SEC tournament preview: Florida aims to prove its reliable away from home

The Dagger will be previewing this week's eight marquee conference tournaments. Here's our look at the SEC tournament:

Southeastern Conference Tournament
Dates: March 13-17
Site: Nashville (Bridgestone Arena)
Top four seeds: 1. Florida 2. Kentucky 3. Ole Miss 4. Alabama
Draw: Click here

Best draw: Considering it's the sixth seed, Missouri lucked out with its draw. It landed in the opposite half of the bracket from Florida and Tennessee, it cannot face Kentucky until the semifinals and its potential quarterfinal opponent is Ole Miss. Granted the Rebels split with the Tigers in the regular season and will be desperate for a win to enhance their at-large hopes, but that's still as good as the Tigers could have expected.

Worst draw: It's just cruel that an Arkansas team that won only one SEC road game has to open with Vanderbilt in Nashville. And even if the Razorbacks get through that, they'll face a tough game against Kentucky next. Arkansas probably needs an appearance in the title game to even enter the bubble picture, but it's draw suggests that may be a difficult goal to accomplish.

Three players to watch:

• Phil Pressey, G, Missouri — The SEC's assist leader is the league's best point guard, but his field goal percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio are below where they were last year.

• Erik Murphy, F, Florida — One of three Gators averaging at least 12 points per game, the versatile 6-foot-8 Murphy can score in the paint or from the perimeter.

• Marshall Henderson, G, Ole Miss — Henderson, the conference's leading scorer, can shoot the Rebels into or out of any game.

[Related: The Dagger picks every conference tournament winner]

Bubble implications: With only Florida and Missouri certain to make the field of 68 and a handful of other teams trying to play their way into the field, Nashville will be the bubble capital of the sport Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Kentucky and Tennessee would feel more secure with quarterfinal wins, Alabama and Ole Miss may need more than that and Arkansas realistically can't enter the at-large discussion unless it advances to the SEC title game first.

Projected champ: In a league in which everyone from Florida, to Missouri, to Arkansas struggled to win away from home, the question is who can be trusted in Nashville? One possibility is Tennessee, which actually won four road games in the past month to rebound from a 3-6 start to SEC play and maneuver its way into NCAA tournament contention. The Vols have a good inside-outside combination with Jarnell Stokes in the paint and Jordan McRae on the perimeter. If they can reach a potential semifinal against top-seeded Florida, they could have the in-state crowd on their side as they play to all but guarantee an NCAA bid.

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