SEC tournament preview, predictions: Who can nail down a No. 1 seed?

The 2019 SEC tournament tips off Wednesday, March 13 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Below is an in-depth look at the tournament, including a complete bracket, TV schedule, analysis and predictions.

2019 SEC tournament bracket, seeds

The complete 2019 SEC men's basketball tournament bracket. (SEC)
The complete 2019 SEC men's basketball tournament bracket. (SEC)

Who is the favorite?

There are three teams who can realistically lay claim to the title of favorite entering the SEC tournament. LSU won the SEC regular season title outright, swept its only two games against Kentucky and Tennessee and benefits from not having to face either the Wildcats or Vols until the title game. Kentucky has won 16 of its past 18 games and could be playing to secure a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament this weekend. Tennessee spent a chunk of the season ranked No. 1 in the nation and could still make a push for a No. 1 seed this weekend as well.

Forced to choose a favorite amongst the three, Kentucky might be the pick. The Wildcats played better down the stretch than Tennessee and don’t have the off-court distractions that are facing LSU.

Who else can win?

Fifth-seeded Auburn can’t be counted out. The Tigers surged over the past two weeks and have a favorable draw. They won’t face an NCAA tournament contender before the semifinals as Georgia/Missouri and South Carolina stand in their path. They also can’t face either Kentucky or Tennessee until the championship game as they landed on the opposite side of the bracket.

Mississippi State might also have had slim hope with a better draw, but falling one win shy of a top-four seed may come back to haunt the Bulldogs. Not only do they now have to win four games in four days to claim the SEC tournament title, their path from the No. 6 seed is absolutely brutal.

Bubble implications

Florida (17-14, 9-9, KenPom 30, NET 33)

Florida was in reasonably good shape before closing the regular season on a three-game skid. The loss to lowly Georgia was especially damaging. Then the Gators failed to atone for it by upsetting either LSU or Kentucky. That leaves Florida facing a must-win opening-round SEC tournament game against Arkansas before a potential win-and-in quarterfinal against LSU. If the Gators leave Nashville without a win, they’ll be 17-15 with a 3-11 record against Quadrant 1 competition. That would be dicey, to say the least.

Alabama (17-14, 8-10, KenPom 60, NET 58)

Alabama has done nothing to suggest it’s an NCAA tournament team for the past six weeks. Not only have the Crimson Tide dropped seven of their past 11 games, three of their four victories came against last-place Vanderbilt or struggling Georgia. This year’s bubble is bad enough that Alabama still has time to save itself, but it may require a couple wins in Nashville. A second win over Ole Miss alone probably isn’t enough to offset a 2-9 record against Q1 opponents.

Three players to watch

1. Grant Williams, F, Tennessee — He has a strong case to repeat as SEC player of the year after leading the conference in scoring and ranking fifth in rebounds per game.

2. P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky — The sophomore played like an all-American during a month-long midseason stretch, fueling Kentucky and prompting more defensive attention.

3. Tremont Waters, G, LSU — Other than Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, which college players are more fun to watch than the playmaking LSU sophomore?

One big storyline

The biggest question entering the SEC tournament is which of the three top teams can make a case to claim a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Kentucky seems to be in the best position entering the week, but LSU or Tennessee could overtake the Wildcats in Nashville, especially with an SEC tournament title.

Of course, it’s also possible that none of the SEC’s three powers do enough to earn a No. 1 seed. Virginia and Gonzaga are near-locks, North Carolina has surged into contention and Duke would have a compelling case if Zion Williamson returns in the ACC tournament and a healthy Blue Devils team makes a deep run.

2019 SEC tournament TV schedule

All times Eastern

Wednesday, March 13 | First round

No. 12 Missouri vs. No. 13 Georgia — 7 p.m., SEC Network

No. 11 Texas A&M vs. No. 14 Vanderbilt — 9:30 p.m., SEC Network

Thursday, March 14 | Second round

No. 8 Florida vs. No. 9 Arkansas — Noon, SEC Network

No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 12 Missouri/No. 13 Georgia — 2:30 p.m., SEC Network

No. 7 Ole Miss vs. No. 10 Alabama — 7 p.m., SEC Network

No. 6 Mississippi State vs. No. 11 Texas A&M/No. 14 Vanderbilt — 9:30 p.m., SEC Network

Friday, March 15 | Quarterfinals

No. 1 LSU vs. No. 8 Florida/No. 9 Arkansas — 1 p.m., ESPN

No. 4 South Carolina vs. No. 5 Auburn/No. 12 Missouri/No. 13 Georgia — 3:30 p.m., ESPN

No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 7 Ole Miss/No. 10 Alabama — 7 p.m., SEC Network

No. 3 Tennessee vs. No. 6 Mississippi State/No. 11 Texas A&M/No. 14 Vanderbilt — 9:30 p.m., SEC Network

Saturday, March 16 | Semifinals

Winners of quarterfinals 1 and 2 — 1 p.m., ESPN

Winners of quarterfinals 3 and 4 — 3:30 p.m., ESPN

Sunday, March 17 | Final

Semifinal winners — 1 p.m., ESPN

Tennessee guard Admiral Schofield (5) drives against Kentucky guard Keldon Johnson (3) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Will we get Tennessee vs. Kentucky, Part III, in Nashville? (AP)

2019 SEC tournament predictions

First round

No. 13 Georgia over No. 12 Missouri

No. 11 Texas A&M over No. 14 Vanderbilt

Second round

No. 8 Florida over No. 9 Arkansas

No. 5 Auburn over No. 13 Georgia

No. 10 Alabama over No. 7 Ole Miss

No. 6 Mississippi State over No. 11 Texas A&M

Quarterfinals

No. 5 Auburn over No. 4 South Carolina

No. 1 LSU over No. 8 Florida

No. 2 Kentucky over No. 7 Ole Miss

No. 3 Tennessee over No. 6 Mississippi State

Semifinals

No. 5 Auburn over No. 1 LSU

No. 2 Kentucky over No. 3 Tennessee

Final

No. 2 Kentucky over No. 5 Auburn

Other conference tournament previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12

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