2014 CTC: The SEC (3/16)

How bad is the SEC?  Ya know, other than having the undisputed best team in the country.  Here’s your answer – pretty f’ing bad.  Want a better answer?  Georgia-in-3rd-place bad.  That’s really bad.  Florida is, obviously, incredible.  Kentucky is uber-talented and uber-young (guess I could write that every year) and what else is there?  Tennessee?  A lot of talent, very few results.  LSU?  Maybe even more talent, but ever fewer results.  Arkansas?  World-beaters at home, barely mediocre on the road.  Missouri?  8th place.  Ole Miss?  No depth and not all that talented anyway.  Alabama?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  What a terrible season of basketball for Conference Football.

Not surprising that the #1 team in the country gets the lion’s share of the championship picks in the CTC, as Florida grabs 20.  #2 Kentucky has 4 people believing in them, while #4 Tennessee has 1.  South Carolina is a sleeper pick to pull off 3 upsets, while LSU is the sleeper pick to reach the finals.  Primm holds the SEC title currently and will try and repeat this year.  Alexi is the only one to hold more than one SEC title.

CHAMPIONSHIP (March 16th – 60 points)

#1 Florida vs #2 Kentucky
No surprise here as we get the only two SEC teams that have really done anything (actually, it’s kind of 1.5 because UK hasn’t been all that great all year).  The #1 team in the country struggled with Tennessee, but survived, while UK cruised for the second straight day, beating up on overmatched Georgia.  Florida has been better all year, but you can make the case that UK has been better this week, though that might have to do with competition more than anything else.  We all know, though, that this Kentucky team is as talented as anyone, so if they put it together, watch out.

Bry, Colton, GrossSr, and Lohse are the only 4 with the ‘Cats here.  Dave is the only one who has already lost this game.  The other 20 all have the Gators.  Mac will win the SEC with a Florida win, while GrossSr will take it in Kentucky wins.

SEMIFINALS (March 15th – 40 points each)

#1 Florida vs #4 Tennessee
These two incredible defenses were on display in the quarterfinals as neither team allowed their opponents to even hit 50.  Florida scores a lot better than Tennessee, though, and should have a considerable advantage in the backcourt in this one.  The Gators are going for 25 in a row here to start the SEC semifinal double-header.

Dave is the only one with Tennessee here, as he has the Vols winning this title.  Lohse has already lost this game.  The other 23 all have the Gators, including 20 title picks.

#2 Kentucky vs #3 Georgia
The Wildcats struggled early with LSU, but pretty much dominated the final 30 minutes in looking about as good as they have all year.  The rest of the nation should take notice if the ‘Cats have found “it.”  UGa did exactly what they have done all season on Friday – win a close game against a mediocre team.  Ole Miss is nothing special, but there is something to be said for winning all these close ones.

Lazarow, Lynch, PapaCim, and Primm all have Georgia here, though none have them winning the title.  Becks and J have already lost this game.  The other 19 all have UK here, with Bry, Colton, GrossSr, and Lohse taking Cal’s Kids to win the tourney.

QUARTERFINALS (March 14th – 20 points each)

#1 Florida vs #8 Missouri
And, we finally welcome the #1 team in all of college basketball to the CTC party, as the Florida Gators take the floor Friday against a Missouri team that needed two overtimes to beat Texas A&M on Thursday.  The Tigers will need all the energy they can muster – and probably more – to handle the country’s best team.  Billy Donovan is at it again.  He has his guys playing at a ridiculously high level and has done so rather quietly yet again.  It is amazing how well Donovan develops players.  Casey Prather is one of, if not the, most improved players in the nation.  Scottie Wilbekin – the SEC Player of the Year – never looked like he would ever hold that honor.  They have men inside in Patric Young and Will Yeguete.  They have secondary scorers like Dorrian Finney-Smith and Michael Frazier.  They have excitement off the bench in Kasey Hill.  And, yet, if you ask even good college basketball fans to name the best players in the country, how many would they name until they named a Gator?  If they even named one at all.  But, this team is ROCK SOLID defensively and incredibly efficient offensively.  They rebound the ball and protect it.  In fact, it is pretty amazing to think of how close this team is to being undefeated right now.  They had multiple injuries, including Scottie Wilbekin, in a 6-point loss AT Wisconsin, and were missing a couple key players, including Kasey Hill, in a 1-point loss AT Connecticut.  If not for that, the Gators would actually be considered to have a a legitimate shot to finish the year undefeated…unlike the senseless dismissal of Wichita’s chances.

Everyone has the Gators winning this game.  The people rooting against them today would be Dave and Lohse, mostly, as they are the only two that don’t have them in the finals.  It wouldn’t be such a bad thing for Bry, Colton, or GrossSr either, as they are the other 3 that have someone other than Florida winning this tournament.

