2024 SEC Tournament: What Can We Expect?

Photo Credit: Associated Press

By Tucker Harlin

KNOXVILLE, Tenn- When the calendar turns to March, the excitement is palpable. 

Spring break trips and warmer weather immediately make March a popular month.

To college basketball fans, joy and angst are common emotions as they lay their hands on brackets. 

Of course, the precursors to the NCAA tournament are the conference tournament brackets. 

Few if any conference tournaments promise more drama than the SEC tournament this year.

So, what can we expect to see in Nashville this week? Who needs to go on a big run? Who is capable of going on a run? Will anything that happens in Nashville carry weight on Selection Sunday?

SEC fans are yearning for the answers to all of these questions ahead of the big dance. 

This is a look at the prime contenders and their capabilities in Nashville this week.


Tennessee’s 66-59 win at South Carolina Wednesday gave the Vols their first outright SEC title since 2008. 

To secure the title, the Vols ran a gauntlet against current No. 12 Auburn and road tests at No. 19 Alabama and No. 15 South Carolina. 

The Vols were expected to wreak havoc on the defensive end this season, but there were questions about where the offense would come from.

Enter Dalton Knecht. The Northern Colorado transfer has given the Vols a much needed offensive punch, averaging over 21 points per game and now a heavy favorite for SEC Player of the Year.

In addition to their No. 1 seed in the SEC tournament, the Vols have put themselves in the conversation for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament but are not yet a lock.

So what do the Vols have to do to earn the last No.1 seed?

Vol fans recall being told by the national media in 2022 their SEC tournament title did not push them up to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, despite head to head victories over two SEC teams that were No. 2 seeds in that tournament.

Does the result matter when you are chasing the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament?

It does, to a point. The Vols falling flat on their faces Friday would be less than ideal, but maybe winning the SEC tournament is not everything.


Kentucky was picked as the second best team in the SEC preseason, and for good reason.

John Calipari went back to an old formula of bringing in six or seven freshmen with NBA talent to pair with the stout offense of Antonio Reeves.

The result is one of the scariest back courts Wildcat fans have seen in Calipari’s tenure as Reeves and freshmen Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard all shoot over 40% from distance.

With such fluidity on offense, the Wildcats are capable of scoring 100 points on a nightly basis.

The caveat here is while they can score 100, the Wildcats can surrender 100 just as easily. It’s why the Wildcats can blast Alabama one night and turn around and lose to LSU the next.

The element of volatility is one that makes the Wildcats formidable, but it also spells championship or bust for Big Blue Nation.


With several key departures from last year’s squad and a murderer’s row of non conference opponents in December, a rebuild was in place at Alabama.

But Nate Oats’ bunch flipped a switch in SEC play.

The Crimson Tide is still potent with its ball movement and three-point shooting, and Mark Sears is one of the best point guards in the league.

The question for the Tide is how it will perform in a venue not named Coleman Coliseum.

The losses the Tide suffered on the road in SEC play are all in the neighborhood of 20 point defeats.

In fairness, all of those losses were against teams that will be in the NCAA tournament. But the losses at Tennessee and Florida exposed the weakness of the Crimson Tide when an opponent takes away the three-point shot.

Few have been able to shut down the Tide’s three-point attack, and chances are it will be tough for anyone to do so in Nashville. But the Tide has to stay hot from distance if it wants to succeed this week.


Bruce Pearl has become a model of consistency in his decade on the plains.

Auburn boasts the toughest home environment in the SEC in Neville Arena, the best big man in the league in Johni Broome, and the winningest player in program history in Jaylin Williams.

But the Tigers back court has not produced consistently, something that was instrumental in the Final Four run back in 2019.

Speaking of 2019, the Tigers have not won a game in the SEC tournament since their victory over Tennessee in the championship that season.

The Tigers did not appear in 2020 and 2021 as the tournament was canceled in 2020 and they were serving a self-imposed postseason ban in 2021. 

The Tigers held the No.1 seed in Tampa two years ago but flopped against a hot Texas A&M team on Friday. The Tigers were the No. 7 seed in Nashville last year but fell to Arkansas on Thursday.

This year, the Tigers are not in a position in which they need to go on a run to reach the NCAA tournament, but losing early as a top four seed would not sit well with the Auburn faithful.


No coach felt more disrespected by the SEC’s preseason media poll than Lamont Paris, which picked his South Carolina team to finish dead last in the league.

Instead of rolling over and dying, the Gamecocks have become the team in the SEC everyone else dreads playing.

The defense is one of the stingiest in a league full of great offensive teams. The Gamecocks’ offensive pace is a languid one; they take their time in setting up good three-point shots or pounding it inside to Collin Murray-Boyles.

The key to getting a win over the Gamecocks is to find a way to dictate tempo and speed them up. The Gamecocks’ wins over Florida and Mississippi State are the only SEC games in which they have broken the threshold of 80.

However, this is much easier said than done.

Auburn’s 101 on the plains and Mississippi State’s 89 in Starkville are the only times an SEC opponent has broken 80 on the Gamecocks.


The second year of the Todd Golden era in Gainesville has brought tremendous growth to Florida.

The Gators showcase a four-man rotation of potent big men to go with a group of guards that can get hot any night.

Kentucky’s narrow escape on the first day of SEC play was the only time a visiting team left Exactech Arena with a win. The Gators later avenged the loss with an overtime win in Rupp Arena and racked up dominant home wins against Alabama and Auburn.

The Gators have played some of their best basketball in the last month of the season.

However, the Gators ended the season on a puzzling note with a loss at Vanderbilt in the final 15 seconds. 

Before Saturday’s loss, many considered the Gators the team nobody wanted to face in Nashville because of the run they had been on. But a run hinges on how the Gators respond to Saturday’s deflating loss.


Outside of the top six seeds, the SEC does not have any teams in its bottom half that jump off the page in their ability to go on a run

The only other SEC team in the NCAA tournament field is Mississippi State. Josh Hubbard has been a nice addition for scoring, but consistent offense is still a work in progress for the Bulldogs.

Texas A&M began the year ranked No.15 in the country, but a rough patch in the back end of February put the Aggies out of the conversation for a second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.

Ole Miss went undefeated in a relatively friendly non conference schedule. The Rebels were able to stay afloat to start SEC play but have only won twice since the start of February, basically setting up a championship or bust situation.

LSU has improved steadily in Matt McMahon’s second season in Baton Rouge. The Tigers are definitely a team that can ruin somebody else’s week, but a conference title run feels like a lofty expectation.