First Round, Thursday
Game 1, W5 Alabama vs. E4 Kentucky, Noon
Game 2, E6 South Carolina vs. W3 Arkansas, 2:15
Game 3, E5 Georgia vs. W4 Auburn, 6:30
Game 4, W6 LSU vs. E3 Tennessee, 8:45
Second Round, Friday
Game 5, Game 1 Winner vs. W1 Mississippi State, Noon
Game 6, Game 2 Winner vs. E2 Vanderbilt, 2:15
Game 7, Game 3 Winner vs. E1 Florida, 6:30
Game 8, Game 4 Winner vs. W2 Ole Miss, 8:45
Game 9, Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner, Noon
Game 10, Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner, 2:15
Championship, Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner, Noon
All Times Central
Tubby Smith and the Kentucky Wildcats are sure to have the most fan support of any team in Atlanta.
The four-day, 11-game event returns to the Georgia Dome after being held in Nashville a season ago. Billy Donovan's Florida Gators have won the last two SEC Tournaments and are the favorites to become the first three-peat winner since Kentucky from 1997-1999. By virtue of winning records in the SEC regular season, Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky appear to be the only teams considered to be locks for the NCAA tournament.
Georgia, Mississippi State and Ole Miss all finished 8-8 while Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn finished the regular season at 7-9. A run to the finals on Sunday for any of these teams would likely mean an NCAA bid.
The tournament gets started with the best game of the first round, Kentucky vs. Alabama. The Wildcats knocked Alabama out of the tournament last season, but the Crimson Tide won the only meeting this year 72-61 in Tuscaloosa on Feb. 21. Alabama was playing for either the first or the fifth seed on Sunday in Starkville, but lost by 24 points. Mark Gottfried's team has lost five of the last seven games and appears to be headed to the NIT and point guard Ronald Steele is questionable for Thursday's game. Kentucky has won 10 of the last 15 SEC Tournaments. The winner will play Mississippi State in the second round. The Bulldogs lost four out of five SEC games during the middle of the season, but rebounded to win five of seven and claim the No. 1 seed in the West.
Four teams were playing for the SEC West Title over the weekend and none were Arkansas. However, the Razorbacks took care of business at Vanderbilt to earn a favorable three seed in the West against South Carolina, which finished a league-worst 4-12. South Carolina is led by senior guard Tre' Kelly, who averages 19.1 points per game which is second to only Tennessee's Chris Lofton. The Razorbacks and Gamecocks play in the second game of the afternoon session and the winner will play Vanderbilt on Friday. The Commodores are led by Derrick Byars (16.9 ppg) and Shan Foster (15.5 ppg).
Auburn isn't getting any bubble talk but a run to the finals would give Jeff Lebo's team 20 victories and wins in six of seven games. However, the Tigers' road won't be easy. They had to play Vanderbilt in the first round in last year's tournament in Nashville and must play Georgia at the Georgia Dome in the first game of the evening session. The Bulldogs, also trying to earn an NCAA bid, beat Auburn 86-79 on Feb. 17, but have lost three of the last four down the stretch without Mike Mercer. The winner must turn around 24 hours later and play Florida, the defending NCAA Champions.
In the nightcap, the hottest team in the league, Tennessee, plays against a potential sleeper in LSU. The Tigers went just 5-11 in the SEC, but won two of their last three including a 10-point win over Florida. Glen Davis missed four games down the stretch but played in the season finale against South Carolina and is likely to be ready for the SEC Tournament. Tennessee has won seven of its last eight games and also beat the Gators. The Volunteers won the earlier meeting with LSU, 70-67, and the winner of this game plays Ole Miss on Friday night. The Rebels were picked to finish last by most people, but Andy Kennedy in his first year in Oxford claimed a share of the SEC West Title.
All games will be televised by Lincoln Financial Sports except for the finals, which will be on CBS.