Florida 72 – Missouri 49

#4 Tennessee vs #13 South Carolina
The Tennessee Vols are WAY too talented to be in this position – a bubble position.  Swept by Texas A&M and losses at Vandy and Mizzou have this immensely talented and experienced team sweating out the selection process this year.  And, any team with Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae shouldn’t be sweating out much of anything.  The Vols are, however, probably on the inside of the bubble, so it might be good that they will get a South Carolina team in the quarters instead of an Arkansas team because a trip to the SEC semis should be enough for the Vols to get in.  The dangerous part is if they lose to USC (who has already hammered Auburn and beat Arkansas this week), then they may be on the outside looking in.

The miracle Gamecocks run has taken him this far, so why quit not?  GrossSr is trying to complete an incredible prediction of South Carolina to the semis here.  Quite a few people had Arkansas here, so there are some nice points to be had for the 14 people (Alexi, Becks, Bry, Chris, Colton, Dave, Doogan, J, Lynch, Mac, PapaCim, Primm, Teddy, WaTers) who have the Vols here.  Dave is the only one risking a finalist, and he is actually risking a champion here with UT.

Tennessee 59 – South Carolina 44

#2 Kentucky vs #7 LSU
The one team that Kentucky probably didn’t want to see in early in the SEC tournament is the exact team that they will face in their quarterfinal opener to this tourney.  LSU did beat Kentucky in Baton Rouge and should have beaten them in Lexington, but lost by a point in overtime.  Now, they get the rubber match on the “neutral” court in Catlanta.  The Tigers got here by whipping Alabama in the second round on Thursday.  Kentucky is here because, well, they’re nowhere near as good as Florida and the rest of the league is really bad, so they kind of backed into the 2-seed.  But, it certainly isn’t for lack of talent that they aren’t living up to the preseason #1 ranking.  With the exception of the man-child Julius Randle, the “best recruiting class ever” has been rather ordinary, to be honest.  The Harrison twins (ranked as the #1 point guard and #1 shooting guard in the country) have proven that they are both just “guards.”  They have, for their entire lives, been so much better than everyone that they played against – and had each other on the same team – that they just kind of “played” point guard and shooting guard.  But, as it turns out, neither one really has any clue how to run an offense, and neither one is really all that good of a shooter.  So, neither is a point guard and neither is a shooting guard.  They are both tweener guards who drive and dominate the ball.  That is not exactly what a team that has one of the most dominating inside forces in the game (Randle) and an actual “shooting guard” (James Young) on the floor most of the time.  This team is so talented, but so misfit, and it will be interesting to see if Coach Cal can pull something together in time.  But, the time starts now – against the wrong opponent.

J and Primm both have a really nice 70-point upset pick here with LSU.  J even has the Tigers going to the finals.  Lynch and RDoc have already lost this game with ‘Bama.  The other 21 all have UK here with most people picking them to go to the finals, though only Bry, Colton, GrossSr, and Lohse have the ‘Cats cutting down the nets in Catlanta on Sunday.

Kentucky 85 – LSU 67

#3 Georgia vs #6 Ole Miss
And, depending on start times, the final team to play a game in the CTC is likely to be Georgia – didn’t see that one coming.  The real shock of the SEC season (and the best piece of evidence of its incredible drop in quality) is that the Georgia Bulldogs finished 3rd in the SEC this year.  Now, I love Mark Fox and think he’s a great coach, but there is just no talent here.  This is a team that went to the 8-team Charleston Classic and finished 8th – behind such worldbeaters as UAB (8th-place in C-USA), Temple (9-22 this year), and Davidson (low-major team that is rebuilding).  But, with the power of unbalanced scheduling, a team that didn’t beat a single SEC team higher than 7th-place, can finish 3rd.  The good news for Coach Fox is that this will not be the best year for this team, as the entire team except center Donte Williams is back next year (unless Kenny Gaines makes the stupid decision to enter the draft).  The Bulldogs will try to make another amazing run like the one they did a couple years ago that required them to play two games on the same day starting with Marshall Henderson’s Rebels, who dismissed cross-state rival Mississippi State with a big second half on Thursday.

11 people (Becks, Chris, Colton, Dave, Gersh, GrossJr, J, Lohse, RDoc, Stumpf, Teddy) have a really nice upset pick here with Ole Miss.  Becks and RDoc have a real shot at correctly placing Ole Miss in the finals.  The other 14 all have UGA, including Lazarow, Lynch, PapaCim, and Primm, who have the Dawgs getting to the finals.

