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March 11, 2013

SEC Tournament Preview

The Southeastern Conference Tournament starts on Wednesday in Nashville with two games. Thursday and Friday will feature four games with the semifinals on Saturday and the title game just hours before the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday.

PowerMizzou.com will be at the tournament as long as the Tigers are alive with complete coverage. To kick off the week, we preview the field team-by-team. Teams are listed in order of league finish.

Overall Record: 24-6

SEC Record: 14-4

Why they can win it: Start to finish, the Gators have been the best team in the SEC this season. Florida dominated the first half of the league schedule, winning their first eight games by at least 14 points. Defensively, when they're on, nobody is close to as good as Florida. And offensively, they've got plenty of weapons as well.

Why they could exit early: Florida isn't exactly peaking at the right time. All four of its league losses have come in the last ten games. And while Florida has not been blown out once this season, the Gators aren't good at all in close games. All 24 of Florida's wins came by at least 12 points. In games decided by less than a dozen, the Gators are 0-and-6. If someone can push them, Florida hasn't been very good under pressure.

Key Player: Erik Murphy. When Murphy is hitting his shots, he's a tough matchup for anyone in the league.

The week is a success if...: Florida brings home the title. That's what is expected of the best team. It is also what it will take for the Gators to have a real shot to get back on the one seed line for the NCAA Tournament.

Overall Record: 21-10

SEC Record: 12-6

Why they can win it: Even without Nerlens Noel, the Wildcats can match individual talent with just about anyone. Willie Cauley-Stein has come on strong and played a major role in wins over Missouri and Florida, Kentucky's two best of the season. And when they've absolutely had to win in those games, the Cats have shown the ability to drag themselves off the mat.

Why they could exit early: They haven't exactly played with much of a sense of urgency most of the season. The Wildcats did beat Mizzou, Florida and Ole Miss, but also lost to Georgia and Texas A&M. The freshmen have played like freshmen. Here one game, gone the next. That's a tough recipe for success in a win-or-go-home format.

Key Player: An argument could be made for Alex Poythress or Ryan Harrow, but it has to be Cauley-Stein. When he was on the floor against Florida, the Wildcats were nearly ten points better than the Gators. When he was on the bench, they were nearly ten points worse.

The week is a success if...: Kentucky does enough to secure a tournament bid. One win might do it and two would for sure. For the Cats this year, it's simply about getting in and getting a chance.

Overall Record: 23-8

SEC Record: 12-6

Why they can win it: The Rebels were rolling early in the season. They dominated Missouri and swept Tennessee. They may have found some mojo in a season-closing win at LSU. While they haven't been consistent, they've shown they can play with anyone in the league.

Why they could exit early: The Rebels, more than any of the other top teams, have also shown they can lose to anyone in the league. Ole Miss lost to South Carolina, Mississippi State and Texas A&M and beat Auburn by just two. Those are the four worst teams in the conference.

Key Player: It has to be Marshall Henderson. Perhaps no player in the event is more capable of shooting his team to a title or right out of the tournament. If he's on, he's lethal. If he's not, the Rebels may not have enough to win a game.

The week is a success if...: The Rebels are playing on Sunday. Anything less is going to have them in the NIT and have questions being asked about Andy Kennedy's future. Ole Miss has to make it to the title game and let the chips fall where they may from there.

Overall Record: 20-11

SEC Record: 12-6

Why they can win it: While the Tide doesn't have a gaudy record, they did a lot of winning in the SEC. Bama beat Kentucky and had Florida on the ropes late in Gainesville. Anthony Grant's team won't be scared of anyone.

Why they could exit early: Alabama has lost three of five and doesn't have a really good win since January 22nd over Kentucky. The Tide aren't going to win many games that get into the 80s. They are challenged offensively and have to keep games low-scoring to do well.

Key Player: It is Trevor Releford all the way. Releford has put up big numbers all season and hit the half-court heave that gave the Tide a win over Georgia in the season finale. He's as good a point guard as the league has and an argument could be made he should be the SEC player of the year.

The week is a success if...: Like Ole Miss, the Tide has to get to Sunday and then take its chances. The NCAA Tournament has to be the goal and anything short of playing in the title game--and perhaps winning it--won't be good enough.

Overall Record: 19-11

SEC Record: 11-7

Why they can win it: Tennessee is the only team in the league that beat Florida, Kentucky and Missouri. The Vols have won eight of nine and are one of the hottest teams in the country, not just the conference. They also may have the best player on the floor in every game in Jarnell Stokes.

Why they could exit early: Tennessee has games where it really struggles to put the ball in the basket. Three times this year, the Vols were held to 45 points or less. The offense has been much better of late, but can they survive a night where 50 points is going to have to be good enough?

Key Player: While Trae Golden and Jordan McRae could each be a tourney MVP candidate, Stokes is the Vols' best player and is averaging nearly a double-double for the season.

The week is a success if...: Tennessee makes it to Saturday. That would give the Vols another quality win over Alabama and virtually assure them of an NCAA bid...though that might be taken care of if they simply avoid a first round shocker.

