Sports, Thrill of Victory

SEC Tournament Preview: Nashville prepares for unpredictable week of basketball

27 FEB 2016: Vanderbilt guard Wade Baldwin IV (4) reacts to a call during Vanderbilt's 74-62 win over No. 16 Kentucky at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire)

The 2016 SEC men’s basketball tournament gets started Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville.

Opening night will see No. 12 seed Tennessee take on No. 13 seed Auburn, with the winner moving on to play No. 5 Vanderbilt in Thursday’s second round action.

And while the first game of the tournament won’t produce a lot of suspense and drama, the rest of the event likely will.

Tyler Ulis and Kentucky are the favorite heading into this week's SEC tournament in Nashville. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Tyler Ulis and Kentucky are the favorite heading into this week’s SEC tournament in Nashville. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

It’s been a wild ride during SEC play this season, as every team in the league has shown signs of weakness.

So how will everything play out this week in the Music City? That’s the million-dollar question.

Let’s run through what you need to know heading into the tournament.

The Favorites

Texas A&M enters the tournament as the top seed after clinching a share of the conference title. It was the first regular season title for the Aggies since 1986.

Meanwhile, Kentucky comes in as the betting favorite despite being the No. 2 seed. The Wildcats certainly had their fair share of struggles throughout the year, but they are starting to put it all together with the NCAA tournament just around the corner.

South Carolina and LSU occupy the two other double-bye spots in the bracket. Many believe that the Gamecocks are safely into the field, while LSU undoubtedly has to win the SEC tournament if they want to put on their dancing shoes come Selection Sunday.

No. 5 Vanderbilt is also among the favorites, as the Commodores have played some outstanding basketball down the stretch.

The Sleeper

For Florida to be the No. 8 seed in this tournament tells you all you need to know about how crazy the regular season was at times.

Depending on where you look, the Gators are on the bubble and in need of at least a few wins in the SEC tournament to get into the NCAA tournament.

If Mike White’s team can get by No. 9 Arkansas, then it’ll match up with the Aggies in the quarterfinal round.

The Gators lost the only regular season meeting between the two teams back in mid-January, and this could be a better situation for them given what’s at stake.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Florida somehow makes a run to the semifinals or championship. Of course, they’ll have to shoot the ball consistently to get there.

Most Intriguing Second Round Game

Since Tennessee vs. Auburn is considered the First Round game in this tournament, the traditional first round games are now called second round games.

The most intriguing of that group? It may just be No. 6 Georgia vs. No. 11 Mississippi State.

Georgia won three straight to wrap up the regular season, while Mississippi State scored big wins down the stretch over teams like Vanderbilt, Alabama, and South Carolina.

Billy Kennedy will try to lead Texas A&M to an SEC tournament title at Bridgestone Arena. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Billy Kennedy will try to lead Texas A&M to an SEC tournament title at Bridgestone Arena. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

And it’s the latter of that trio that makes this the most intriguing second round game. The winner of Georgia/Mississippi State will meet the Gamecocks in the quarterfinals, and both teams have beaten South Carolina late in the season.

Could the winner of that game knock off the third-seed and make an unlikely appearance in the semifinals on Saturday?

The Bracket

First Round (March 9)

No. 12 Tennessee vs. No. 13 Auburn – 7 PM CT (SEC Network)

Second Round (March 10)

No. 8 Florida vs. No. 9 Arkansas – Noon CT (SEC Network)

No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee/Auburn winner – 2:30 PM CT (SEC Network)

No. 7 Ole Miss vs. No. 10 Alabama – 6 PM CT (SEC Network)

No. 6 Georgia vs. No. 11 Mississippi State – 8:30 PM CT (SEC Network)

Quarterfinals (March 11)

No. 1 Texas A&M vs. Florida/Arkansas winner – Noon CT (SEC Network)

No. 4 LSU vs. Vanderbilt/TN/AUB winner – 2:30 PM CT (SEC Network)

No. 2 Kentucky vs. Ole Miss/Alabama winner – 6 PM CT (SEC Network)

No. 3 South Carolina vs. Georgia/Miss. State winner – 8:30 PM CT (SEC Network)

Semifinals (March 12)

Quarterfinal No. 1 winner vs. Quarterfinal No. 2 winner – Noon CT (ESPN)

Quarterfinal No. 3 winner vs. Quarterfinal No. 4 winner – 2:30 PM CT (ESPN)

Championship (March 13)

Semifinal No. 1 winner vs. Semifinal No. 2 winner – Noon CT (ESPN)

Sports and Entertainment Nashville will be on-hand all week at the SEC tournament! Follow us on Twitter (@SENashville and @theblakelovell) to live updates of all the action!