College Basketball Betting: SEC Tournament Preview
After playing at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis in 2019, the SEC Tournament returns to Nashville. Kentucky had its streak of four tournament titles snapped last season as fifth seed Auburn won four games in four days to take home the title. All 14 teams participate with two play-in games on Wednesday. The top four seeds don’t play until Friday.
Favorite – It was an odd season in the SEC, one where the top seed, Kentucky, ranks outside of KenPom’s top 25, and the second-best KP team, Florida (33rd), earned the fifth seed. The league beat up on each other pretty good. The Wildcats, who won the regular season by three games, and Auburn, are the only two comfortably in the NCAA Tournament. LSU, Florida, and Mississippi State can ill-afford a first round loss. And Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, and Arkansas are a few wins away from returning to the bubble. The Wildcats’ regular season title wasn’t fluky as they were visually and statistically the best team. They amazingly scored a point per possession or more in every SEC game but two and still managed to win both contests. The Ashton Hagans situation is a concern though it sounds as if he will play. Price-wise, however, you aren’t getting much value with Kentucky. And unlike last season, when UK was +0.15 ppp in league play, this year they were a much more modest +0.09. And if you’re going to bet less than 2-1 odds, you’d like to do so with a team that isn’t just good but also capable of being dominant. Kentucky hasn’t won a game by double-digits since a February 11 trip to last place Vanderbilt — and the Commodores led that game by as much as 14! So while it’s hard to like Florida’s flighty nature, Auburn’s late season slide, or LSU’s distaste for defense, the gap between those three (and others) and the Wildcats isn’t as pronounced as past seasons.
Darkhorse – South Carolina was a nightmare to handicap this season. The Gamecocks were statistically the best defense in the SEC but played at a breakneck pace, fouled a ton, and couldn’t shoot free throws. If you had the over, they’d shoot 54% from the line and you’d lose by three points and if you had the under, the other team was in the bonus by the second media timeout. They were also a team that in the span of two games beat Mississippi State by 12 and lost to Vanderbilt by nine. That said, there isn’t an SEC team out there that South Carolina can’t at least match from a size and athleticism standpoint and yet they have the ninth-lowest odds. When you see Florida at +350 and South Carolina at +3300 and both have to win the same amount of games AND the Gators are on Kentucky’s side of the bracket, ii becomes easy to see where the value lies.
What to Bet – The Texas A&M under train ran out of steam the back half of the season as the Aggies enter on a 5-3 O/U run. Part of it was an putrid offense that showed improvement and the other factor was the SEC is loaded with over-type teams — 11 of the 14 have currently trended over the total on the season. One of the few that didn’t was Missouri (13-18 O/U) and had it not been for a late foul fest, both meetings vs. A&M would have failed to crack 120 points. The better bet may be the over/under on how many times Buzz Williams and Cuonzo Martin hold up their hands and ask that the ball be walked up the floor. But with that prop not available, we’d look for the game to go under the total.
Odds to Win Tournament
Mississippi St +1000
South Carolina +3300
Texas A&M +6600
Ole Miss +10000
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