Georgia 75 – Ole Miss 73

SECOND ROUND (March 13th – 10 points each)

#8 Missouri vs #9 Texas A&M
I know Mizzou looks like a tournament team and might actually have the resume of a tournament team.  And, I also understand the concept of unbalanced conference schedules, but I hope we don’t hide behind that last point to give teams a pass for failing in conference play.  I just can’t wrap my head around the 8th-place team in a conference as weak as the SEC is this year going to the tournament.  At least, not yet.  If they beat Florida on Friday, I would have to change my tune, but is there any evidence whatsoever that says they can do that?  I haven’t seen any.  In fact, I’m not sure they’re a clear-cut pick to beat a feisty Texas A&M team on Thursday.  The Aggies aren’t that talented at the top of their roster, but they do play a lot of guys a lot of minutes and they play hard-nosed, aggressive defense, which kind of makes them perfect for tournaments like this where you play every day.  But, that advantage doesn’t set it until, at least, the second game – and not if that second game is against a team off of a bye.  Either way, their style is scary in a one-and-done, so Mizzou better watch out because they could easily lose this game and then they would really be on the outside of that bubble conversation.  The winner here takes a shot at the #1 team in all the land…the Florida Gators.

Only 3 people (Caleb, RDoc, and Stumpf) took the Aggies in a mild upset here.  The other 22 all took Mizzou, though no one has Florida losing to either of these teams on Friday.

Missouri 91 – Texas A&M 83 (2 OT)

#5 Arkansas vs #13 South Carolina
The Razorbacks should be a tournament team (and they are squarely on the bubble).  The Home Razorbacks look like a top-6 seed.  The Road Razorbacks would be lucky to get a 6-seed in the NIT.  We are about to find out about the Neutral Razorbacks.  As is common for Mike Anderson in the Nolan Richardson way, he plays a ton of guys and runs them hard on defense.  It takes away from their offense, but does force a ton of TOs.  South Carolina is VERY prone to turning the ball over (which they did 19 times in a regular season loss to the Razorbacks), so this isn’t the best matchup for Frank Martin’s squad.  But, after a blowout of Auburn (which got Tony Barbee fired), they are kind of playing with house money.  The winner here takes on #4 Tennessee in the quarters.

GrossSr, Mac, and PapaCim have a huge upset pick here.  GrossSr actually has USC in the semifinals.  Dave, Primm, and WaTers have already lost this game with Auburn.  The other 19 all have Arkansas, including many that have them going to the semis, and Lohse, who has them in the finals.

South Carolina 71 – Arkansas 69

#7 LSU vs #10 Alabama
LSU has so much talent that it almost hurts to see them lose.  They are absolutely loaded, but just can’t seem to do anything consistently.  They should have beaten Kentucky twice this year (they did get one), and yet they were swept by Georgia.  However, a quick look at their schedule shows the only bad losses were Texas A&M and Rhode Island, but their best win other than Kentucky is either a home win over Arkansas (who stinks on the road) or a neutral win over St. Joe’s.  That is not enough.  They need at least one more marquee win.  And, to even have a shot at that, they need to first beat Alabama here in the second round.  Okay, I think I have officially stopped defending Anthony Grant.  I loved him at VCU and thought ‘Bama made a fantastic hire.  And, then when I saw he was recruiting well, I thought – this might be a perennial power.  But, they just don’t win games.  And, if I’m off, then I’m sure the Alabama administration is off of Grant, so this is probably it for a good coach.  I just hope he lands in a nice mid-major and is able to build back some credibility.  This is a talent-laden game of underachievers.  And, the winner takes on the ultimate in that category, #2 Kentucky.

Surprisingly, more people had Alabama (13) than LSU (12 – Alexi, Doogan, Gersh, GrossSr, J, Lazarow, Lohse, Mac, Primm, Scoot, Stritts, Stumpf).  Lynch and RDoc have Alabama beating Kentucky.  J and Primm have LSU beating UK.  J is the only one that risks a finalist here, as he has LSU going that far.

LSU 68 – Alabama 56

#6 Ole Miss vs #14 Mississippi State
If I had told you last year that Marshall Henderson would be a full-fledged member of Ole Miss all season long and that the national landscape would be completely ignoring him.  Would you believe me?  I wouldn’t even believe me.  How does the biggest story in college basketball come back for another year, PLAY BETTER, and get forgotten?  Well, I guess the simple answer is that he’s been moderately well-behaved…and that Ole Miss isn’t very good.  But, it’s not Marshall’s fault, he’s been excellent – even coming off the bench a lot.  But, the talent around him just isn’t there this year.  They can still rise up and beat people and a run to the finals and a close loss to Florida might give the Committee something to think about, but I still don’t think it’ll be enough to get Marshall back to the Big Stage for one last act.  Then again, the Marshall I know doesn’t need much of a stage to make a helluva an act.  The Rebs take on their in-state rivals in this one, who are fresh off an impressive dismissal of Vanderbilt late Wednesday night.  The winner will get #3 Georgia in the quarters.

