If the SEC had a H-O-R-S-E tournament, here’s how I’d imagine it playing out
Let’s face it — we’re all desperate to have live sports back on television. Most of us would even settle for some unique sporting events that could allow participants to abide by proper social distancing guidelines.
The NBA added a H-O-R-S-E tournament, featuring players from the NBA and WNBA, past and present. The quarterfinals were Sunday. Chauncey Billups, Mike Conley Jr., Zach LeVine and Allie Quigley advanced to the semifinals (April 16, 9 p.m., ESPN).
The NBA’s idea got me thinking — what if the SEC did something similar? What if 14 of the league’s best shooters got together (say, at a gym in Birmingham) to play a H-O-R-S-E tournament?
It’ll almost certainly never happen, but here’s how I’d set up such a tournament:
Who would get an invitation to participate in my hypothetical bracket? I’d want to get 1 player from each team in the tournament. That player needs to be a knockdown outside shooter (otherwise they’d get eliminated pretty quickly). But they also need to have a bit of trick-shot prowess, which means they need to be athletic.
These are the 14 players I’d bring into the mix:
- Alabama: John Petty
- Arkansas: Mason Jones
- Auburn: Samir Doughty
- Florida: Keyontae Johnson
- Georgia: Anthony Edwards
- Kentucky: Immanuel Quickley
- LSU: Skylar Mays
- Mississippi State: Robert Woodard II
- Mizzou: Mark Smith
- Ole Miss: Breein Tyree
- South Carolina: AJ Lawson
- Tennessee: Jordan Bowden
- Texas A&M: Savion Flagg
- Vanderbilt: Saben Lee
That’s a pretty star-studded bracket and one that would provide plenty of drama and excitement.
For the first round, I’d have each team’s representative face off against the player from their school’s permanent SEC East-West crossover rival in football. Thus, the first-round matchups would be:
- John Petty vs. Jordan Bowden
- Keyontae Johnson vs. Skylar Mays
- Anthony Edwards vs. Samir Doughty
- Mark Smith vs. Mason Jones
- Immanuel Quickley vs. Robert Woodard II
- Saben Lee vs. Breein Tyree
- AJ Lawson vs. Savion Flagg
Quickley vs. Woodard? Lee vs. Tyree? Edwards vs. Doughty? Yeah, there are some sneaky-good matchups in Round 1.
I’d have normal H-O-R-S-E rules. Flip a coin to see who goes first. If you make a shot, the other player has to attempt the same shot. If they miss, they get a letter.
But here’s the 1 change I’d make — you can only give your opponent 1 letter via a dunk. That way, players aren’t overly penalized for being short and this thing doesn’t turn into a dunk contest. I’m sure Anthony Edwards could school Samir Doughty with all sorts of highlight-reel dunks, but in my tournament, he could only do so 1 time.
He’ll have to pick his spot wisely. If Doughty can go dunk-for-dunk with Edwards, fine. Then they can dunk all day. But the moment Doughty gets a letter for a dunk he misses, that’s it. Also, players can’t win on a dunk. For example, Keyontae Johnson couldn’t get Skylar Mays to “H-O-R-S” and then bust out a between-the-legs or 360 dunk. At any other point in the game, sure. But not for the “E.”
Oh, and none of this “2-tries-on-E” nonsense. These guys are too good for that. One shot per letter. That’s it.
OK, I think that about covers the rules, so let’s see how this potential bracket would play out.
John Petty vs. Jordan Bowden
Bowden is normally a very talented shooter, but he struggled mightily this past season. Meanwhile, Petty averaged career-highs in points, rebounds, assists and 3-point percentage, among other stats. He knocked down 44% of his 3s, too.
Mason Jones vs. Mark Smith
Smith has been a knock-down shooter from long range for Mizzou, connecting on 40.5% of his 3-pointers in 2 seasons. However, Jones is the SEC’s co-Player of the Year for a reason. He averaged 22 points per game and plays well in the clutch. I like his chances.
