SEC Tournament Odds: Alabama Remains Favored, Miller in Spotlight
Tennessee, Kentucky Shaping Up as Biggest Challengers in Deep SEC
With SEC Tournament odds of +170, Alabama is favored to cut down the nets this week in Nashville. But the Crimson Tide have looked suspect of late, and should face plenty of competition as they chase their second tournament title in three years.
Tennessee is behind them at +260, although the Volunteers have questions of their own after losing their point guard to a season-ending knee injury. And then there’s Kentucky at +450. John Calipari’s team is as dangerous as it maddening.
Each of the top four seeds will receive a double-bye to the quarterfinals, with the final slated for March 12 at Bridgestone Arena. It will tip off at noon on ESPN.
Alabama Crimson Tide (+170)
At one point, the Crimson Tide looked like the best team in the country, and, frankly, they still might be. But they also haven’t been the same in wake of the controversy surrounding SEC Player of the Year Brandon Miller. Alabama needed overtime to sneak past lowly South Carolina, then lost its regular season finale to Texas A&M.
So long as Miller is on the floor, the Crimson Tide remain the favorite in a power-packed conference. They’re just a bit more vulnerable now.
Tennessee Volunteers (+260)
Tennessee is still Top 20 (maybe Top 15?) good, but its ceiling is definitely lower without Zakai Zeigler. The standout point guard, who was averaging 10.7 points and an SEC-best 5.4 assists, will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL.
The second-seeded Volunteers remain sound — for instance, they’re third in the nation in scoring defense, holding opponents to an average of 57.5 points — but their path is that much tougher minus Zeigler. They’re currently +260 on the college basketball moneyline.
Kentucky Wildcats (+450)
We’ve been waiting … and waiting … and waiting for Kentucky to kick it into gear and live up to its billing as a preseason Top 5 team, if not a national championship contender in your NCAA March Madness bracket. It hasn’t happened. It might not ever happen, even with Oscar Tshiebwe, the nation’s leading rebounder, still dominating the paint. The third-seeded Wildcats have been a mercurial bunch, maybe even a bit exasperating for their rabid fanbase.
Still, we can’t quit them. The potential is too great. The Kentucky Wildcats have heated up of late, with five wins over their last six games to climb back into the Top 25. It’s not often they’re available at SEC Tournament odds of +450.
Texas A&M Aggies (+550)
If you believe in momentum, look no further than No. 2 seed Texas A&M. The Aggies are the hottest team going right now, with eight wins over their last nine games — including Quad 1 victories over Auburn, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Alabama — and 17 in their last 19. They’ve become a favorite of many bettors along the way, compiling a 21-10 record this year against the spread, best in the SEC. Keep that in mind when filling out your March Madness contest bracket.
With sophomore Wade Taylor IV in the backcourt, they’re in good hands.
Auburn Tigers (+1100)
The Auburn Tigers took a slight step back, though that was expected after losing SEC Freshman of the Year Jabari Smith and Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Walker Kessler early to the NBA. Still, the defending NCAAB regular season champions managed to win 20 games for the fifth time in six seasons.
Morehead State transfer Johni Broome has taken over as the Tigers’ best all-around player and is an effective complement in the post to guard Wendell Green Jr. That said, the Tigers have a daunting road as the No. 7 seed — probably too daunting. It begins with a second-round matchup against 10th-seeded Arkansas on Thursday.
Arkansas Razorbacks (+1200)
Nick Smith Jr. is the X-factor here. The freshman guard is a surefire NBA lottery pick, possibly even the best prospect in college. He’s that good. Smith might even be able to carry the Razorbacks, especially now that he is healthy. Still, as the No. 10 seed, they’re in a tough spot.
Missouri Tigers (+2500)
The Missouri Tigers aren’t getting much credit. Despite going 11-7 in conference play to claim the No. 4 seed — which, remember, comes with a double-bye to the quarterfinals — they have the seventh-longest SEC Tournament odds at +2500. It’s certainly not due to a lack of quality wins. The Tigers were 5-8 in Quad 1 games, with victories over Kentucky, Arkansas, and Tennessee.
They can score, but defense remains a concern. They rank last in the SEC and 300th nationally in points allowed, with 74.8 per game.
PROJECTED CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHUP
Alabama vs. Kentucky: Alabama can score in droves. The Crimson Tide are averaging 82.8 points per game, seventh-most in the country, and have topped 100 five times. Their path to the final won’t be easy, even as the top seed, but Zeigler’s injury is a big blow to Tennessee. Meanwhile, Kentucky looks like it may be rounding into form at the right time.Follow us on Twitter
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