SDS Mailbag: SEC Tournament dark horse, Brock Bowers’ 2024 NFL Draft stock, future of realignment
I know many of you will probably disagree, but I love this time of year from a content standpoint.
Of course, the sports action is great, with college hoops entering postseason play, college baseball season starting, spring training, the NFL Draft and more.
But it’s also prime bracketology season. It’s prime mock draft season. It’s prime MLB season preview time!
I love all of that stuff. I could read 1,000 mock drafts a week.
Anyway, let’s dive into this week’s Mailbag questions:
Who is your SEC Tournament dark horse this year?
When it comes to tournament play, a lot depends on how things are seeded. For example, Kentucky has been kryptonite for Tennessee this year. Mississippi State has made a normally elite Mizzou offense struggle for every point.
But in this year’s SEC tournament bracket, I’ll be looking closely at whoever is matched up against Mizzou and Vanderbilt. Depending on how things go on Saturday, Mizzou still has a chance to end up as high as the No. 3 seed, as the Tigers hold tiebreakers over Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Believe me, I’m aware of how tough Mizzou makes some of these victories look. On Wednesday at LSU, Missouri was down 19 at one point before clawing its way back to a win. The Tigers don’t match up well against Texas A&M, either. But when Dennis Gates’s squad is hot from 3-point range, it can beat anyone this side of Alabama in the conference.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt has been playing some incredible basketball since mid-January. The Commodores have taken on the personality of their fiery coach, Jerry Stackhouse. They’re relentless and physical. This is a Vanderbilt team that could make a run to the SEC Tournament semifinals (or even to the title game).
Who will be the first SEC player off the board in the 2024 NFL Draft? Brock Bowers?
I love watching Brock Bowers play, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a top-10 pick. I also wouldn’t be too shocked if he went No. 4 (like Kyle Pitts) or No. 5.
So the question is whether or not another SEC star can work his way into the top 5. If a quarterback like Arkansas’s KJ Jefferson or Kentucky’s Devin Leary doesn’t have a Joe Burrow-esque rise to the No. 1 spot (or at least top-3 behind Caleb Williams and Drake Maye), Bowers could very well be the first SEC guy off the board.
I have 2 other players to keep an eye on, though. Both of them play for Alabama – edge rusher Dallas Turner and CB Kool-Aid McKinstry. Turner probably could have been a first-round pick this year if he’d been draft-eligible. He’ll have the 2023 season to prove he belongs in the top 5.
Meanwhile, McKinstry has all the makings of an elite cornerback. If he can develop some more consistency this season, the sky’s the limit for him in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Which conference will survive longer – the Pac-12 or the ACC?
I’m assuming this question is in reference to reports this week about Florida State being frustrated with the ACC. There are also reports that it’s a matter of when, not if, Washington and Oregon flee the Pac-12 for the Big Ten.
The SEC and Big Ten have positioned themselves as giants and won’t be going away in our lifetimes. Surprisingly, the Big 12, which was at one point the Power 5 league in the most perilous situation, has solidified its standing and could even add Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Arizona State if the Pac-12 falls apart. Didn’t see that one coming a few years ago.
The ACC media rights deal is seemingly the only thing keeping that league together at this point. Florida State and Clemson would be no-brainers for the SEC once that deal ends. Miami, North Carolina and other programs would also potentially be enticing to the SEC, while Duke, Virginia and others could potentially be good additions for the Big Ten.
The ACC deal runs through 2036. I do believe the league is in serious danger of falling apart then. But can the Pac-12 last that long?
It can probably survive losing Washington and Oregon, adding Boise State, SMU, Fresno State and San Diego State to stop the bleeding. But losing Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State would be a death blow. There simply aren’t enough prominent programs out west to sustain those losses.
My bet would be the Pac-12 is the first to go, but I could also see a desperation attempt to combine the Pac-12 and ACC. I’d call it the C2C (Coast 2 Coast League), personally.
Rank the locations of the major conference tournaments (SEC, ACC, B1G, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big East).
First, let’s break down where those conference tournaments take place. The SEC plays in Nashville. The Big Ten plays in Chicago. The ACC Tournament is in Greensboro. The Pac-12 plays in Las Vegas. The Big 12 Tournament is in Kansas City. And the Big East Tournament takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Here’s how I’d rank those locales:
- Las Vegas
- New York City
- Kansas City
If you have followed this Mailbag for very long, you’ve probably read about my affinity for Las Vegas. I got to cover the Pac-12 Tournament last year, and it was a ton of fun. Plus, it isn’t absolutely freezing in March the way it is in Chicago.
Madison Square Garden is an iconic venue, so the Big East Tournament gets a major boost there. If it were played in the Brooklyn Nets arena, it’d probably be behind Kansas City on my list.
Speaking of Kansas City, it is a vastly underrated city. I know the Power and Light District has become a bit too touristy lately, but there are great BBQ spots all over the city and plenty of other great bar areas, too.
Nashville is a great place to host the SEC Tournament. The music and bar scene is solid. I’ve never been to Greensboro, but it sure seems like most of the ACC coaches hate it, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, I guess.
Have a question for next week’s Mailbag? Tweet at us using #SDSMailbag or email me at Adam.Spencer@XLMedia.com.