The annual Southeastern Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament is set to start on Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn. After the regular season concluded on Saturday, the first-round matchups of the tournament were set.
On Wednesday, No. 12 South Carolina will take on No. 13 Ole Miss at the Bridgestone Arena, followed by No. 11 Georgia playing No. 14 LSU.
South Carolina versus Ole Miss
In the first game of the SEC tournament, the Gamecocks will take on the Rebels at 7 p.m.
Both South Carolina and Ole Miss had a rough season to say the least. Each team finished the regular season with a record of 11-20. But what separates them in the tournament seedings is the Gamecocks’ 4-14 conference record, compared to the Rebel’s 3-15 conference record.
Although Gregory Jackson II led the Gamecocks this regular season with 15.1 points per game, South Carolina’s poor performance is due to the team’s struggle to put the ball in the net. The team averaged 64.5 points per game during the regular season, which was the worse PPG average for teams in the SEC.
In their last game, South Carolina beat Georgia 61-55, with Meechie Johnson leading the victory with 18 points. However, the Gamecocks did not finish out their regular season strong, going 2-4 in their last six games.
On the other side of the ball, Ole Miss have had coaching problems. Toward the end of the season, the Rebels parted ways with former head coach Kermit Davis after he led the team to a record of 10-18. The team’s assistant coach Win Case would become the acting head coach and is 1-2 in his new position.
Similarly to the Gamecocks, the Rebels have also had problems offensively. Ole Miss finished the season shooting 29.7% from beyond the arc, the second-worst three-point percentage by any team in the SEC.
During the regular season, South Carolina and Ole Miss split the season series 1-1. In the most recent matchup, the Gamecocks beat the Rebels 64-61. Tye Fagan tried to will Ole Miss to a win with his 17 points but Hayden Brown led South Carolina to the win with his 18 points.
For either team to come away with the win this Wednesday, they will need their leading scorers to take care of business. The Gamecocks will look to Jackson II to score while the Rebels will look to Matthew Murrell, who is averaging 14.9 points per game. It is also important to note that South Carolina is 0-4 in neutral cite games, where Ole Miss is 2-1.
The winner of the first-round matchup will move on to the second round to take on No. 5 Tennessee on Thursday.
Georgia versus LSU
In the second game of the night, the Bulldogs will take on the Tigers at 9 p.m.
Although Georgia did not play well in the SEC this season with a conference record of 6-12, LSU was the worst team in the Southeastern Conference with a record of 2-16.
Georgia played well during the regular season, going 16-10 under first-year head coach Mike White. However, the Bulldogs would then lose five games in a row and are now the 11th-best team in the SEC.
One reason Georgia has dropped games as of late is due to the team’s lack of passing. Although guard Terry Roberts is sixth in assists in the SEC with 113, the Bulldogs average 11.2 assists per game, the second-worst APG in the conference.
Under the command of first-year head coach Matt McMahon, LSU started their season strong with a record of 12-1. However, the moment the Tigers began to play SEC teams, the team went 1-17 in their remaining regular season games.
Although KJ Williams is the second leading points per game scorer in the SEC with 17.4, the Tigers are the third worst in points and third worst in rebounding in the Southeastern Conference.
In the all-time series, LSU leads Georgia 69-48. In their regular season matchup, the Bulldogs beat the Tigers 65-63. KJ Williams tried to bring the win home with his 18 points and 9 rebounds, however, the Bulldogs were able to pull away by having three players score in double figures.
For the Tigers to win Wednesday, KJ Williams is the answer. He leads his team in points, rebounds, steals and blocks. His overall style of play is going to be needed against the Bulldogs. For Georgia to move on, the team will need Roberts to take over. The guard leads his team in points, assists and blocks.
The winner of the first-round matchup will move on to the second round to take on No. 6 Vanderbilt on Thursday.