Surely this won’t blow up in my face.

Predicting games for any scenario in which a bracket is involved can be extra humiliating. Why? Because there’s always the possible visual of crossing off a team for games that haven’t even happened yet. There should be a name for a game in which both teams that you picked are already eliminated. I’ll just call that being “skunked.”

The goal for today is to get as skunked as little as possible. Picking every SEC Tournament game can be a bit tricky. We actually haven’t had a 1 vs. 2 championship since 2016, and the No. 1 seed only won it 4 times since the conference expanded to 14 teams in 2013.

Having said that, the trends do favor the teams with the double byes (top-4 seeds). Of the 9 SEC Tournaments that have been played in that stretch since 2013, teams with top-4 seeds accounted for 16 of the possible 18 spots in the championship.

Of course, we did just watch A&M march all the way to the SEC final after entering the field as an 8-seed. The Aggies would’ve blown up many an SEC Tournament bracket.

Here’s hoping they don’t blow up mine this year:

Round 1 (Wednesday)

  • No. 12 South Carolina vs. No. 13 Ole Miss, 7 ET
  • No. 11 Georgia vs. No. 14 LSU, 9 ET

Winners — Ole Miss, Georgia

To recap, we’ve got 3 teams with a Year 1 coach and 1 with an interim coach. Expectations should be low that any of these teams are capable of making a deep run. Ole Miss, however, has been in nothing but close games down the stretch despite the fact that Hermit Davis was fired midseason. The road team won both matchups between Ole Miss and South Carolina, so I wouldn’t put much stock in that. I’ll instead give the nod to the squad that’s been knocking on the door as opposed to the GG Jackson-led Gamecocks, who have been a bit dysfunctional in Year 1 of the Lamont Paris era.

And yeah, I can’t pick LSU after it went 1-17 once the calendar turned to 2023.

Round 2 (Thursday)

  • No. 8 Florida vs. No. 9 MSU, 1 p.m. ET
  • No. 5 Tennessee vs. No. 13 Ole Miss, 3 p.m. ET
  • No. 7 Auburn vs. No. 10 Arkansas, 7 p.m. ET
  • No. 6 Vanderbilt vs. No. 11 Georgia, 9 p.m. ET

Winners — MSU, Tennessee, Arkansas, Vandy

From a seeding standpoint, MSU beating Florida is considered an upset, but without Colin Castleton, it’s hard to put a ton of faith in the Gators against what should be a desperate MSU team. Chris Jans’ squad had to scratch and claw to earn a spot on the bubble, which could burst without a win in Nashville. I believe Tolu Smith prevents that from happening.

While I do have questions about Tennessee replacing Zakai Zeigler this late in the season, I don’t think Ole Miss is the type of team that can exploit some of those offensive deficiencies. The Vols might struggle early, but I expect them to pull away late.

Auburn-Arkansas could end up being the game of the week, at least in terms of NCAA Tournament implications. While I expect the Hogs are in even with a loss, Auburn would have an extremely long wait if it went one-and-done for the second consecutive year. Can we trust the Tigers to close games? I don’t believe so. While Eric Musselman’s team certainly isn’t entering the week with momentum having lost 3 straight, I do think we see them finally start to look like the squad that looked like a legitimate top-10 team before injuries set in. Hogs win a thriller.

Vandy is a fascinating wild card having won 8 of 9 to close the regular season. The hometown Dores will be a popular pick to shake things up even without leading scorer Liam Robbins. They start off their week by shooting the lights out and rolling past the offensively-starved Dawgs.

Quarterfinals (Friday)

  • No. 9 MSU vs. No. 1 Alabama, 1 p.m. ET
  • No. 5 Tennessee vs. No. 4 Mizzou, 3 p.m. ET
  • No. 10 Arkansas vs. No. 2 A&M, 7 p.m. ET
  • No. 6 Vandy vs. No. 3 Kentucky, 9 p.m. ET

Winners — Mizzou, Alabama, Arkansas, Vandy

My SDS colleague Adam Spencer has been all over this for months. Mizzou is the exact type of team that Tennessee should struggle with. They can light up the scoreboard in a hurry and against a team like Tennessee that gets limited possessions, Mizzou makes an otherwise small lead feel insurmountable. The Tigers did that in Knoxville even with a healthy Zeigler. Without their starting point guard, Tennessee struggles to avoid scoring droughts and Dennis Gates continues his remarkable Year 1.

