Now that those unsightly Wednesday night games are out of the way, the real SEC Tournament begins Thursday in St. Louis. And by Friday’s quarterfinals, nearly every team left standing should be NCAA Tournament-worthy.
We’re expecting the best and most interesting battle royale this league has seen in years — and we’ve taken the liberty of predicting every outcome from here on out. You should still watch the games, because they’ll be exciting, but spoiler alert: This is exactly how things will go.
- No. 8 Texas A&M (20-11) vs. No. 9 Alabama (17-14), 1 p.m. ET, SEC Network: Less than a month ago, the Crimson Tide looked like a lock to make the NCAA Tournament — having beaten Auburn, Oklahoma, Florida and Tennessee in the span of three weeks — and then Avery Johnson’s team lost five straight to end the regular season. The Aggies, who started their SEC schedule 0-5, won three in a row and seven of 10 heading into this week. Their last game? A win over Alabama. Winner: Texas A&M
- No. 12 Georgia (17-14) vs. No. 5 Missouri (20-11), 3:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network: That the Tigers likely already have punched their NCAA Tournament ticket without 5-star freshman Michael Porter Jr. — winning seven of 10 games to end the regular season, including at Alabama and home against Kentucky, Texas A&M and Arkansas — is a credit to coach Cuonzo Martin. And now Porter, a projected NBA lottery pick, is set to play for the first time since the season opener. Winner: Missouri
- No. 10 LSU (17-13) vs. No. 7 Mississippi State (21-10), 7 p.m. ET, SEC Network: The Tigers and Bulldogs have opposite problems. LSU has seven KenPom top-50 wins — beat Big Ten tournament champion Michigan, knocked off Houston, swept Texas A&M and Arkansas — but way too many losses. Mississippi State has a pile of mostly underwhelming wins (just two vs. the top 50) and a nonconference strength of schedule that ranks 345th out of 351 teams. Winner: LSU
- No. 11 South Carolina (17-15) vs. No. 6 Arkansas (21-10), 9:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network: Short of winning it all this week, Frank Martin and the Gamecocks will be NIT-bound after a stunning Final Four run last season. But the Gamecocks have won four of six games and own wins over Auburn, Kentucky and Florida (on the road) this season. They got trounced in Fayetteville on Feb. 6, however, and the Razorbacks have won six of eight games, including Texas A&M, at Alabama and Auburn. Arkansas started 2-4 in SEC play and went 8-4 to finish. Winner: Arkansas
- Texas A&M vs. No. 1 Auburn (25-6), 1 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN: It’s incredible what Bruce Pearl and Co. did to win a share of the conference title, playing all year without two ineligible stars and losing the SEC’s leading shot blocker to injury late in the season, but at some point the lack of depth and size has to catch up to Auburn. We predict it happens here, against a super-talented, super-sized squad of Aggies who beat the Tigers on the road back in February. Winner: Texas A&M
- Missouri vs. No. 4 Kentucky (21-10), 3:30 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN: Finally, assuming our Thursday prediction is right, we’ll get to see Michael Porter Jr. against the Wildcats’ collection of 5-stars. Him vs. SEC co-Freshman of the Year Kevin Knox — the two versatile 6-foot-9 forwards once took a recruiting visit to Mizzou together — would be must-see TV. These teams split two previous Porter-less meetings, but UK smashed the Tigers two weeks ago and one rusty star returning doesn’t feel like enough to bridge that gap. Winner: Kentucky
- LSU vs. No. 2 Tennessee (23-7), 7 p.m. ET Friday, SEC Network: While the Tigers have several impressive wins this season, they got hammered by the top two teams in the SEC: Auburn and Tennessee beat them by a combined 48 points. The Vols are playing great basketball down the stretch, winning 10 of 12 to close the regular season and four straight heading into the tournament. Led by SEC Coach of the Year Rick Barnes and Player of the Year Grant Williams, UT has exceeded all preseason expectations and looks like a team ready to make a postseason run. Winner: Tennessee.
- Arkansas vs. No. 3 Florida (20-11), 9:30 p.m. ET Friday, SEC Network: Remember when the Gators looked like a national title contender in November, when they had won a double-overtime thriller over Gonzaga and led Duke late? Then they blew that lead against the Blue Devils and punctuated a three-game losing streak with a home upset against Loyola-Chicago? And then started 6-1 in SEC play by winning at Texas A&M and Kentucky and routing the Razorbacks? And then lost three straight and five of seven games to put themselves on the NCAA bubble? And then won three in a row — Auburn, at Alabama, Kentucky — to close the regular season? Weird team. Talented team. Winner: Florida
- Kentucky over Texas A&M (1 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN)
- Tennessee over Florida (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN)
- Tennessee over Kentucky (1 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN)