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SEC Conference Tournament Betting Preview - presented by Betfred Sportsbook


Credit: Kentucky Athletics

Yet another conference tournament will kick off Wednesday, when the SEC begins play at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.


And this one feels as open as any tournament in college hoops.


Alabama is the favorite, but is coming off a loss to No. 2 seed Texas A&M. Kentucky is the No. 3 seed, but we're still not sure of the status of their point guard Cason Wallace. Tennessee is dealing with their own injuries with starting point guard Zakai Zeilger out, while Arkansas has actually struggled, the healthier they've gotten in the last month.


So yeah, it feels like there's really five or six teams that could win this thing - here is our look, with the odds provided by Betfred Sportsbook.



When: Wednesday-Sunday


Format: Three play-in games Wednesday; top four get a double-bye into Friday's quarterfinals

Watch: All games available on ESPN and the SEC Network


Odds via the Betfred Sportsbook:


Alabama (+150)

Tennessee (+340)

Kentucky (+400)

Texas A&M (+550)

Arkansas (+1500)

Auburn (+1600)

Missouri (+2500)

Mississippi State (+4500)

Vanderbilt (+6000)

Florida (+10000)

Georgia (+15000)

LSU (+15000)

Ole Miss (+15000)

South Carolina (+15000)


The Favorite


Alabama (+150)


Alabama has officially established itself as a "Basketball School" this year, winning its second SEC regular season title in three years. Now, let's see if they can get a second SEC Tournament title to go along with it.


They will certainly have all eyes on them in Nashville.


At this point everyone knows the story involving Alabama and its star Brandon Miller, but at this point, two things can be true: We can argue whether he should be playing or not. But Alabama has elected to keep him on the court, and right now we have to evaluate the Crimson Tide with its star forward playing.


And when he is playing, the Tide are maybe the most complete team in college basketball, one of the Top 5 scoring teams in the sport, that also plays elite defense and ranks in the Top 20 nationally in rebounding and blocked shots.


If you can score, defend, rebound and protect the rim at an elite level, you can play with and beat anyone. As the Tide have proven this season.


Despite it, the Tide also enter this tournament in a bit of a lull. In their last four Alabama is 3-1, but have needed overtime to secure two of those wins, and they are also coming off a loss on Saturday at Texas A&M.


The Crimson Tide are the best team in this field. But it's hard to argue that at this exact moment they are playing their best basketball.


They'll have a chance here to regain their mojo going into the NCAA Tournament and will open with the winner of Florida and Mississippi State on Friday.


Contenders


Tennessee (+340)


It's admittedly a little surprising to see the Vols as the second favorite in this field, as less than a week ago they lost starting point guard Zakai Zeigler to a season-ending knee injury. In the only complete game they've played without him, the Vols lost on the road at Auburn.


Still, there's never a shame in losing at Auburn (one of the toughest venues in the sport), and to their credit, the computer numbers have loved the Vols all year. That's based on elite defense played in Knoxville, as they rank No. 1 in the country in field goal percentage defense, allowing opposing defenses to make just 36 percent of their shots. Oh, and they're No. 3 in the country in fewest points allowed as well.


With wins throughout the season against Alabama, Kansas and Texas, the Vols have proven they can beat anyone.


But those games were all with Zeigler in the lineup.


It'll be interesting to see how they adjust without him in Nashville.


Kentucky (+400)


Ah, the Kentucky Wildcats.


What is there to say that hasn't already been said?


They're good. They're bad. John Calipari's gotta go. John Calipari's gotta stay.


As the guy that declared Kentucky basketball "Dead" after their loss to South Carolina, I'm the last guy to criticize anyone for the narratives.


Yes, that was my take in mid-January.


But since then I've also acknowledged that Calipari remains the best person for the job.


That was on full display on Saturday, when they went to Arkansas - literally without a point guard - pulled off a stunning win at Bud Walton Arena.


Still, that whole point guard situation remains the biggest question mark on the Wildcats coming into the weekend. What is the status of starter Cason Wallace? Wallace didn't practice on Monday according to Calipari, but there's still a long way to go before the Wildcats take the floor for the first time in Nashville in the last game Friday as the No. 3 seed.


Should Wallace play, there's an argument to be made that Kentucky should be the favorite to win this event - assuming of course, that you think the off-the-court distractions are bothering ALabama.


But until we get further clarification on Wallace's status, bet them with caution. Especially with a potential showdown against Vanderbilt in their opener. The same Vanderbilt who beat them at Rupp Arena a week ago.


Texas A&M (+550)


It's not often you see the No. 2 seed in any conference tournament as having the fourth best odds. Especially after they toppled the league champ just a few days before.


But welcome to the wild world of the Aggies, where a brutal non-conference schedule nearly submarined their season. Right up until they got red-hot in the league and finished second overall.


At this point, it's worth noting that A&M comes to Nashville with a few things in their favor.


One, they've got experience at this event, going all the way to the title game out of the 8-9 game a year ago.


Two, they are seemingly the only major contender without any major off-court headlines surrounding them (like Alabama) or with major injury concerns like Tennessee and Kentucky.


The Aggies have beaten the No. 1 and 2 seeds in this tournament, at full strength in recent weeks.


Meaning there's no one they'll fear in Nashville.




Sleeper


Arkansas (+1500)


Much like Alabama, by now, we all know the Arkansas narrative. Ranked in the preseason Top 10 thanks to an insanely loaded roster, got off to a hot start, only to lose two first round caliber talents (Trevon Brazile and Nick Smith Jr.) to injuries.


Without them, the Hogs found a groove in late January... then brought back Smith for what we thought would be maybe the most loaded team in the league.


Yet it just hasn't quite worked out, as Arkansas is just 2-5 with him in the lineup.


Now to be clear, no one is blaming Nick Smith for the Hogs fall, but they haven't quite figured out how all the puzzle pieces fit with him back in the lineup.


The good news is though, they have six extra days of practice between their last game on Saturday against Kentucky and Thursday's opener to figure it out.


And if they do, watch out.


The Hogs are good enough to win the whole thing.


The Pick: Texas A&M (+550)


I'll admit, of every major conference tournament, the SEC is the one I feel the least confident in. And I could really see about five or six teams winning this thing.


Because of it, I'll go with the one I have the least questions about in Texas A&M.


I'd argue that over the course of the SEC regular season, the Aggies have been the most consistent team all year. They can't overwhelm you with talent like Alabama, or even Arkansas or Kentucky at full strength, but they show up every night, defend, rebound, play tough and don't beat themselves.


It's also worth noting that, as mentioned above, they're one of the few teams in this tournament that enters with neither off the court controversy (Alabama) or injury concerns (Tennessee, Kentucky) and they have an advantageous draw.


In the opener, they'll either get an Auburn team they've beaten twice, or an Arkansas squad they just beat in Aggieland a few weeks ago. They're likely looking at a Kentucky squad in the semifinals that we're not quite sure will be healthy, and who the heck knows who comes out of the other side of the bracket. Even if it's Alabama, that's a Crimson Tide squad that they just beat a week ago.


Again, I don't love this pick, so don't take out a second mortgage on A&M (as the old saying goes: Please gamble responsibly).


But they're the smart pick. And my pick to win the tournament.


Follow Aaron on Twitter - @Aaron_Torres


To get full odds on the SEC and all conference tournaments, visit Betfred Sportsbook


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