USA TODAY Sports
It's Florida and Ole Miss fighting for the conference's auto-bid to the Big Dance.
1:00 pm ET, ABC
|Record||25-8 (12-6)||26-6 (14-4)|
|Head-to-Head||Florida won 78-64 on 2/2|
For all of the jumbled nature of the SEC this year, the conference tournament turned out to be relatively tame. Vanderbilt was the only team to beat a team seeded more than one spot above itself. Ignoring the seeding reveals one other upset: Ole Miss over Missouri. Even there, though, it's not a titanic one. The Rebels beat Mizzou in the regular season, and MU is largely higher rated because Ole Miss picked up some bad losses in the regular season.
The one real chance for a big surprise is today, in the final. Florida is headed for no worse than a 3-seed in the Big Dance, while Ole Miss is, according to the most recent projections as of time of posting, one of the last two teams in. If the Rebels decided not to care because they think they've already made it in the NCAAs, or if Florida flips the switch and goes into mauling mode, a bad loss could leave Andy Kennedy and his team outside the field of 68 yet again. That's why I said Ole Miss had a bad draw; even after reaching the finals with a win over a tournament lock, the team still can't breathe easily.
But supposing Ole Miss does show up ready to play, can it win the big one here? The answer is quite simple: yes. Florida may have looked amazing in its initial win over LSU, but had Kenny Boynton not (somewhat randomly) broken out of his funk yesterday, Alabama very easily could have sent the Gators home early. Sometimes they do play at a level where no one else in the SEC can touch them, but they lack the consistency to do it every single game.
The first time around, Marshall Henderson got his 25 points and Murphy Holloway had 15, but no one else really had a good game for Ole Miss. The Rebels had trouble in particular with Florida's bigs, as Erik Murphy and Patric Young combined for 32 points on 13-of-16 shooting, 18 rebounds, and four blocks. Reginald Buckner had a great game yesterday against Vanderbilt, and he'll need to step up again to counter UF's inside game.
Both teams had double byes and haven't played any overtimes, so fatigue shouldn't be more of a factor for one team than the other. Both teams have motivation for this one, it being the tournament final and all with both having seeding in the NCAA Tournament on the line as well.
Boynton's breakout second half yesterday made up for the fact that Murphy had a pretty quiet game. If he keeps it up and Murphy bounces back, the Rebels don't have much of a shot in this one. If Ole Miss can find a way to play some tough defense, it'll be more than equipped to take the tournament title back to Oxford. I believe the former is more likely than the latter, though, so I'm going with the chalk.
The pick: Florida 74, Ole Miss 68