The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

By: JJ Lanier news services

When people bring up “March Madness” they’re generally talking about the NCAA Tournament; no groundbreaking news there.

However, with the way this season has played out, the “madness” part may begin a week earlier with the conference tournaments, especially in the SEC.

Over the past 8 seasons, the tournament has basically belonged to Kentucky. They’ve won five titles within that time frame (including the last three) and have made it to the finals in two of the three years they didn’t win it all.

Certainly, the Wildcats have as good a chance as anyone to extend their streak of conference titles to four; the main difference being there are six or seven other teams who have just as good a chance to win.

Currently, the eight teams that are ranked 3-11 are within two games of each other heading down the stretch. The four teams tied for third are only one game out of second. Basically, it’s about as evenly matched as it’s been in years.

Auburn has been the best and most complete team throughout the year. They lead the conference in scoring and have been tremendous on the road and in neutral site games. Their defense and focus has been a little suspect at times, but when they are engaged, they’re good enough to beat anyone.

Tennessee, with Rick Barnes and his desire to only coach teams with orange color jerseys, have struggled a little bit of late, but are arguably the best defensive team in the conference. If they can find some rhythm on the offensive end, they’ll be a tough out.

Arkansas is pretty much what you would expect; they’re going to score a lot of points and odds are, they’ll allow a lot of scoring, too. The question is can they work out their defensive issues between now and the tournament.

Missouri and Alabama are kind of in the same boat, in the sense that both teams have some really impressive wins- especially Alabama- but then they’ll both inexcusably lay an egg against a less talented team. As weird as it may sound, if I’m a fan of either team, I’d be more worried about their opening round game than anything.

When it comes to Florida it’s pretty simple; are they hitting their outside shots? If so, they are one of the better teams in the conference. When they’re not, they’re basically Ole Miss, but with a coach.

If the conference tournament were played in Starkville, I’d probably give Mississippi State the edge to win the whole damn thing; they’ve only lost once at home all season.

Unfortunately for Bulldog fans, the tournament isn’t even in the state of Mississippi and MSU has been down right abysmal away from home. Maybe someone will spray paint the Scottrade Center maroon and white?

Of course, this leads us to Kentucky. On one hand, you have to respect Calipari and his ability to get the most out of his teams come tournament time. On the other hand, I’m just not sure there’s enough talent on this team to run the table.

Combine all these things and the SEC tournament should be one of the more interesting and unpredictable conference tournaments.

For a league that has been dominated by one team in recent years, and plays second fiddle to their football programs, this type of excitement may just be what’s needed.

Then again, if it doesn’t have quite the drama I’m expecting, spring football is just a little more than a month away.