One of the most intriguing conference tournaments in college basketball will take place in the SEC, where a handful of teams will be fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives this weekend in Nashville.
With a 24-6 overall record and 14-4 mark in conference play, the Florida Gators enter the SEC Tournament as the No. 1 seed, with Alabama, Kentucky and Ole Miss each two games behind them at 12-6 in league play. Missouri and Tennessee finished the SEC regular season with an 11-7 conference record.
However at this point, only Florida and Missouri are considered to be NCAA Tournament locks according to ESPN.com's Bubble Watch, with the remaining four teams listed as having "work left to do."
But if there is one team that might win the tournament and steal the automatic bid, NBCSports.com's Daniel Martin believes it will be Tennessee. Martin cited two strong showings against Alabama to support his pick of the Vols in Nashville:
They will draw either South Carolina or Mississippi State in the second round, then advance to play Alabama in the quarterfinals if they win. The Volunteers played two close games against Alabama earlier in the season, one win and one loss in games that were decided by a total of four points.
Yahoo!'s Jeff Eisenberg and Pat Forde agree with Martin, and each likes the Vols to take home the conference crown.
Eisenberg believes Tennessee has been the most consistent team in the SEC of late, stating:
In a league in which everyone from Florida, to Missouri, to Arkansas struggled to win away from home, the question is who can be trusted in Nashville? The most reliable team lately has been the Vols, who closed the season with eight wins in nine games.
And finally, over at CBSSports.com, Gary Parrish breaks down Kentucky's chances of making the NCAA Tournament. Here is what Parrish believes they must do to advance to the field of 68.
A loss in their first game to either Arkansas or Vanderbilt will send them to the NIT; a win will give them a decent chance at an at-large, and two wins would almost certainly clinch a bid, I think.
The SEC Tournament will tip off on Wednesday with the first of two games starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. The tournament final will be played Sunday, at 1 p.m. ET on ABC.