SEC Tournament preview: Can Alabama hold off Arkansas?
The Alabama Crimson Tide may be the favorite in the SEC Tournament, but Nate Oats’ squad has a tough road to claim the conference title Sunday.
The No. 6 Crimson Tide won their first SEC regular-season title since the 2001-2002 season, but Arkansas finished the season on an eight-game win streak overall and with 11 straight conference victories.
Southeastern Conference 2020/2021
Sun, March 14 2021, 12:00 AM
Alabama Crimson Tide
Ole Miss Rebels
Mississippi State Bulldogs
South Carolina Gamecocks
Alabama finished with a 16-2 conference record and Arkansas came in at 13-4. However, only 4.5 games separated third place and 11th in the SEC standings. That parity could mean a wide-open tournament.
The favorite: Alabama
The Crimson Tide went through a rough stretch in early February, but it bounced back to a deserved favorite in the SEC. Alabama averaged 79.6 points per game during the regular season and never lost when it reached the 72-point mark.
Oats brought the modern style of basketball to the Yellowhammer State. The key to the offense in Alabama is to only take shots from beyond the three-point line or right around the rim. The Tide also utilizes the entire perimeter and hits the corners. This shot chart from Alabama's game against LSU in January is a thing of beauty.
Alabama’s only conference losses were road games against Missouri and Arkansas in February. However, the Crimson Tide struggled in its neutral-site games in November and December. Alabama went 2-2 in four games, including losses to Stanford and Clemson, which are not world-beaters.
Alabama will face either Kentucky or Mississippi State in its first SEC Tournament game Friday. The Tide cannot be happy about possibly having to face the kings of the SEC Tournament, Kentucky, in its opening game. Alabama went 4-0 against Kentucky and Mississippi State in the regular season, but they were close games and both held Alabama’s offense in check.
Who is your favorite value play to win the SEC Tournament?
The live longshot: Kentucky
The Kentucky Wildcats have had a rough season, to put it lightly. Nonetheless, the Wildcats own this tournament.
Kentucky has won 31 SEC Tournament titles and no other team has even won seven. Since 2009, Kentucky has only missed out on the SEC Tournament title game twice, in 2013 and 2019..
Kentucky sits at +1500 to win the conference title. However, this team is loaded with talent and is coached by Hall of Famer John Calipari. The Wildcats always put it together in March.
For anyone shredding Kentucky for (likely) not making the NCAA Tournament this year, let’s not forget one thing.— Tres Terrell (@TerrellTres) March 2, 2021
Since John Calipari’s first year in Lexington, Kentucky has had the most wins in the tournament than any other program. pic.twitter.com/a4XfmAV6JG
The Wildcats finished the regular season with a 9-15 record and will need to win the SEC Tournament to gain entry to the NCAA Tournament. However, Kentucky finished the season with four wins in its final six games. The Wildcats have also averaged 75.1 points per game since February, after they struggled to reach 65 points for most of the season.
Player to watch: Moses Moody
Arkansas is one of the hottest teams in America and has been lifted by the play of star freshman Moses Moody. He leads the team with 17.5 points per game, to go along with his 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals.
Moody is the favorite to win SEC Player of the Year and is also likely going to be the highest NBA Draft pick from the conference this summer.
In his final four games of the regular season, Moody averaged 24.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game.
If Arkansas wants to cut down the nets Sunday, it will need Moody to continue his impressive performance.