Quarterfinal Friday gives way to Semifinal Saturday or, as the NCAA Tournament selection committee seems to view it, the final day of the SEC Tournament (yes, that was a seeding joke). We’ll be with you every step of the way until Sunday, but the legion of title contenders grows leaner, so we can miss fewer predictions.

With that in mind, here’s an early peak at Semifinal Saturday:

No. 1 seed Alabama vs. No. 4 Missouri

Everybody wanted to see Alabama — well, everybody except Mississippi State, whose NCAA Tournament spot might be a little less secure than it would prefer after a 23-point beatdown in the quarterfinals. Off the court, the Brandon Miller situation may be a distraction, but on it the super frosh was smooth as butter, with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists in his SEC Tournament debut on Friday. Alabama made 13 3-point shots … and held Mississippi State to 1-for-13 shooting. This is a good place to point out that if they do either of those things again, they’ll be fine against Missouri or Texas A&M or possibly the Boston Celtics.

Meanwhile, Missouri had a ho-hum 1st half and then forced Tennessee to play its game in a big 2nd-half performance that led to a 79-71 victory. The 1st time Alabama and Missouri played, Kobe Brown missed the game and Mizzou shot 3 for 28 from 3-point range. Now, the good news is that Brown will play Saturday and that the Tigers are really, really unlikely to shoot 3 for 28 again from long range. That said, Alabama is 1 of the few teams in the SEC that isn’t afraid of playing at the pace the Tigers like or of getting into a 3-point shooting contest.

The key to this game is the 3-point line. The Tigers probably need to go plus-4 or plus-5 in terms of trey production to have a chance in this one. Given how well Alabama has played, that’s tough to predict.


Bama by 12. The Tigers will make an early 2nd-half run but will run out of gas before they can claim the lead.

No. 2 Texas A&M vs. No. 6 Vanderbilt

The Aggies did not look good early on Friday, trailing Arkansas by 13 points at halftime and generally looking pretty disinterested. But a 42-23 second half led A&M into Saturday’s semifinals. The key to the rally? A 43-26 overall rebounding edge over Arkansas and getting big second-half performances from Wade Taylor (16 of his 18 points) and Henry Coleman (12 of his 16 points). The Aggies also held Arkansas to 30% shooting and didn’t give up a 3-point basket in the 2nd half. A&M doesn’t do pretty, and the Aggies don’t do high scoring, but they didn’t make the semifinals without being pretty darn solid at the things they do best.

On the other hand, take Vanderbilt. Or don’t take them. Because the can’t-get-right crew who lost to Grambling State back in December has definitely gotten right. Even without its best player, post standout Liam Robbins, Vandy just keeps winning. Now 20-13, the Commodores are 10-1 since the end of January. They have perhaps played their way into the NCAA Tournament field, beating Kentucky on Friday for the 2nd time in 10 days, 80-73. Vandy nailed 10 treys in the victory, shot 90% at the foul line and generally did not beat itself.


Texas A&M was lucky to pull out a victory over Arkansas in the 2nd half. With Vandy still in uncertain NCAA Tournament position, the Commodores won’t put together a 23-point half like the Hogs did. Can the hometown kids make it 3 wins in 3 days? A&M will need to make more than 1 3-point shot, as it did against Arkansas. The Commodores will hoist the longball early and often. But for the 2nd day in a row, A&M will make a late rally. Vandy leads by 8 at halftime but fades away, and Taylor engineers a 3-point win to get the Aggies into the final.