The men’s SEC Basketball Tournament tips off Wednesday night in Nashville, with several teams vying for, and almost equally capable of, capturing the title.
With a 24-6 overall record and 14-4 mark in conference play, Florida enters the tournament as the top seed. However, the Gators are 0-5 this season in games decided by six points or fewer – a concern heading into postseason play. Alabama, Kentucky and Ole Miss are each two games behind them at 12-6 in SEC play. Meanwhile, the bottom four seeds Texas A&M, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Auburn will have to win five consecutive games in five days in order to capture the title.
First game on the slate for Wednesday night is the No. 12 seed South Carolina Gamecocks versus the No. 13 seed Mississippi State Bulldogs. The two teams split the series 1-1 in the regular season. After a 13-game skid, the Bulldogs managed to end their season winning two of the last three. Mississippi State freshman guard Craig Sword hit the game winning free throw to advance the ‘Dogs over Auburn 74-71 in their last regular season game. Bulldogs assistant head coach Chris Hollender talked about his team’s perseverance throughout the season.
While Mississippi State is coming into the tournament riding high, South Carolina is coming off a 74-64 loss to Vanderbilt, and only having won two of their final six games. One thing’s certain, the Gamecocks will have to contain Craig Sword, who was named SEC Freshman of the Week last week, averaging 19.5 points, 4.5 assists and 3.5 boards.
The No. 11 seed Texas A&M Aggies will square off against No. 14 Auburn in the second and final game of the tournament’s first round. Auburn finished last in the conference, in what was arguably one of the program’s worst seasons in decades. The Tigers dropped 15 of their last 16 games, one of which came at the hands of the Aggies on Feb. 20. However, Texas A&M leading scorer Elston Turner, who averages 17.7 points per game, third most in the SEC, is questionable for Wednesday night’s game after missing Saturday’s game with a broken left pinky. Auburn head coach Tony Barbee hasn’t ruled out Turner’s return on the court during the conference tournament.
Tip off is set for 10 p.m.