SEC Tournament
The scoreboard lights up before the beginning of the NCAA college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament, Wednesday, March 8, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Amis)

SEC Tournament Quarterfinals Preview

The Men’s SEC basketball tournament is well underway as the quarterfinal matchups are set for Friday. This round will see the top four seeds in Alabama, Texas A&M, Kentucky and Missouri competing for the first time in this year’s tournament. Day one already showcased some exciting matchups, and day two is sure to follow.

#1 Alabama vs. #9 Mississippi State

Alabama is not only the number one seed in the SEC, but a possible number one seed in the NCAA tournament beginning March 14. The Crimson Tide finished the regular season with a 26-5 overall record. In the SEC, they went 16-2. Freshman forward Brandon Miller has been a top-five player in all of college basketball this season. A big reason for Bama’s success, he averaged 19.6 points and 8.0 rebounds on the regular season. However, in their narrow 66-63 victory over Mississippi State on Jan. 25, Miller was held to only 13 points. His play is key for Bama in the SEC tournament and the NCAA tournament.

The Bulldogs, on the other hand, have a very, very tall task ahead of them. They came into the SEC tournament as the number nine seed in the SEC at 21-11 with an 8-10 SEC record. A spot in the NCAA tournament means performing well in the SEC tournament. They face off against Alabama after a paper thin 69-68 overtime victory against Florida. Senior big Tolu Smith shined in the absence of Gator forward Colin Castleton, picking up a double-double with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Mississippi State will look for another strong performance from Smith to propel them past Alabama.

#4 Missouri vs. #5 Tennessee

This matchup between the Tigers and the Volunteers features two teams already tournament bound. Tennessee is ranked 17th in the nation with a 23-9 overall record. They struggled in the SEC this season, only going 11-7. Missouri is ranked 25th in the nation with a 23-8 record. All but one of their losses this season came in the SEC, as they also finished with an 11-7 conference record.

The Vols are without sophomore guard Zakai Zeigler, after he went down with an ACL tear in late February. This is a big blow to Tennessee as he leads the team in both assists and steals. He also averages the second most points on the squad, behind senior guard Santiago Vescovi. Tennessee will look for Vescovi, who averaged 12.8 points per game in the regular season, along with the rest of the squad to step up in March.

They took care of business against Ole Miss on Thursday in the second round with a 70-55 victory. Senior guard Josiah-Jordan James put up 20 points in the victory.

The Tigers head into this matchup after a four-game win streak to close out their season. They are led by senior guard Kobe Brown who leads the team averaging 15.9 points and 6.2 rebounds. He put up 21 points in their 86-85 win against Tennessee on Feb. 11.

Another factor for Missouri is senior guard D’Moi Hodge who averaged 14.3 points per game this season. In their matchup with Tennessee earlier in their campaign, he dropped 14 points.

These two guys combine for a large chunk of the Missouri scoring, and their play will dictate the Tigers’ success.

#2 Texas A&M vs. #10 Arkansas

Texas A&M sits right behind Tennessee ranked 18th in the nation with a 23-8 overall record. The Aggies thrived in conference play, going 15-3. They ride in to the SEC tournament following a statement 67-61 win over Alabama to end the season. However, one of their three losses in conference play came away from home at the hands of Arkansas, 81-70, back in January. They were able to redeem themselves later in the season, taking down Arkansas at home 62-56 on Feb. 15. Now, they meet for the third time this season in neutral ground.

Arkansas finished the season with a 20-12 record, going 8-10 in SEC play. They head into this matchup following a 76-73 win in a battle with Auburn in the second round on Thursday. Arkansas had a tough end to the regular season, closing out with three consecutive losses to Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.

#3 Kentucky vs. #6 Vanderbilt

The final matchup in the quarterfinal slate features 23rd ranked Kentucky and a hot Vanderbilt team that has won nine of its last ten.

One of those wins came against Kentucky, 68-66, in Lexington on March 1.

Vanderbilt came out with an interesting win as 36 of their 68 points come from the bench. Senior guard Jordan Wright came off the bench and led the team with 23 points. In their 69-53 loss to Kentucky on Jan. 24, Wright only scored two points. He now faces Kentucky again after dropping 19 points in Vandy’s regular season finale, and a 15 point, 15 rebound double-double in their second round matchup against LSU on Thursday, which they won 77-68.

Kentucky gets a shot to one-up Vanderbilt in their third matchup this season, rather soon after they settled the score. Senior forward Oscar Tshiebwe sits at the helm for the Wildcats, leading the team in points, rebounds and blocks. He leads all of college basketball averaging 13.1 boards per game in the regular season.

Despite the loss, Tshiebwe showed why he is one of the top players in the country with a 21 point, 20 rebound outing. With some more support from his team, Tshiebwe will look to shutdown the Volunteers and move on to the semifinals on Saturday.

About Jack Alperstein

Jack Alperstein is currently a sophomore at the University of Florida studying Sports Journalism.

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