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Vasha Hunt/Associated Press
Alabama has already won its first SEC regular-season championship since 2002. Now, can the Crimson Tide win the conference tournament for the first time since 1991?
After an impressive regular season, Alabama will look to keep rolling in the SEC tournament, which gets underway Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. But the conference’s 13 other teams will also be looking to win the tourney title and secure an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
Last season, Kentucky was the SEC regular-season champion, but the tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The last team to win the conference tourney was Auburn, which was victorious in 2019.
Here’s everything else you need to know heading into this year’s SEC tournament.
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Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
Wednesday, March 10
Game 1: No. 12 Texas A&M vs. No. 13 Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Thursday, March 11
Game 2: No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Mississippi State, noon ET, SEC Network
Game 3: No. 5 Florida vs. Game 1 winner, 2 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Game 4: No. 7 Missouri vs. No. 10 Georgia, 7 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Game 5: No. 6 Ole Miss vs. No. 11 South Carolina, 9 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Friday, March 12
Game 6: No. 1 Alabama vs. Winner of Game 2, noon ET, ESPN
Game 7: No. 4 Tennessee vs. Winner of Game 3, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 8: No. 2 Arkansas vs. Winner of Game 4, 7 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Game 9: No. 3 LSU vs. Winner of Game 5, 9:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Saturday, March 13
Game 10: Winner of Game 6 vs. Winner of Game 7, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 11: Winner of Game 8 vs. Winner of Game 9, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Sunday, March 14
Game 12: Winner of Game 10 vs. Winner of Game 11, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
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Vasha Hunt/Associated Press
Not only did Alabama win the SEC regular-season championship, but it did so in dominating fashion. The Crimson Tide went 16-2 in conference play, with their only losses coming against Missouri on Feb. 6 and Arkansas on Feb. 24. It ties the most conference wins that Alabama has had in a season, as it also went 16-2 against SEC competition in 1986-87.
As the No. 1 seed, Alabama won’t return to action until Friday, when it will play in the quarterfinals. The Crimson Tide won six of their final seven regular-season contests, so they’ll look to keep their momentum going despite a short layoff between games.
Alabama’s lone loss during that final stretch came against Arkansas, which could be its toughest competition in the SEC tournament. If the two teams meet again, it will be in the championship game. And considering they’re the only two ranked teams in the conference, there’s a solid chance that will happen.
Among the keys to the Crimson Tide’s success have been rebounding (an SEC-best 40.3 boards per game) and strong 3-point shooting (a conference-best 35.5 shooting percentage from behind the arc). If they get hot from long range, they can be difficult to beat. And that could lead them to their first conference tournament title in 30 years.
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Michael Woods/Associated Press
No team in the SEC ended the regular season on a better run than Arkansas. The Razorbacks haven’t lost since falling at Oklahoma State on Jan. 30, winning their last eight games. And they haven’t lost to an SEC team since losing at Alabama on Jan. 16, a loss it later avenged with a win on Feb. 24.
Can Arkansas keep it going and win its first SEC tournament championship since 2000? It’s possible. The No. 2-seeded Razorbacks have scored 83.3 points per game, the most in the conference, and guard Moses Moody has had an impressive freshman campaign, leading the team with 17.5 points per game.
Arkansas’ largest obstacle to reaching the tournament championship game could be No. 3-seeded LSU. The two teams split their regular-season series, and the Tigers have won five of their past seven games. Get past them, and there’s a strong chance the Razorbacks would have to face Alabama in the final game of the tourney.
But Arkansas is hot, and it could potentially pick up right where it left off when it plays in the quarterfinals on Friday. The Razorbacks may just put up big point totals and power their way to a tournament title.
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James Crisp/Associated Press
During the John Calipari era, Kentucky has mostly dominated the SEC. Since Calipari became the Wildcats’ head coach prior to the 2009-10 season, they’ve won the conference tournament six times, including every year from 2015-18. Kentucky was also the SEC regular-season champion in 2019-20 and could have been on its way to another tourney title, had it not been canceled.
But the Wildcats have not been as strong as usual this season. They’re 9-15 and went 8-9 in conference play, which has them as the No. 8 seed in the SEC tournament. They’ll open the tourney by facing No. 9-seeded Mississippi State in the second round on Thursday.
Kentucky beat Mississippi State 78-73 in double overtime on Jan. 2, and it’s possible the Wildcats will beat the Bulldogs again. But if they’re going to turn their year around, they’ll have to beat some conference rivals who they struggled against during the regular season.
While it’s possible Kentucky gets hot and plays more like past Calipari-led teams in the tournament, it probably isn’t the likeliest scenario. The Wildcats rank 11th in the SEC in points per game (70.3) and 13th in field-goal percentage (41.7). It may be too late for an offensive turnaround now.