Takes from Each Game on Friday of the SEC Tournament

Photo credit: Christopher Hanewinckel- USA Today Sports

By Tucker Harlin

NASHVILLE, Tenn– The first 48 hours of the SEC tournament were filled with intense battles but featured no true surprises.

All of that changed Friday.

Mississippi State, Auburn, Texas A&M, and Florida were victorious in Bridgestone Arena. Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama, the top three seeds in the tournament, both saw their time in Nashville conclude after just one game.

In addition to upsets, blowouts prevailed Friday as all four games ended with the victors scoring double digit wins.

These are observations, predictions, and questions from Friday of the SEC tournament.


No. 1 seed Tennessee came into Nashville off a close loss in its regular season finale to No. 2 Kentucky at home.

The Vols had an opportunity to avenge a loss early in the season to Mississippi State and achieve a rare feat of winning against every team in the SEC in a single season. 

But instead of exacting revenge, the Vols managed to play far worse than they did in the Hump in early January.

It was a miserable start on offense for the Vols. At one point, the Vols had a scoring drought that lasted over five minutes and saw them turn the ball over six times.

When the Vols started to convert on offense, their defense gave out in the paint. A combined effort from Tolu Smith, DJ Jeffries, Cameron Matthews, and Jimmy Bell Jr put the Vols in a 20-point deficit in the paint in the first half.

The issues spilled into the second half, and the Vols fell 73-56 to the Bulldogs.

The loss eliminated the Vols from any conversation about a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. But the bigger concern among Vol fans is if their team can snap out of the funk in the big dance.

As the Vols demonstrated last season, short weeks in the SEC tournament are not indicative of NCAA tournament collapses. But a matchup against another big, physical opponent next week would be the Vols’ worst nightmare. 


On the note of horrible matchups, there has not been a worse matchup between two SEC teams all season than Auburn and South Carolina.

The Gamecocks were flying high until they arrived in Neville Arena on Valentine’s Day. The Tigers hung 101 and dealt the Gamecocks a 40-point beatdown that night on the plains.

Friday’s game was better, but not significantly. 

A strong effort by the Tigers in the final 10 minutes of the first half put them ahead by 20. The Tigers cruised on that momentum to an 86-55 trouncing of the Gamecocks.

Though the margin of defeat was dreadful, the Tigers have been the only team able to play at an optimal tempo against the Gamecocks all season.

With that in mind, the slow, defense heavy style of the Gamecocks will behoove them next week and make them a dreadful matchup for any opponent.


Thursday’s win over Ole Miss was a step in the right direction for Texas A&M’s chances at a shot in the NCAA tournament. 

But Friday’s victory over No. 2 seed Kentucky may have secured a spot on the dance floor.

The capricious nature of the Wildcats has kept them stuck in more close games than Big Blue Nation would like, and two of those have come against the Aggies.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect was the success the Aggies had at the three-point line. With a reputation as one of the worst teams from distance in the SEC, the Aggies cashed in 11 times in a game in which they seldom trailed.

The win makes it abundantly clear that Buzz Williams saves his best for the SEC tournament, regardless of what happens in the regular season.

So where do the Aggies stand in terms of an NCAA tournament bid?

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Aggies in his last four teams in with their win Friday. The Aggies received additional help with both Providence, Pittsburgh, and Virginia taking hits in their respective conference tournaments


The first five seasons of the Nate Oats era at Alabama have been among the best by a basketball coach in Tuscaloosa in several decades.

Blue collar basketball and freakish offensive efficiency have turned the Crimson Tide into a stressful matchup for opponents across the league.

But Friday’s loss to Florida once again exposed a serious flaw with the Tide’s offense.

Just a week before their meeting in Nashville, the Gators trounced all over the Tide in a 105-87 victory in Gainesville.

Fast forward to Friday. A dominant first half by the Gators put the Tide in a deep hole for the remainder of the 102-88 loss.

The common theme from each game? The Gators took away the three point shot.

The Tide finished each of their last two games against the Gators shooting just 21.7% and 24% from distance.

It hasn’t just been the Gators that have been able to take away the three-point shot. 

Tennessee held the Tide to an abysmal 19% in Knoxville. Later, the Vols went into Tuscaloosa and forced the Tide to take 40 attempts, converting on just 12.

Everything came crashing down on the Tide in the NCAA tournament last season because it went 11% from distance against a stingy San Diego State defense.

Make no mistake, the Crimson Tide is still able to get hot against any team any night. But the three-point line could very well be the Achilles heel in the next two weeks.