No one has MSU here, but 9 people (Bry, Caleb, Doogan, GrossSr, Lynch, PapaCim, Scoot, Stri, Stritts) have all already lost this game with Vandy, so they are Bulldog fans tonight (though, I’ll be honest, I can’t root against Marshall Henderson…).  The other 16 all have the Rebels, including Becks and RDoc, who have them in the finals.  9 others (Chris, Colton, Dave, Gersh, Grossjr, J, Lohse, Stumpf, Teddy) have them beating UGA on Friday.

Ole Miss 78 – Mississippi State 66

FIRST ROUND (March 12th – 5 points each)

#12 Auburn vs #13 South Carolina
I don’t care what people say, I love Frank Martin, and I would send my kid to play for him any day of the week.  The modern-day Bobby Knight (ya know, without any of the success or the extent of the controversies) gets the most out of his players.  Unfortunately, at South Carolina, he hasn’t really had any good players.  Well, they will open the SEC tournament against an Auburn team that actually showed some signs of progress this year…small signs, but signs nonetheless.  The winner of this game will take on #5 Arkansas in the second round on Thursday.

The slight favorite Auburn is only a choice of 10 CTC entries (Alexi, Dave, Gersh, GrossJr, Lohse, Primm, RDoc, Stritts, Teddy, WaTers), though 4 of them (Dave, Mac, Primm, WaTers) have the Tigers winning again over Arkansas.  GrossSr and PapaCim both have South Carolina beating Arkansas in the second round.  GrossSr has the Gamecocks winning again over Tennessee in the quarters.

South Carolina 74 – Auburn 56
Frank Martin’s Gamecocks came to play (as they always do) here in the SEC tournament opener, as they crushed Auburn to move on to a second round date with Arkansas.

15 people got this slight upset pick, including PapaCim, who keeps alive a quarterfinalist, and GrossSr, who keeps alive a semifinalist.  Dave, Mac, Primm, and WaTers all lose a quarterfinalist here.

#11 Vanderbilt vs #14 Mississippi State
I have always said that my short list of the most underrated coaches in America would start with Kevin Stallings.  I mean let’s really think about what kind of talent he really gets to go to Vanderbilt with its academic burdens and lack of a counter-acting basketball history to the extent of Stanford and Duke, it can’t be easy to maintain a strong program there, but he does it.  Think about the great players from Vandy.  There aren’t many, and the ones that do come to mind (John Jenkins, Jeffrey Taylor, Demarre Carroll, and even going all the way back to Billy McCaffrey) are all seniors, which means that Stallings and his staff at least had a small hand in developing these guys.  And, yet this team is – more often than not – nationally relevant.  It has been a bit of a down year, but they are building and still pretty decent.  The other coach that I would always reference as habitually underrated was Rick Stansbury and since he left after the 2012 season, the Bulldogs of Miss State have been doormats.  They are again this year.  If matchups matter, then this might be a bad one for State, who lost the only regular season matchup against Vandy 72-31 at home.  Yep, 72-31 at home.  The winner here gets Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss on Thursday.

Dave, GrossJr, RDoc, Stumpf, and Teddy have the decent upset pick of MSU here with no one having them go any further.  8 people (Bry, Caleb, Doogan, GrossSr, PapaCim, Scoot, Stri, Stritts) have Vandy beating Ole Miss in the second round.

Mississippi State 82 – Vanderbilt 68
A terrible way for the Commodores season to end, as they lose to last-place Mississippi State it the first round of the SEC tournament.  Mississippi State will move on to face Ole Miss on Thursday.

Dave, GrossJr, RDoc, Stumpf, and Teddy pick up a nice upset here.  8 people lost quarterfinalist in this one.

CTC UPDATE

Championship Picks

  • #1 Florida (20)
  • #2 Kentucky (4) – Bry, Colton, GrossSr, Lohse
  • #3 Georgia (0)
  • #4 Tennessee (1) – Dave

Biggest Upsets

  • R1 – #14 Mississippi State (Dave, GrossJr, RDoc, Stumpf, Teddy)
  • R2 – #13 South Carolina (GrossSr, Mac, PapaCim)
  • QF – #13 South Carolina (GrossSr)
  • SF – #7 LSU (J)

Previous CTC Champions

  • 2008 – Waters
  • 2009 – Alexi
  • 2010 – Alexi
  • 2011 – Rikey (perfect)
  • 2012 – Mac
  • 2013 – Primm

2014 Scores

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