Samir Doughty vs. Anthony Edwards
Edwards was the SEC’s Freshman of the Year, and for good reason. He was one of the lone bright spots for the Bulldogs in what was ultimately a tough year. He hit fewer than 30% of his 3s, but Doughty’s 3-point percentage (33.5%) wasn’t as high as it seemed at times.
If Edwards breaks out a dunk like this at the right time, I think he gets the win and advances:
Dominant two-way sequence from Anthony Edwards. Gets the deflection, forces a steal and then the huge windmill dunk pic.twitter.com/Co9gHeYdaQ
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) February 1, 2020
Keyontae Johnson vs. Skylar Mays
Noah Locke was another option for Florida, but Johnson was the Gators leading scorer and can step outside as needed, hitting 38% of his 3-point attempts. Still, Mays was one of the best shooters in the SEC this season. Shots like this will help Mays advance:
Really smooth pull-up 3 from Skylar Mays pic.twitter.com/LinWtpflaa
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) April 11, 2020
Johnson will throw down a spectacular dunk to get Mays an “H,” but I think Mays wins easily.
Immanuel Quickley vs. Robert Woodard II
This would maybe be the best matchup of the first round. Quickley was the SEC’s co-Player of the Year and knocked down 42.8% of his 3-point shots. Woodard connected on 42.9% of his 3s, though. I think this matchup goes back-and-forth a few times, but I’ll give the edge to Quickley based on his clutch play this season.
Breein Tyree vs. Saben Lee
This was the hardest matchup to pick. Both players had incredible seasons and made some truly impressive shots. I honestly just flipped a coin here, and it came up in favor of Tyree.
AJ Lawson vs. Savion Flagg
Flagg was the best 3-point shooter on the Aggies, but he only averaged 10.4 points per game this past season. Lawson averaged 13.4 points, but only shot 33.9% from 3, compared to 37% for Flagg.
Still, I’ll give a slight edge to Lawson for his hops:
Now, the second round is going to be a bit crazy. We need to get from 7 players to 4 players, so I’m going to do something unusual. The player who wins his Round 1 matchup by the biggest margin gets a bye into the Final Four. I think Skylar Mays gets that bye in this setup.
Then, for the other players, I just randomly generated the matchups, which would be easy enough to do in real-time. Here’s how they shook out:
- John Petty vs. Breein Tyree
- Mason Jones vs. AJ Lawson
- Immanuel Quickley vs. Anthony Edwards
Let’s break it down and find our Final Four.
John Petty vs. Breein Tyree
Petty can make shots from anywhere when he’s on fire. I think he keeps rolling into the Final Four.
Mason Jones vs. AJ Lawson
Lawson keeps this one close, but Jones pulls out the win and advances with a clutch 3 from just in front of half court — kinda like this one:
Mason Jones from the logo 💯 pic.twitter.com/K6BaSP8Qch
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) December 14, 2019
Immanuel Quickley vs. Anthony Edwards
This is, by far, the best Round 2 matchup. It’ll come down to who controls the style of the game most — Edwards with athletic trick shots or Quickley with his range and smooth shooting stroke. I’ll predict a well-timed dunk from Edwards helps him come back from 2 letters down to pull off a shocking win.
Again, I randomly chose these matchups. Here are the semifinal contests:
Skylar Mays vs. John Petty
I think this matchup will take forever. These guys will go back-and-forth making shots most of us can only dream of hitting. Thus, Mays getting a bye through the second round eventually pays off. He’s fresh, so he wins.
Anthony Edwards vs. Mason Jones
Coming off a tough win over Quickley, Edwards uses his dunk too early in this semifinal. Later on in the round, Jones heats up from three-point range and the freshman from Georgia can’t keep pace.
Both Jones and Mays enter the final riding high after hard-fought semifinal wins. I showed you Jones’s half-court prowess earlier. Well, that’s not going to work against Mays:
Skylar Mays drills the deep catch-and-shoot 3. Awesome player pic.twitter.com/ic7Qe7uBRY
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) April 6, 2020
So, how about something like this?
MASON JONES CALLED GAME‼️ pic.twitter.com/jDE9DPgldK
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 26, 2019
If Jones can call “bank” and make a shot from there, it’s game over. Just like it was at Georgia Tech.