tournament. Both the Volunteers and Wildcats are capable of making a run to Minneapolis, but it says here that John Calipari‘s team has the best shot. With Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro and Ashton Hagans leading the way in the backcourt, along with budding superstar P.J. Washington and graduate transfer godsend Reid Travis, the Wildcats are the league’s best bet to reach the Final Four and cut down the nets once they are there. This team is a far cry from the shaky group that got destroyed by Duke on opening night, and Big Blue Nation would salivate about getting another shot at the Blue Devils on an April Monday night.
  • Which SEC player will break out and make a national name for himself? Tennessee’s Jordan Bone did not earn first-team all-SEC honors this year, even though a case can be made that he is the Volunteers’ most valuable player. Many across the country already know that Bone is an excellent cog in Rick Barnes’ attack, but his importance to this team cannot be overstated. In Sunday’s SEC Tournament championship game, Bone was not himself, dishing out only two assists while committing three turnovers — he averages six assists and two turnovers a game — and the rest of his team followed suit. Tennessee will only go as far as Bone can take them, and he has the chance to elevate his reputation from being a really good player to becoming a great one this March.
  • Which SEC coach most needs a big NCAA Tournament ? None of the coaches whose teams reached this year’s NCAA Tournament are under any undue pressure, although the case could be made that Rick Barnes needs a deep run to silence those who criticize his lack of postseason success over the past decade. Who knows if LSU interim coach Tony Benford has any shot at the full-time gig in Baton Rouge, but it is not likely that anyone associated with the exiled Will Wade would be considered as a replacement. But our choice here is John Calipari, who has not been to the Final Four since taking his 38-0 Wildcats to Indianapolis in 2015. Anything short of the sport’s final weekend will be disappointing to a fan base that is not accustomed to being excluded for that many years in a row, and while the Kentucky head coach certainly is not going anywhere, a trip to Minneapolis would quell any grumbling around the Bluegrass State.
  • Which First Round game involving an SEC team is the most intriguing? Florida has been an enigma all season, mostly because of an offensive attack that often is inept. The Gators’ NCAA Tournament hopes were tenuous when they arrived in Nashville for the SEC Tournament last Thursday, but after wins over Arkansas and LSU, they ultimately landed safely in the field as a #10 seed. Now, Mike White‘s team has a chance to knock off a Nevada squad that went to the Elite Eight last year and spent much of the early season garnering accolades as a potential National Championship contender. A win here for Florida would be a nice momentum boost for a program that has recruited at a high level and should be well-positioned for the future.
David Changas (166 Posts)

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