NASHVILLE — The SEC Tournament is here, and on Wednesday, that meant little pockets of Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky fans (and a random guy in an old school Denver Nuggets jersey) watching the league’s 4 worst teams compete in a battle to stay alive in postseason basketball for one more day. But Nashville was relatively rocking with the lower bowl close to full Wednesday — which is better than past years where individual fans could be heard in a nearly-empty Bridgestone Arena.

Here’s our daily look back and then look ahead at a full day of SEC hoops on Thursday, some of which involves teams not battling for a CBI invitation.

Wednesday’s Day 1 highlights …

Ole Miss 67, South Carolina 61: In a typical opening night rock fight, the Rebels outlasted the Gamecocks. Amaree Abram got hot from long-range, canning 5-of-8 3-point tries for the Rebels on his way to 20 points, his 2nd-highest scoring game of the year. Ole Miss also grabbed 13 offensive rebounds, leading to 17 second-chance points. Both stats could bode well for the Rebels moving forward. Meanwhile, South Carolina standout GG Jackson showed flashes of brilliance in a 24-point effort, but didn’t have enough ammunition to outlast Ole Miss.

LSU 72, Georgia 67: In another game that would have been better as a football game, Georgia and LSU locked horns. The good news in a game between a team that had gone 1-17 in 2023 and a team that has gone 2-8 since January ended is one of them had to win. LSU that imposed its will early, controlling the offensive glass and limiting turnovers. Four Tigers reached double figures, led by KJ Williams with 18 points. Trae Hannibal (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Shawn Phillips (13 points, 10 rebounds) recorded double-doubles.

But Georgia answered with an outstanding defensive second half, holding LSU to 31% shooting after halftime and briefly took the lead. But with the game tied in the final minute and a half, LSU got a putback from Phillips and a nice post bucket from Williams and held on to advance.

Incidentally, and this is a very unofficial stat, as I’m not especially adept at noticing this, but I can report with relatively certainty that teams that brought all of: a) their band, b) their cheerleaders, c) their dance team, and d) their mascot went 0-2 on Wednesday. Bring the mascot at your own peril.

Day 2: Predicting Thursday’s games

No. 9 Mississippi State vs. No. 8 Florida

There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Given the tendency of mid-majors to generate upsets, State really, really, really needs to win this game or its NCAA Tournament situation is very deeply dicey. At 8-10 in SEC play, the Bulldogs need a win. The bad news is that State was just 2-2 in its last 4 games heading into the Tournament and has failed to top 25% from 3-point line in their past 5 games. The good news is that Florida isn’t especially good since the loss of Colin Castleton to a broken hand. Florida is just 3-6 in its past 9 games, and 3 of those losses came when they still had their best player.

Prediction: State by 12. Florida might keep this close for a half, but it’s just not a competitive matchup without Castleton.

No. 13 Ole Miss vs. No. 5 Tennessee

The only thing Tennessee has to fear is Tennessee itself. The Vols are 4-6 since January, which includes everything from back-to-back buzzer-beater losses to Vandy and Mizzou to a second loss to Kentucky and basically failing to be up for the regular-season finale against Auburn. A large part of Tennessee’s issues stem from 3-point defense.

After not allowing a team to shoot 35% or better from long range before Feb. 1, since then, 7 UT opponents have done just that. The Vols went 2-5 in those games. Ole Miss outlasted Carolina with 3s and offensive boards. The problem is that the Rebels are 13th in the SEC in 3-point accuracy and 10th in offensive rebounds, which suggests the result might have had something to do with the level of competition.

Prediction: Vols by 15. It seems unlikely that the Rebels bomb away successfully for a second consecutive game.

No. 10 Arkansas vs. No. 7 Auburn

In a normal 5-teams-in-the-Dance kind of year, this would be a game where the loser would be in bad shape. It really shouldn’t be that way this year. Both teams are too talented for the bubble, despite being the 7 and 10 seeds in this SEC Tournament. This is probably starting to sound familiar, but the Hogs are not coming in very hot. Getting Nick Smith back was expected to ramp up Arkansas to another level, but Arkansas is 2-3 since Smith returned. Arkansas allowed 86 and 88 points within their past 3 games, and has to do better. Auburn, not dissimilarly, is 3-6 in its past 9 games. That included a soul-crushing 32-point loss to Kentucky, but more recently, a heart-breaking defeat to Bama and a win against UT. Maybe the Tigers have turned it around …

Prediction: Auburn by 4. Both teams are hard to figure, but again, of the two, the Tigers would get credit for having a bit more momentum.

No. 14 LSU vs. No. 6 Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt is a rare team that both a) comes in with significant momentum and b) also really has to have this game. Vandy probably needs a pair of wins for their NCAA Tournament aspirations to be, well, more than just aspirations. Vandy has gone 8-1 since January and while losing shot-blocker Liam Robbins hurts, it doesn’t hurt enough to make this one a loss.

Prediction: Vandy by 8. Yes, LSU did beat Vandy (before Wednesday, it was the Tigers’ lone win in 2023, and Vandy’s lone loss since January). But still, only once before has an 11 through 14 seed made a deep SEC Tournament run (Auburn in 2015). This won’t be the second time, although LSU has enough athleticism to match up with the ‘Dores, and might even lead at the half. The Tigers won’t have the consistency, particularly on the defensive end, to pull this one off.