The men’s Southeastern Conference basketball tournament begins March 11, 2010, in Nashville, Tennessee; second round (quarter-final) games will be played March 12. Following is a review of the teams playing in the second round and predictions of the potential match-ups.
Game 5: Kentucky v. South Carolina or Alabama
Ranked 2nd in both national polls, Kentucky finished the season with an overall record of 28-2 and a conference record of 15-2. The Wildcats won 19 games before losing to South Carolina by six points, 68-62, in Columbia. Kentucky’s winning streak included a two point victory over North Carolina, 68-66, and a nine point victory over in-state rival Louisville. After defeating Mississippi State by six points, 81-75, in overtime, the Wildcats lost to the Volunteers by the score of 74-65 in Knoxville. Earlier, Kentucky had beaten Tennessee 73-62 in Lexington.
Kentucky has four players who have averaged over 10 points per game: John Wall (16.8), DeMarcus Cousins (15.6), Patrick Patterson (14.9), and Eric Bledsoe (10.4). Cousins also has averaged over 10 rebounds per game; the second best average in the conference. Patterson has pulled down at least another seven or eight. Wall has averaged over six assists per game; the best in the SEC. Count on Cousins to block at least one shot.
Kentucky v. South Carolina – This should be the best of two possible match-ups. Look for Kentucky to win, unless Devan Downey, who leads the SEC in scoring (22.6) and steals (2.8), has an outstanding game and leads South Carolina to an upset.
Kentucky v. Alabama – The Wildcats should duplicate their regular season victory over the Tide.
Game 6: Mississippi v. LSU or Tennessee
After only two non-conference losses, on the road against Villanova and West Virginia, the Rebels lost to in-state conference rival Mississippi State twice, Tennessee in overtime, Arkansas, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Florida, before finishing the regular season with four straight wins for an overall record of 21-9 and a conference record of 9-7.
Mississippi has three players who have averaged 10 or more points a game: Chris Warren (17.2), Terrico White (14.4), and Murphy Holloway (10). Eniel Polynice scores 9.8 a game and contributes 4.1 assists. Holloway leads the Rebels in rebounds with 7.6 per game.
Mississippi v. LSU – Mississippi over LSU; this hasn’t been LSU’s year.
Mississippi v. Tennessee – The Rebels will be out to avenge their early season overtime loss to the Volunteers, but look for Tennessee to prevail.
Game 7: Mississippi State v. Auburn or Florida
Mississippi State completed the regular season with an overall record of 21-10 and a conference record of 9-7. The Bulldogs got off to a strong conference start with three wins, including a victory over in-state rival Ole Miss, before dropping two against Alabama and Arkansas. After beating LSU, State lost to Vanderbilt and Florida, and then won two over Mississippi and Auburn, before losing to Kentucky 75-81 in overtime. After Kentucky, the Bulldogs won three in row against LSU, Alabama, and South Carolina, before losing their last two games to Auburn and Tennessee.
Mississippi State has four players who have averaged over 10 points per game: Jarvis Varnado (13.5), Ravern Johnson (13.5), Dee Bost (12.9), and Barry Stewart (11.5). Varnado, who leads the conference in rebounds with 10.6 per game, is second in the nation in blocked shots with 4.8 per game. Bost has averaged 5.4 assists per game; the third best in the SEC.
Mississippi State v. Auburn – Mississippi State, eager to impress NCAA selection officials will be looking to avenge its late regular season loss to Auburn.
Mississippi State v. Florida – As with Auburn, State will be looking to make amends against Florida as well.
Game 8: Vanderbilt v. Georgia or Arkansas
Vanderbilt posted an overall record of 23-7 and a conference record of 12-4, the second best record in the SEC behind Kentucky. Among conference teams, the Commodores lost to Kentucky twice and to Georgia and South Carolina. While Kentucky beat Vanderbilt by 13 points in Lexington, they won by only two points in Nashville. The Commodores nearly lost to Georgia for a second time in Nashville, but instead beat the Bulldogs by the score of 96-94, in overtime. Two decisive victories over instate rival, Tennessee, highlighted Vanderbilt’s season.
Vanderbilt has four players who have averaged over 10 points per game: Jermaine Beal (14.5), Jeffery Taylor (13.9), A.J. Ogilvy (13.9), and John Jenkins (10.6). Ogilvy has averaged over 6 rebounds per game. Vandy has the best three-point shooter in the conference, John Jenkins, who stands 22nd in the nation at .467%.
Vanderbilt v. Georgia – Although Georgia will be looking to upend Vanderbilt; the Commodores have not lost in Nashville all season, and should not this time out.
Vanderbilt v. Arkansas – Vanderbilt beat Arkansas in Fayetteville during the regular season by 17 points; look for a repeat performance in Nashville.
ESPN, Alabama Crimson Tide, ESPN Men’s Basketball Website
ESPN, Arkansas Razorbacks, ESPN Men’s Basketball Website
ESPN, Auburn Tigers, ESPN Men’s Basketball Website
ESPN, Florida Gators, ESPN Men’s Basketball Website
ESPN, Georgia Bulldogs, ESPN Men’s Basketball Website
ESPN, Kentucky Wildcats, ESPN Men’s Basketball Website
ESPN, LSU Tigers, ESPN Men’s Basketball Website
ESPN, Mississippi Rebels, ESPN Men’s Basketball Website
ESPN, Mississippi State Bulldogs, ESPN Men’s Basketball Website
ESPN, South Carolina Gamecocks, ESPN Men’s Basketball Website
ESPN, Tennessee Volunteers, ESPN Men’s Basketball Website
ESPN, Vanderbilt Commodores, ESPN Men’s Basketball Website
SEC, 2010 Men’s Basketball Tournament, SEC Sports Official Website