Analysts have tabbed Ole Miss as a darkhorse candidate for SEC Tournament championship.
We're not sure just yet if these are the same analysts who had Jevan Snead as a darkhorse Heisman candidate or Enrique Davis as a first-team all SEC halfback, but that's very likely the case. But, on the positive side, we can hope that these are the same analysts who predicted State and Ole Miss to finish atop the SEC West - which, technically, both teams did, albeit in a not so fantastic fashion.
The SEC Tournament will be held in Nashvegas this year – a city of dreams for local musicians chasing a neon rainbow. Also, the Pancake Pantry, the official breakfast of Red Cup Rebellion, is there. Ole Miss along with a few other teams are just chasing one marquee win to solidify chances for the postseason. Will we get there? How will we look? What can Rebel basketball fans expect?
Jump on it and see.
One Man To Beat
Kentucky is obviously a favorite to win the tournament, but I don't think they have to win it to secure a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. They could lose in the finals to Vandy, and they would have still proven over its 30 plus game schedule that the Cats are a #1 seed. I think John Calipari will be looking to make some kind of statement, and his former Memphis teams rarely ever disappointed in C-USA tournament action.
Every analyst has a list of sleeper picks for the tournament, so I guess I'll throw in my two cents. Tennessee is probably playing some of the best ball out of any team in the SEC right now, but with a top 15 ranking, I can't hardly call them a sleeper pick. The winner of the possible UK-UT semifinal, however, will most likely win the tournament.
I can't help but think Ole Miss has at least a shot to make some noise in the tournament. It may just mean upsetting Tennessee and then pushing UK in a close game or overtime match-up, but I think this team has faced enough diversity in the last two seasons to have them poised and ready to make a run.
Mississippi State will play its way into the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs haven't looked good recently, but they always seem to play well at the SEC tournament. Beating Florida is not an incredibly tall task, but a possible semi-final game win against home crowd backed Vanderbilt could be the cherry on top of its resume.
I'm still going to go with my gut in predictions, however.
Champions: Kentucky over Vanderbilt
MVP: Demarcus Cousins, UK
Improves NCAA chances: Ole Miss, Mississippi State
Flops NCAA chances: Florida
Ghost of Jay Cutler
I'm feeling homerish and optimistic right now, so I'm going to say that the Rebels will defeat the Volunteers in their opening matchup. It won't be pretty, and will likely be just as frustrating as nearly every one of our SEC wins, but it will be a win and it will be enough of a win to put our Rebels in position to lose to Kentucky in their next round right before getting knocked out of the first round of the tournament by a four or five seed.
However, bleak that last bit may sound, it will still be a huge accomplishment. Rembmer, we haven't been to the big dance since yours truly was a sophomore in high school. We are suffering through the longest such streak in the conference right now.
I do not think State will play their way in. Even a win over Florida won't be enough of a boost to their resume to get them off of the bubble, especially with teams like St. Mary's getting in as of late. Florida has an easier way in than either school, as I see it, but I would not be surprised were they NIT bound.
A team which I truly think is dangerous is Vanderbilt. Yes, Kentucky's freshmen are incredible, but Vanderbilt's seniors aren't half bad and their experience in tournament play will take them pretty far, barring a wild upset.
Champions: Kentucky over Vanderbilt
MVP: John Wall, UK
Improves NCAA chances: Ole Miss
Flops NCAA chances: Florida, Mississippi State
Juco All American
We're going to lose to Tennessee and go to the NIT. We'll all be really bummed out about it.