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NCAA basketball betting: Auburn, Kentucky are favorites to win SEC tournament

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Will the SEC tournament be capped by a matchup of two of the best players in college basketball?

Auburn and Kentucky are on opposite sides of the tournament bracket and are favored to meet in Sunday’s SEC title game. If the Tigers and Wildcats play each other, we’ll get to see star Auburn freshman — and potential No. 1 NBA draft pick — Jabari Smith face off against Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe.

Smith is averaging over 17 points per game and is grabbing seven boards a game. He’s shooting 44% from the field and nearly 44% from three as a 6-10 wing, and his ability to hit from behind the arc is a huge reason why NBA scouts are drooling about his potential.

Tshiebwe is also averaging 17 points a game and leads the country with 15 rebounds a game.

The two teams met just once this season and Auburn won 80-71 at home. Smith had 14 points and seven rebounds while Tshiebwe played 38 minutes and had 16 points and 14 rebounds. Kentucky led that game at halftime but Auburn outscored the Wildcats by 13 in the second half.

A rematch could be even more fun, especially if a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament is on the line. Both teams should end up as top-two seeds in the tournament, and one or even both could end up as a No. 1 seed depending on how the other major conference tournaments play out.

Both Auburn and Kentucky begin tournament play on Friday in the quarterfinals. The tournament begins on Wednesday with two games involving the bottom four teams in the conference. The winners of those games advance to Thursday, when Nos. 5-9 teams begin their tournaments. The title game is Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

Here’s how the SEC finished. All odds to win the conference tournament are from BetMGM.

Standings

1. Auburn (15-3 in SEC) [+260 to win]

2. Kentucky (14-4) [+175 to win]

3. Tennessee (14-4) [+325]

4. Arkansas (13-5) [+750]

5. LSU (9-9) [+1200]

6. Alabama (9-9) [+1400]

7. South Carolina (9-9) [+10000]

8. Texas A&M (9-9) [+10000]

9. Florida (9-9) [+4000]

10. Mississippi State (8-10) [+5000]

11. Vanderbilt (7-11) [+25000]

12. Missouri (5-13) [+50000]

13. Ole Miss (4-14) [+50000]

14. Georgia (1-17) [+50000]

The favorites

  • Kentucky (+175): All four of Kentucky’s SEC losses came to teams that finished in the top five of the conference and all were ranked at the time of the game; this isn’t a team that’s given games away against poor opposition. You know about Tshiebwe and he’s one of five Kentucky players averaging over 10 points per game. Kellan Grady is the team’s marksman from deep as he shoots over 43% from three.

  • Auburn (+260): The Tigers’ three losses in conference play came by a combined 10 points. One of those came to Florida, a team that Auburn could end up facing in the quarterfinals. K.D. Johnson is the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.7 points per game, and North Carolina transfer Walker Kessler is averaging eight rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game. Kessler’s inside presence allows Smith to play all over the court and be one of the most dangerous players in college basketball.

A long shot to consider

  • LSU (+1200): The Tigers enter the SEC tournament having lost three of their last five regular-season games and this is a hot and cold team. LSU has wins over Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee and losses to Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. If LSU gets hot it has a chance to beat Arkansas and LSU and make it to the final. Tari Eason leads the team with 17 points per game and is shooting 52% from the field.

Auburn beat Kentucky in the teams' only regular-season SEC matchup. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Will we see Auburn and Kentucky in the SEC tournament title game? (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)