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VICTORY THREAD! Day 3 SEC Tournament preview and open thread

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So much for that Mizzou home court advantage.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Auburn vs Alabama Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll have a recap along in a bit, but Collin Sexton was unconscious again, refusing to let the Tide’s season die — 30 points as of this writing. Coupled with a better effort on the glass, the Tide went from a 10-point halftime deficit to as many as a 20-point lead in the second.

Has Alabama done enough now? Almost certainly.

And we couldn’t have done it without you, Auburn...Sing along, Barners. You know the lyrics by now.

  • The fates seemingly aligned for Mizzou to have a deep post season run. First, the SEC went out of its way to get newest league member Mizzou engaged in its historically best sport, going so far as scheduling this year’s SEC Tournament a cozy two hours away from Columbia in the bizarre St. Louis venue. Then, like Michael Jordan playing with the flu or an injured Walt Frazier dazzling for the Knicks, came news that Michael Porter Jr. would make his first appearance since the first two minutes of the season, where he was injured.

Scott Trade Center was packed yesterday with Mizzou fans, students, and locals eager for the Tigers’ coronation. What we instead saw was what too many people in this league have experienced: an anticlimactic bullying and defensive snuffing at the hands of Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs. Every knock on the Tigers generally and Porter specifically were born out: When the refs keep the whistles in their pockets, they looked soft and settled far too often for jumpers, despite having tremendous size. If any team leaves St. Louis worried about a March run, it should be Truman’s Tigers. In the NCAA tournament, where fouls are called less often, where defensive teams thrive, Mizzou looked like it can be had for an early exit. And this is subject to a hugh caveat: That is true only if MPJ isn’t up to snuff — with Porter in the lineup, Mizzou outplayed UGA +10; with him on the bench, they were -12. The postseason really will hinge on his availability and conditioning.

It was supposed to be the marquee matchup, the matchup the league wanted when Mizzou joined the SEC. Instead, we get UGA and Kentucky. The Wildcats are 4-1 down the stretch, and seem to have finally turned the corner. The stats predict a BBN whoopin’ of the ‘Dawgs, 76-62. Kentucky won the only meeting of the season, and should win this one as well. Keep an eye on the neutral court play: UK is just 1-2 on neutral floors, while UGA has posted a 3-1 record in 2018. This game tips 25 minutes following Alabama-Auburn on ESPN / WatchESPN (~2:30 CST).

  • It’s another interesting matchup for the surging Mississippi State Bulldogs, who took LSU to the woodshed for most of the game yesterday. Today’s opponent is league runner-up Tennessee. No real stars for either squad, but both are well-coached by veterans and both teams have maximized their lineups. The two met two weeks ago in Starkville, as the Vols smacked around Bully by 22 on their home floor. Then again, LSU did the same thing and how did that turn out? This one is projected to be a close game, 70-67 Vols in a contest between two teams that have played well on neutral floors (4-1 combined). That final seems reasonable, though Rick Barnes’ post season record would leave me a bit worried if I were a Tennessee fan, especially with a hungry State team trying its best to make the field of 68. 6:00 CST SEC Network / WatchESPN
  • The last game of a packed day sees two up-and-down teams square off when the Arkansas Razorbacks play the Florida Gators. Following a devastating midseason funk, UF has finally regained its footing and is playing really well down the stretch — then again, so are the Hogs, who went 7-2 on the back nine. Both of these squads are Tournament locks, and both have faced tough neutral court opponents, where they have combined to go 8-3. Florida punked Arkansas by 15 in the O-Dome earlier this year. You have to think this one will be a little closer in Round Two, and the data gods have prophesied a 78-74 Gator win. 25 minutes after Tennessee-Mississippi State (~ 8:30 CST) SEC Network/ WatchESPN . It will be interesting to see who the crowd breaks for: Mizzou fans are never cheering for Arkansas. And, you can’t expect the large Kentucky contingent to cheer for Florida either.