NCAA Conference Tournament Preview: SEC

Place: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville

Format: 14 teams, top four teams start in the quarterfinals, bottom four teams play in first round

Top Seed: Kentucky Wildcats – Here we are again. For the third straight season, the Wildcats are the top seed in the SEC and have had another excellent season. The team has won eight straight games, including avenging their last loss against Florida. Freshmen guards Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox lead the team. Monk is the standout scorer who scored 60 points in wins over Vanderbilt and the Gators before being held to six points in the win over Texas A&M on Saturday. Bam Adebayo leads the legions of forwards with 13.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks. Coach John Calipari’s team has defended the top seed in the past two seasons by taking the SEC tournament championship as well.

Dark Horse: Vanderbilt Commodores – Other than the loss to Kentucky on Feb. 28, the Commodores have had a run of impressive games. The team has won five of six, and defeated Texas A&M (who they will face again on Thursday), South Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida in the run. Center Luke Kornet has not quite broken out like many people expected, but he has finished the season on an upswing with 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks in his last four games. The team has balanced scoring with guard Matthew Fisher-Davis, forward Jeff Robertson, and point guard Riley LaChance all providing more than 10 points. If the Vandy can beat the Aggies, they will face Florida in the quarterfinals. They swept the Gators in the regular season with both wins coming by two points.

Player to Watch: J.J. Frazier, guard, Georgia Bulldogs – Center Yante Maten is not expected to play in the SEC tournament due to a knee injury. He has missed the last five games and Frazier has taken over in the meanwhile. The 5-10 senior has averaged 29.6 points in those five games and helped the Bulldogs to win three times. Frazier has been attacking the basket relentlessly and has attempted 57 free throws (converting 87.7 percent). Georgia faces Tennessee in the first round, which is a favorable matchup in terms of momentum. The Vols lost three of their last four games to close the season and were beaten by the Bulldogs on Feb. 11 by one point. Georgia would face Kentucky if they can advance to the quarterfinals. Frazier scored a season-high 36 points in the Feb. 18 loss to the Wildcats.

Click here for Perry’s full breakdown of ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, SEC & Pac-12 conference tournaments.