Your official A-to-Z guide to the SEC Tournament
The SEC Tournament starts Wednesday in St. Louis.
Kentucky is the three-time defending champion. The always-young Wildcats have struggled more than usual this season, dropping out of the AP Poll for the first time since 2014, but they’ll still enter as the favorite, seeding be damned.
Here's the SEC basketball tournament bracket pic.twitter.com/A0eVi0JIvY
— Saturday Down South (@SDS) March 4, 2018
What else can we expect? Glad you asked. Here’s an A-to-Z guide to the SEC Tournament, on and off the court.
The Tigers won the SEC Championship for the first time since 1999. They’ll try to win the SEC Tournament for the first time since 1985. That title was a complete surprise. Those Tigers were the No. 8 seed, but they had the Rifleman. Chuck Person, the tournament MVP, helped Auburn upset No. 1 seed LSU in the quarterfinal and No. 3 seed Alabama in the final.
Guards rule the postseason, and while just about everybody has one guard of note, Arkansas has the highest scoring backcourt combo in Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford. They’re combining to average 35 of Arkansas’ 82 points per game.
C: Craft beer
St. Louis is a great beer town. No kidding. The King of Beer started everything, but the craft industry is steadily gaining traction.
Everybody has their favorite spot and style, and Beer Advocate provides a handy ranking to help you celebrate that big win — or forget that last-second loss. 4 Hands Brewing opened in 2011 and has been a staple ever since in the downtown scene.
D: Dark horse
Give me Arkansas, for one reason: The Hogs can shoot it.
They recently hit 10-of-19 3-pointers to upset Auburn. While the shooting percentage was high, it wasn’t out of the blue.
Arkansas led the SEC in 3-point shooting this season (40.2 percent). That gives them a chance against anybody.
Macon (81) and Barford (76) finished in the top 6 in the SEC in 3s made.
Look for the Hogs to lean on those two even more this week.
E: Early exits
There are some every year.
The last time we had a 1-2-3-4 semifinal was 2014. Map out some things to do, you know, just in case.
Kentucky, seeded No. 4, is trying to win its fourth consecutive SEC Tournament.
The last time anybody won four consecutive? Kentucky from 1992-95 under Rick Pitino.
G: Gateway Arch
It’s cool. And cramped. And, yes, extremely touristy, but I’m guessing this is your first visit to St. Louis, so …
H: The Hill
If you like Italian food, start here and you might never make it to Scottrade. There are more quality choices than nights of the SEC Tournament. The best one? Keep reading …
Just imagine if this group would have stayed together, like they did in the old days …
— Karl-Anthony Towns (@KarlTowns) February 28, 2018
Instead, Karl-Anthony Towns (12), Trey Lyles (41), Tyler Ulis (3) and Devin Booker spent only the 2014-15 season together.
That group went 38-0 … until losing to Wisconsin in the Final Four.
Towns, Lyles and Booker were one-and-done lottery picks. Oh, what could have been.
J: John Calipari
Adolph Rupp won 13 SEC Tournament titles, by far the most.
Calipari is one of four coaches tied for second with 5 titles. He can break it this week.
The Wildcats have won the SEC Tournament 31 times (including the 1988 title they vacated). Alabama is next … with six. Florida and Tennessee have won four.
L: Lottery picks
There will be a least a few in St. Louis, including, possibly Missouri’s Michael Porter. According to the SEC, the league has produced 20 lottery picks since 2010, more than any other conference.
M: Mighty Mississippi
It’s within walking distance of the Scottrade Center and obviously the Arch. It’s also a great place to spend an afternoon, assuming the weather cooperates. And if it doesn’t, the riverboat casinos will welcome you in.
If you packed for three days and your team lost early, Mark Twain’s boyhood home is just a 2-hour trip north in Hannibal, a small town that hugs the big river.
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has projected eight teams will make the NCAA Tournament. Mississippi State is among his first eight out despite having a better conference record that a couple of teams projected to make the field.
The SEC Tournament will go a long way in determining who goes where.
It’s possible, if not likely, that unless South Carolina wins at least two games this week, the Gamecocks won’t even make the NIT. This, a year after making the Final Four.
