1. I’m interested to see what the attendance looks like today at the Scottrade Center. Missouri losing to Georgia yesterday afternoon leaves the SEC in a precarious situation where they’re back to relying on Big Blue Nation to take over the arena. Well, I’ve already seen a bar that two blocks from the arena packed with Kentucky fans, and the Wildcats aren’t playing that day. There’s yet to be a session where there wasn’t at least 100-200 Cats fans in attendance, and I’m sure my numbers are lower than what was actually there. Now, 15,129 was the official attendance for the afternoon session on Thursday which featured Missouri, highlighted by the return of Michael Porter Jr. In all likelihood, were Mizzou still in the tournament facing Kentucky today, there’d be a sellout. That’s still possible but unlikely. Behind Kentucky and Missouri, Arkansas is expected to bring the next largest contingent. During the Razorbacks opening game in the tournament against South Carolina, the attendance was 11,752. It should be noted that this was for an 8:37 PM tip on a Thursday night. I’d expect more Arkansas faithful to arrive tonight. Either way, SEC officials will be holding out hope that Kentucky stays through the weekend or else the biggest concern about moving the tournament from Nashville to St. Louis may come to fruition i.e. an empty arena.
2. Collin Sexton saved Alabama’s tail yesterday by going coast-to-coast with 4.7 seconds left to score the game-winning layup on a finger roll as time expired.
Bama’s tourney hopes were on the verge of disappearing.
Collin Sexton would NOT let it happen. pic.twitter.com/L7S5FzlzD4
— ESPN (@espn) March 8, 2018
The win gave the Crimson Tide their sixth Quadrant 1 win and a chance to earn their seventh if they can win the season series over rival Auburn. Bama enters the day at No. 46 in the RPI moving up ten spots and was aided by the losses of Louisville, Oklahoma State and Notre Dame. Middle Tennessee losing to Southern Miss in the Conference USA quarterfinals now means that C-USA is a two-bid league. Meaning someone from a major conference lost a bid. Alabama is among the Last Four In, according to Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketology.
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) March 9, 2018
Of the three other teams listed above in that category and the four others on the outside looking in, the Tide are the only ones still in control of their tournament profile as they’re still competing while the others have flown home and await a nervous Selection Sunday.
3. Kentucky now has a clear path to the title game and everyone overreacting to how good this team is. The truth about Kentucky is that they’re an extremely talented team that hasn’t played consistently well or poor for longer than two weeks. The last outing against Florida, which followed a strong four-game stretch, illustrated just that. The Wildcats are only 5-8 away from Rupp Arena this season and it’ll be interesting to see how they adapt to postseason life, behind what should be a partisan crowd. The Wildcats should get past Georgia today and they’re more than capable of beating Alabama and have proven that they can compete against Auburn. The keys for Kentucky reman three-point shooting, sharing the basketball and the play off of the bench by Jarred Vanderbilt and Quade Green. If John Calipari’s team is going to reach Sunday they’ll need to excel in all three areas.
4. Tennessee enters the tournament with a chance to position themselves for the Nashville pod for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Lunardi has Tennessee slated as a No. 3 seed in next week’s tournament on the same seed line as Michigan State. While Lunardi has the Spartans playing in Nashville, he has the Vols headed to Wichita. The Volunteers, unlike MSU, are still playing, one consequence to Jim Delany moving the Big Ten’s tournament up a week is that it could negatively impact seeding for the league’s teams. That could certainly be the case if Tennessee holds not only a share of the regular season SEC title, but if they own the SEC tournament crown as well. Something that Michigan State was unable to pull off. First, they’ll need to take care of a Mississippi State team that is trying to avoid their NIT fate by winning the SEC title.
5. Arkansas and Florida could end up being the most exciting game of the day based off of how these teams like to push the tempo. Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon should matchup well against the Florida guards of Chris Chiozza, KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson. The player that the Razorbacks will need to hold in-check is undersized stretch four Egor Koulechov. I expect this to be a great way to cap off what should be another exiciting day at the SEC Tournament.
No. 9 Alabama vs No. 1 Auburn 12:00 PM CT ESPN(KenPom Prediction: 79-73 Auburn)
No.12 Georgia vs No. 4 Kentucky 2:30 PM CT ESPN (KenPom Prediction: 69-65 Kentucky)
No. 7 Mississippi State vs No. 2 Tennessee 6:00 PM CT SEC Network (KenPom Prediction: 70-64 Tennessee)
No. 6 Arkansas vs No. 3 Florida 8:30 PM CT SEC Network (KenPom Prediction: 76-74 Florida)
For updates throughout the SEC tourney follow me on Twitter, @JulianCouncil.