March 19, 2013
No. 1 Seed Florida (24-6)
KEY STARTERS: G Kenny Boynton (12.5 points per game, 3.2 rebounds per game), G Mike Rosario (12.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg), F Erik Murphy (12.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg).
OUTLOOK: Nicked up in February, UF lost four road games. Still, it remains the nation’s No. 2 team in defensive efficiency and ranks in the top three of 14 SEC statistical categories. All healed up and loaded with seniors, the Gators are the favorites.
No. 2 Kentucky (21-10)
KEY STARTERS: G Archie Goodwin (14.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg), F Alex Poythress (11.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg), F Willie Cauley-Stein (8.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg).
OUTLOOK: The ’Cats’ fortunes were dented when Nerlens Noel was lost to a torn ACL. Without him, UK went 4-3 down the stretch, but hopes to sneak into the NCAA tournament.
No. 3 OLE MISS (23-8)
KEY STARTERS: G Marshall Henderson (19.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg), F Murphy Holloway (14.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg), F Reginald Buckner (9.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg).
OUTLOOK: After a 6-0 SEC start, the Rebels lost six of 10. Ole Miss, which needs a deep run to make the NCAA tournament, has three fifth-year seniors are the core. Yet injuries have left the front court shallow.
No. 4 Alabama (20-11)
KEY STARTERS: G Trevor Releford (15.6 ppg), G Trevor Lacey (11.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg), G Rodney Cooper (10.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg).
OUTLOOK: The Tide rely on stingy defense, ranking second in the league in efficiency, turnover percentage and steal percentage. Bama is pedestrian on offense, averaging 63.7 points and shooting 40.9 percent.
No. 5 Tennessee (19-11)
KEY STARTERS: F Jarnell Stokes (12.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg), G Jordan McCrae (16.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg), G Trae Golden (12.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg).
OUTLOOK: Slumping to a 3-6 SEC start, the Vols have won eight of nine to arrive on the NCAA tournament bubble. Stokes, with 14 double-doubles, anchors the post. McCrae is eighth in the SEC with a 43.6 percent field-goal percentage.
No. 6 Missouri (22-9)
KEY STARTERS: F Laurence Bowers (14.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg), G Phil Pressey (11.9 ppg, 7.1 assists per game), G Jabari Brown (14.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg).
OUTLOOK: Aside from Arkansas, no one is worse on the road than Missouri, which went 2-8 in true road games. The Tigers are second in offensive efficiency in the league and second in scoring margin. The question is whether Mizzou can defend adequately on a neutral floor.
No. 7 Arkansas (19-12)
KEY STARTERS: G B.J. Young (15.1 ppg, 3.5 ppg), F Marshawn Powell (14.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg), F Coty Clark (7.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg).
OUTLOOK: The Hogs have a split personality. At home, they are 18-1 and win by 16.7 points per game. Away, they are 1-11 on road or neutral floors and lose by 12.7 points. The Hogs’ brand of pressure is hard to apply when the whistles and venue are against them.
No. 8 georgia (15-16)
KEY STARTERS: G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (18.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg), F Nemanja Djurisic (8.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg), F Donté Williams (5.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg).
OUTLOOK: A five-game winning streak in February helped overcome an 0-3 start. No team relies on its star more than Georgia does on Caldwell-Pope, who won SEC player of the year honors.
No. 9 LSU (18-11)
KEY STARTERS: F Johnny O’Bryant (13.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg), G Anthony Hickey (11.8 ppg, 3.8 apg), G Charles Carmouche (10.8, 4.1 rpg).
OUTLOOK: Starting 0-4 in the SEC, LSU rallied to finish 9-9. The offense flows through O’Bryant (14 double-doubles), who can kick out to shooters in Hickey and Carmouche. LSU is average offensively but hangs around by forcing turnovers and being the best in the SEC at defending the 3-point line.
No. 10 Vanderbilt (14-16)
KEY STARTERS: G Kedren Johnson (13.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg), F Rod Odom (10.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg), G Kyle Fuller (8.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg).
OUTLOOK: Vanderbilt’s roster took heavy losses, losing its top four scorers from last season. Yet the ’Dores rallied with a 6-3 close to SEC play.
No. 11 Texas A&M (18-14)
KEY STARTERS: G Elston Turner (17.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg), F Ray Turner (9.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg).
OUTLOOK: The Aggies closed by losing four of five. Worse, Elston Turner is saddled with a broken finger. If he can’t go full-tilt, roughly 25 percent of Texas A&M’s scoring is affected.
No. 12 South carolina (14-17)
KEY STARTERS: G Brenton Williams (11.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg), F Michael Carrera (10.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg).
OUTLOOK: Coach Frank Martin’s debut has been bruising. Carolina ranks No. 12 or worse in scoring, scoring margin, field-goal percentage and field-goal defense. In time, South Carolina will match Martin’s persona. Not right now.
No. 13 mISSISSIPPI sT. (10-21)
KEY STARTERS: G Jalen Steele (10.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg), F Gavin Ware (8.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
OUTLOOK: After it played the bulk of the season with six scholarship players, not finishing last is a testament to State’s fortitude.e_SClBNo. 14 Auburn (9-22)
KEY STARTERS: G Frankie Sullivan (14.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg), G Chris Denson (11.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg), F Rob Chubb (9.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg).
OUTLOOK: Optimism abounded on the Plains after the Tigers started SEC play 2-0. The Tigers then lost 12 of their next 13, and coach Tony Barbee is fielding questions about his job security. Sullivan is a proven scorer and Chubb is experienced.