O: One and done
Kentucky’s Kevin Knox and Alabama’s Collin Sexton are projected lottery picks, should they decide to leave school after their freshman season. Other SEC freshmen, most notably injured Missouri forward Michael Porter, are expected to join them.
Enjoy them while you can.
Speaking of which: Doesn’t everybody want to see Porter and Knox go at it in the quarterfinal on Friday? It could happen.
P: President Grant’s house
There are many museums in St. Louis, but only one President called the Gateway City home.
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President. The National Historic Site that honors his St. Louis ties is 20 minutes southwest from the Scottrade Center. It’s also free to visit.
Q: As in BBQ …
You can’t go to St. Louis and not indulge in its style of barbeque.
It’s all good, but if you want truly local, order the pork steak.
Anthony Davis set the SEC record with 186 blocks in 2012, Kentucky’s most recent championship season.
Nobody came within 100 of that mark in 2018. Auburn’s Anfernee McElmore was the best shot-swatter, but he suffered a season-ending injury ankle a couple of weeks ago.
Texas A&M’s Robert Williams is the only remaining SEC player who averaged more than 2.4 blocks per game.
S: St. Louis
Sure, it’s an odd, out of the way choice, but it’s one many leagues are making as they expand their footprint. The ACC has played its tournament in Tampa and New York. The Big Ten Tournament just played its event at Madison Square Garden. The SEC Tournament will return to Nashville for the next three years, then head to Tampa in 2022 before going back to Nashville for 2023-25.
In a one-game setting, anybody can get hot. You better not let these guys get going:
Kassius Robertson, Missouri: Robertson, a grad transfer, finished second in the SEC with 98 3-pointers in the regular season. That’s notable. Clarence Gilbert set the Mizzou record with 118 in 2002. Gilbert (twice) and Kareem Rush were the only two Tigers to top 100 in a season. Mizzou needs Robertson to go well past that this week.
Bryce Brown, Auburn: Brown led the SEC with 100 3s made this season. The Tigers lean on the 3 more than most, and Brown has no filter. Others shoot it better, but nobody lets it fly with more frequency.
The tournament record for 3s is 14, which Travis Ford set in 1993 and two others equaled in 2004. Obviously, it helps to advance. Brown should have a shot to break it.
Just four times has a team seeded No. 6 or lower won the SEC Tournament.
No. 8 seed Auburn did it in 1985. Three No. 6 seeds have won: Georgia in 2008 and 1983 and Ole Miss in 1981.
Could this be the year? Arkansas is seeded No. 6. The recipe is there: Parity plus a lack of a dominant team certainly provides the opportunity.
Just once, when Kentucky won in 1988, has the SEC Tournament champion had its title vacated.
Because this season has been played under the backdrop of an FBI investigation, it’s fair to wonder what could happen if the team that wins the title is caught up in that mess.
W: Wednesday’s winners
For the sixth year, the bottom four teams play Wednesday. The two winners are not automatic outs in the second round Thursday.
Last year, chalk held, but there was at least one notable upset in the previous three tournaments.
In 2016, No. 12 seed Tennessee toppled No. 5 Vanderbilt in the second round.
In 2015, No. 11 South Carolina and No. 13 Auburn won their second-round game, and Auburn then took out No. 4 LSU to reach the semifinals — the only 11-14 seed to do so since the league adopted this format in 2012-13.
In 2014, No. 13 South Carolina upset No. 5 Arkansas in the second round.
You’ve been warned.
It’s Mizzou freshman Michael Porter, who has missed all but 2 minutes of what is expected to be his only season in college.
Will he play? He has been cleared to play and many thought he was going to play Saturday in Mizzou’s home finale.
The homestate Tigers certainly could use him.
Y: Yante Maten
Maten led the SEC in scoring (19.4) — the fourth consecutive season a senior has done so. In the process, he moved into second all-time on Georgia’s career scoring list. He won’t have enough games to catch all-time leader Litterial Green (2,111), who remains the only 2,000-point scorer in Bulldogs history.
Z: Zia’s Restaurant
It’s one of St. Louis’ most famous Italian spots. If it started with an another letter, would I have included it? Maybe, maybe not. But St. Louis is famous for toasted ravioli, and few do it better than Zia’s, which is in the heart of The Hill.
LISTEN: SDS Podcast on SEC Tournament