SEC Tournament Preview

Final Standings:

All-Conference Teams:

Best Calls: I officially nailed the top-5 finishers in the league in some order.  Vandy's outlook was looking bleak about midway through the year, but the 'Dores bounced back down the stretch for a quiet 4th place finish.  I was also bullish on the Gamecocks coming in to the year, but apparently not bullish enough.  Frank Martin led a deep and experienced group into the top-25 in early February, but dropped 4 of their last 7 SEC games to finish at 11-7 overall in the conference.  At the bottom of the standings, I credit my anti-bias of Mizzou basketball for that last place prediction.  The Tigers shocked the world when they rattled off two straight home wins against Tennessee and nationally ranked South Carolina, but still finished their 2016 campaign with only 3 conference wins.

Worst Calls:  While there were no glaring misses, I was irrationally bearish on both Arkansas and Alabama.  In hindsight, both had enough continuity on their returning rosters to prevent them from finishing 2nd and 3rd to last respectively.  The Razorbacks emerged as one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, led by the marksmanship of Anthlon Bell and Dusty Hannahs, who each shot 45% from long range. However, it was the leap of big-man Moses Kingsley in his sophomore year that probably had the biggest impact on Arkansas's offensive efficiency this year.  He immediately assumed the go-to role for Mike Anderson, which were big shoes to fill after the departure of Michael Qualls and Bobby Portis to the NBA.  For the Crimson Tide, Avery Johnson made a clear impact on the defensive end in his first year at the helm.  However, he had no one on the roster capable of replacing the playmaking Levi Randolph provided, as Bama fell from a top-50 offense in 2015, to the 171st ranked offense this year.



Who I want to win: After going back and forth for much of the year with my love/hate for Vandy, it'd be nice to see them finally put their ridiculous talent and skill together and realize the potential we all saw back in the Maui Invitational against Kansas.  The lack of leadership on this team became extremely noticeable during their struggles mid-year, with Damian Jones seeming to have his own agenda of leading the conference in posterizations, as opposed to focusing on playing basketball and winning basketball games.  Wade Baldwin was the only consistent performer for the 'Dores over the course of the year, as Riley LaChance went ice-cold from three and Matthew Fisher-Davis's effort was about as predictable weather in the Midwest.

Who I think will win: Over the final month of the year, it became clear that Kentucky is trending back to the top-10 team we all thought they were way back in November.  They now have an established pecking order on offense, with Jamal Murray assuming the lead scoring role, while Tyler Ulis continues to be precise in getting others involved at the appropriate time.  Until about a week ago, it appeared Calipari had de-prioritized trying develop Skal all-together, and shifted focused toward finding the right fit with Lee, Poythress and Derek Willis (when healthy) for his frontline.  That all may be changing now, after Skal resurrected himself with a dominating performance against LSU on the last game of the year, and with Willis continuing to fight the injury bug.  If both can return to their full form over the course of the weekend, the Cats may quickly remind folks why they were many expert's preseason favorite to win it all.

Chance to make a run: While Ole Miss's draw is less than ideal, I think Stefan Moody is the one player in this conference capable of putting his team on his shoulders with consecutive scoring outbursts.  The Rebels have dealt with injuries for much of the year, but had a sneaky good finish in SEC play to finish 10-8 in the conference.  If Moody can go into one of his flamethrower modes, and can get some scoring support from Martavious Newby and Sebastian Saiz, the Rebels may scare Kentucky in round 2.