Start your morning off right with a quick recap of last night’s games and a preview of today’s full slate of tournament basketball:
If reports about LSU head coach Johnny Jones are true, then Wednesday night he coached his last game as an LSU Tiger. LSU was thoroughly beaten down by Mississippi State as the Tigers shot 1-22 from the three-point line. The Bulldogs got 51 points from their bench — including 18 points from Tyson Carter — to move on in the bracket and face No. 5 seed Alabama. Mississippi State ended any semblance of an LSU comeback by scoring 42 points in the second half to the Tigers’ 27.
Bruce Pearl’s best season at Auburn to date had an untimely end Wednesday night in the first upset of the tournament. Missouri — who’s in the midst of having one of the worst basketball seasons in the history of their 111 year-old program — came back from being down 70-62 with five minutes left to upend Auburn in overtime. Mizzou got a big 30 point game from Kevin Puryear — which included five of Missouri’s eight OT points — and will face No. 6 seed Mississippi tonight.
If this matchup is anything like their contest on Feb. 11, then the opening game of round two will be appointment viewing. Georgia’s JJ Frazier scored 29 points and Tennessee’s Grant Williams dropped 30 as the Bulldogs — who were down as many as 14 in the second half — came back to beat Tennessee 76-75 in Knoxville. Both of these teams at some point in the season were considered bubble teams, but now will have to settle for deep tournament runs in order for a shot at the big dance.
Who to watch: The aforementioned Frazier is an All-SEC caliber scorer, averaging 18.7 points per game alongside teammate Yante Maten who’s also averaging 18.7 points per game. Williams can expect to shine again too, averaging 12.8 points per game while shooting 50.2 percent from the field and 37.5 from three.
Winner takes on: No. 1 Kentucky, the opening game of the quarterfinals.
Game 4: (12) Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. (5) Alabama Crimson Tide | Start time: 3pm ET
This matchup leads to a bit of irony for Mississippi State, because it was their 71-62 loss against Alabama on Jan. 28 that sent the Bulldogs into a 1-9 tailspin before getting back-to-back slump busters to LSU that led them to this game. Alabama on the other hand is having a bit of an upstart season in Avery Johnson’s second season. Even though the Tide’s resume isn’t quite up to snuff to be a legit contender for the NCAA’s, a four-OT win over South Carolina would say they’re capable of pulling an upset in the conference tournament.
Who to watch: Quinndary Weatherspoon led the Bulldogs with 19 points against LSU, and can be a dangerous scorer against just about anyone — averaging 16.6 points per game. Alabama’s Dazon Ingram is a dangerous shooter, averaging 10.3 points per game while shooting 51.6 percent from the field and 47.6 from three.
Winner takes on: No. 4 South Carolina, the second game of the quarterfinals.
The argument can be made no other team has more riding on this tournament than Vanderbilt. The Commodores are listed as one of the last four byes by Joe Lunardi, and one would think Vandy would need to beat the lower seeded Texas A&M to try and lock that in. The Aggies had a solid non-conference record, but faltered in SEC play to find themselves at the No. 10 seed. The Dores beat A&M handily in their only meeting on Feb. 1, but A&M proved they can play up to competition this season by keeping UCLA, Arizona and West Virginia within single digits in earlier games.
Who to watch: Vandy’s Luke Kornet and Jeff Roberson make for a formidable front court who together average 25 points and 13 rebounds per game while both shooting 35 percent from three. A&M’s big man in the middle Tyler Davis is six foot ten, 270 pounds and averages 14 points per game while shooting 62 percent from the field.
Winner takes on: No. 2 Florida, the third game of the quarterfinals.
Game six: (14) Missouri Tigers vs. (6) Mississippi Rebels | 9pm ET
Ole Miss is sitting in the same boat as Alabama. The Rebels have had a fine season but just don’t have the resume necessary to make it into the NCAA tournament. Missouri on the other hand is playing merely for the pride of their lame duck coach after pulling an overtime upset against Auburn Wednesday night. Missouri led this game as late as seven minutes into the second half back then they played Ole Miss on Jan.21, and we’ve seen crazier things happen in postseason basketball.
Who to watch: The aforementioned Puryear is fresh off scoring 30 against Auburn, and averages 11 points and six boards a game normally for the season. For Ole Miss, Sebastian Saiz is an All-Conference caliber player who averages a double-double for the season (15.1 ppg, 10.9 rpg) and pairs nicely guard Deandre Burnnett (16.5 ppg).
Winner takes on: No. 3 Arkansas, the final game of the quarterfinals.
TV: SEC Network