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2018 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament: Schedule, what to watch for

The conference tournament that #JustMeansMore is finally here.

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The 11th-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks tip off in the opening day of the SEC Tournament tonight, taking on the 14th-seeded Ole Miss Rebels in St. Louis. Here are a few story lines to note as postseason action cranks up:

Will Michael Porter Jr. play?

The Missouri phenom came to Other Columbia with incredible hype as one of the top recruits from 2017 and one of the top prospects for the 2018 NBA Draft. But a back injury sidelined him immediately after the season started, and while he’s been cleared to return to basketball activities, the Tigers have been careful and kept him on the bench. It sounds like the door is open for him to play in the SEC Tournament if he feels up to it, so we’ll see.

The SEC is a deep league

Much like the women, the men will be sending several teams to the Big Dance this year. Regular-season champions Auburn and Tennessee are locks, while Florida, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Texas A&M should be safely in as well. According to ESPN Bracketology expert Joe Lunardi, Alabama is also on the right side of the bubble, likely landing in the play-in game. But even if the Tide doesn’t squeak in, the SEC’s eight bids would break the previous conference record of six set in 2008. After enduring years of second-class citizenship compared to football and being the butt of college basketball jokes, the SEC has really stepped up its game in this arena.

Kentucky has won the past three SEC Tournaments, but...

While the Wildcats will be an NCAA Tournament team, they’ve had an uneven season that is below the usual standard in Lexington. For the first time since 2007, Kentucky didn’t place a player on the Associated Press’ All-SEC teams, and the Wildcats finished in a three-way tie for fourth in the league standings with a 10-8 mark. Kentucky shouldn’t be considered a favorite to win this tournament, which in itself is hard to fathom, but it’s still a talented squad that could get hot at the right time.

Schedule

First round

Wednesday, March 7

Game 1: Georgia vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. (SECN)

Game 2: South Carolina vs. Ole Miss, 9:25 p.m. (SECN)

Second round

Thursday, March 8

Game 3: Texas A&M vs. Alabama, 1 p.m. (SECN)

Game 4: Missouri vs. Winner of Game 1, 25 minutes after previous game (SECN)

Game 5: Mississippi State vs. LSU, 7 p.m. (SECN)

Game 6: Arkansas vs. Winner of Game 2, 9:25 (SECN)

Quarterfinal

Friday

Game 7: Auburn vs. Winner of Game 3, 1 p.m. (ESPN)

Game 8: Kentucky vs. winner of Game 4, 3:25 p.m. (ESPN)

Game 9: Tennessee vs. winner of Game 5, 7 p.m. (SECN)

Game 10: Florida vs. winner of Game 6, 9:25 (SECN)

Semifinals

Saturday

Game 11: Winner of Game 7 vs. Winner of Game 8, 1 p.m. (ESPN)

Game 12: Winner of Game 9 vs. Winner of Game 10, 3:25 p.m. (ESPN)

Finals

Sunday

Game 13: Winner of Game 11 vs. Winner of Game 12, 1 p.m. (ESPN)