Overall Record: 22-9

SEC Record: 11-7

Why they can win it: Missouri may have as much individual talent as anyone in the league. The Tigers can match up with every other team at every position. The last time the Tigers lost a game in regulation by more than one possession was on January 19th. They've been in every single game till the end.

Why they could exit early: Of course, Missouri still hasn't won more than three in a row since SEC play started and did that only once. The Tigers have been the definition of inconsistency. When the task ahead is to win four games in four days, that's a scary fact.

Key Player: While Mizzou is much better when Alex Oriakhi is fully engaged, even that is reliant on the play of Phil Pressey. Perhaps no player in the country can be more responsible for his team's success or failure than the Tigers' junior point guard.

The week is a success if...: Missouri makes the final. Most still regard the Tigers as the second most-talented team in the league. If they play like it this week, an SEC title is a possibility.

Overall Record: 19-12

SEC Record: 10-8

Why they can win it: It's tough to see, but B.J. Young and Marshawn Powell are a dangerous duo. If the Hogs get their defense going and shots are falling, who knows?

Why they could exit early: They aren't playing in Fayetteville. And Arkansas has been dreadful outside of its own arena. The Razorbacks are 1-9 in true road games and also lost a neutral site contest to Arizona State.

Key Player: Young has been steady, but he's going to need help from Powell. If he gets it, the Razorbacks' inside-outside punch can be as good as anyone's in the league.

The week is a success if...: Arkansas pulls an upset of Kentucky to make the semis. Anything more than that would be far more than could be expected.

Overall Record: 15-16

SEC Record: 9-9

Why they can win it: They probably can't, but the Bulldogs have shown the ability to go head-to-head with the best in sweeping Tennessee, beating Kentucky and taking Ole Miss to overtime. They also feature one of the league's top all-around players in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Why they could exit early: They were a .500 team and are in the 8-9 matchup. A first-round loss won't be a surprise.

Key Player: It is Caldwell-Pope all the way. If he's hot, he can drive the Dawgs to an upset or two.

The week is a success if...: Georgia really needs to win three times. That would assure a winning record and probably put the Bulldogs in post-season play.

Overall Record: 18-11

SEC Record: 9-9

Why they can win it: LSU played well in the second half of the season and has more talent than most people believe. Anthony Hickey and Johnny O'Bryant III can match up with anyone in the league at their positions and Charles Carmouche finished the season on a tear. If there's a darkhorse outside the top six to make a run, LSU is likely it.

Why they could exit early: They finished .500 and are not seeded to win a game.

Key Player: Hickey is not only the SEC's leading steal man, but is also capable of getting hot and putting up big points on offense. If he does, he can make things miserable for the opposition.

The week is a success if...: LSU beats Georgia and gives the Gators a run for their money in the semis.

Overall Record: 14-16

SEC Record: 8-10

Why they can win it: They're at home. Other than that, it's tough to make an argument.

Why they could exit early: They're 8-and-10 in league play and have a really tough time scoring. The Dores did not win a game against the league's top six teams and they'd have to win three to take home the title.

Key Player: Kedren Johnson leads Vandy in both points and assists. Everything the Dores do on offense runs through him.

The week is a success if...: Vanderbilt takes out Arkansas and gives the home fans something to cheer about in round two against Kentucky.

Overall Record: 17-14

SEC Record: 7-11

Why they can win it: Realistically, the probably can't. But the Aggies did start off the season well and beat Kentucky on the road and Missouri at home. A&M has shown some potential. In a league as wide open as this one, who's to bet against a shocker like this would be?

Why they could exit early: A&M is 7-11, has lost four of six and hasn't won back-to-back games since January 9th and 12th.

Key Player: If Elston Turner gets hot, he can outscore anyone else in the league nearly by himself.

The week is a success if...: Johnny Football doesn't get hurt in spring drills.

Overall Record: 14-17

SEC Record: 4-14

Why they can win it: Quite simply, they'll need a bunch of other upsets because the Gamecocks have next to no chance of winning five games in five days.

Why they could exit early: The Gamecocks just aren't very good. They went 4-14 this season. They're supposed to exit early.

Key Player: Freshman Michael Carrera is the team's top rebounder and second-leading scorer and looks like a nice building block for Frank Martin.

The week is a success if...: The Gamecocks beat Mississippi State and acquit themselves well in round two against Tennessee.

Overall Record: 9-21

SEC Record: 4-14

Why they can win it: There is no way. MSU played well late, winning two of its last three, but winning it? Not happening.

Why they could exit early: Mississippi State was the worst team in the SEC in a down year for the league for much of the season.

Key Player: Craig Sword averaged 10.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists in a nice all-around freshman season.

The week is a success if...: The Bulldogs get to double digit wins on the season and have a chance to play on Thursday.

Overall Record: 9-22

SEC Record: 3-15

Why they can win it: Nope.

Why they could exit early: The SEC didn't blow anyone away this year with its prowess and Auburn finished last.

Key Player: Frankie Sullivan averaged better than 14 points per game and is one of the better unknown players in the league.

The week is a success if...: The Tigers can win a game and prolong the careers of Sullivan and perhaps Tony Barbee for another day.

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