We know that Alabama has a gear that nobody in the SEC has. If the Tide rolled MSU by 35, would anyone be stunned? I wouldn’t be, but I expect Nate Oats’ squad to get everything it can handle in its first game in Nashville. MSU is No. 8 in KenPom in adjusted defensive efficiency, and while the Tide have offensive depth for days, keep in mind that we’ve only seen that Alabama gear once in the last 8 games. With all eyes on Brandon Miller, I believe Mark Sears makes the big buckets down the stretch to fend off a pesky MSU squad.

I’ll be fascinated to see the spread if we get A&M-Arkansas. The Hogs have as many SEC losses in their last 3 games as A&M has all year, but the NET rankings and KenPom both have Eric Musselman’s squad ranked ahead of A&M. Sure, part of that was the Aggies looking disastrous in nonconference play, but Arkansas did hand A&M its most lopsided SEC loss of the year. Can the Hogs, who perhaps got some relief by getting past Auburn to squash any notion that their NCAA Tournament hopes could be in jeopardy, play their best in March once again? I believe they will.

Speaking of upsets, yeah, let’s go with Vandy to upset the inconsistent Cats. Yes, I realize there’s a possibility that Oscar Tshiebwe goes for 30 and 20 against a Vandy team without the aforementioned Robbins, but we already saw Jerry Stackhouse’s team make that in-game adjustment in a winning effort in Lexington. Tshiebwe still had a 20-20 game that night, too. The combination of some lights-out perimeter defense and some timely shooting fuels Vandy to an upset for its first semifinal berth since 2017.

Semifinals (Saturday)

  • No. 4 Mizzou vs. No. 1 Alabama, 1 p.m. ET
  • No. 10 Arkansas vs. No. 6 Vandy, 3 p.m. ET

Winners — Alabama, Arkansas

Remember how I said that Alabama has struggled to show that extra gear down the stretch? I believe that changes against Mizzou. The Tide turn Saturday’s showdown into a track meet and the Tigers force shots in an effort to keep up. Javhon Quinerly takes over with a 25-point outburst to lead Alabama to an SEC Championship berth with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament all but locked up.

I’ll be honest. I’m admittedly rolling the dice on an Arkansas team that could lose by 15 to Auburn and crawl into the NCAA Tournament having lost 4 straight. I’m banking on the belief that Arkansas has shown an ability to play with anyone and that sooner or later, a team with a lot of moving pieces settles into becoming a brutal out in a single-elimination format. I picture a Devo Davis game coming at some point in the postseason. This feels like a good spot for it. Against a Vandy team that’s been fighting for its postseason life the last 2 months, the Hogs’ tempo proves to be too much to handle and Stackhouse’s squad runs out of gas. Arkansas becomes the third team since the SEC expanded to reach the conference title game without a double-bye.

Championship (Sunday)

  • No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 10 Arkansas, 1 p.m. ET

Winner — Alabama

I’m optimistic that we get a thriller to close out the weekend. After all, these teams just went down to the wire in Tuscaloosa. Alabama had to rally back after falling behind by double digits, which wouldn’t be a stunning game script to see play out on Sunday. But again, 4 days in 4 games is a ton. I believe that catches up to Arkansas. After a relatively quiet start to the week, Miller asserts himself and reminds everyone why there’s no denying that he’s one the best players in America. Sloppy Arkansas possessions lead to Alabama runouts and any hope of some madness heading into Selection Sunday evaporates with a lopsided second half.

The Tide cut down the nets and go into the Big Dance with an SEC sweep. More importantly, they enter the madness with legitimate national title hopes.