Where and when: Wednesday through Sunday, March 13-17, Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn.
Last year: Kentucky rolled through the regular conference season undefeated, while every other team had at least six losses. But in the tourney final it was the Commodores of Vanderbilt who cut down the nets, beating Kentucky 71-64, and forever reinforcing the ridiculous narrative that it's good to lose before the NCAA Tournament.
This year: Once again every team but one had at least six conference losses, only the team on top this time was Florida, and they weren't nearly as dominant as last year's Kentucky team, going 14-4.
The favorite: The Gators are rated by Pomeroy as the No. 1 team in the nation, which has caused considerable argument in the blogosphere. But who really cares about the blogosphere or whether or not they are ranked No. 1 or No. 5 or No. 11? (oh, lots of people care? Nevermind). Regardless, they're the best team in the SEC and it isn't really close.
In back-to-back games in November they beat Marquette and Florida State by a combined score of 154-96. They never lost at home. Tennessee is the only SEC they didn't beat.
They are dominant on both offense and defense, with the No. 5 offense in the nation and the No. 2 defense. Offensively they attempt over 40% of their shots from beyond the arc, which is the 31st most in the nation, and they make 38.2% which is 22nd. Strangely, the guy who takes the most (Kenny Boynton) only makes 33% of his attempts. Erick Murphy (47%) and Michael Frazier (48%) need more open looks.
Speaking of Erik Murphy, he also makes 61% of his 2s and 83% of his FTs. His eFG% is 8th in the nation.
Defensively, the Gators are 5th in 2-pt% and 10th in 3-pt%. They're also solid at forcing turnovers (41st) and on the defensive glass (58th). In other words, they are very hard to score against and they also limit your possessions. Good luck with that.
The contender: Yes, it's possible for the 6th seed to have good odds at reaching the finals. Missouri has never quite got it rolling this year, but they've been solid since the beginning. Like all Frank Haith teams they are defensively challenged, but this squad can score. They get far too many 3-pt attempts from questionable shooters, but they crash the boards like mad (8th in the nation) and capitalize on 2nd chance attempts. Alex Oriakhi, Tony Criswell and Laurence Bowers are all excellent offensive rebounders.
PG Phil Pressey, who was expected to contend for several individual post-season honors, has had a very inconsistent year. Against pressure, he's struggled, as evidenced by his 8 turnovers vs Louisville, and 10 vs Florida. He did have 19 assists vs UCLA (in a loss) and he's had four double-doubles this season. If he takes care of the ball, the Tigers could very well advance through their bracket.
The dark horse: Tennessee had several chances for quality out of conference wins, but lost to Oklahoma State, Georgetown (in a 37-36 derp fest), Virginia and Memphis. They did beat Wichita State and Xavier. In conference they began 3-6, but then got it rolling. They won six straight and eight of their last nine and are one of the hottest teams entering the SECT.
Like Missouri, they are excellent at crashing the glass, and they also live at the line. They score 24% of their points from free throws, which is more than all but 19 teams in the nation. Jarnell Stokes, in particular, gets there a ton, though he only makes 56%. He's made 10 or more trips to the line in six different games. Sometimes he was successful (8-10 vs Georgia) and sometimes he wasn't (1-10 vs Auburn).