The 2022 NCAA Tournament will tip off in just a few hours. Three teams from the Southeastern Conference are in action throughout the day. Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee will be the conference’s flagbearers on this eventful first day.
2-seeded Kentucky will face 15-seeded Saint Peter’s. The Peacocks under Garden State basketball legend Shaheen Holloway won the MAAC Tournament with a 60-54 win over Monmouth. It’s not likely that Saint Peter’s poses much of a threat to them. But it will be interesting to see how UK deals with its adversary’s defense. The Peacocks have been impressive. They have a Top 40 ranking in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (35th). They also rank in the Top 15 in 2PT FG% allowed (11th, 44%) and 3PT FG% allowed (15th, 29.4%).
I’d expect “pretty well” to be the answer, but I do find that somewhat intriguing in the feeling-out process. I would expect UK to flash their dominance, as they figure to be one of the top contenders to cut the nets down in March.
Tennessee, who probably got screwed a bit by the committee, opens up with a 3-14 matchup with Longwood. The Lancers, out of the Big South, won their conference tournament with a 79-58 win over Winthrop. Since December 4, they’ve gone 22-2. So Tennessee will be facing one of the hotter teams in the country.
Fortunately for the Volunteers, they’ll be their best opponent by a wide margin. The Vols boast a talented group that should get things off and rolling on the right foot. Stranger things have happened in March, but I don’t see the window here for a 3-14 upset.
Arkansas has gone 15-3 since winning 87-43 over lowly Mizzou on January 12. The 4-seeded Razorbacks though will have a very tough matchup ahead of them. They’re tasked with the Vermont Catamounts out of the America East. The Catamounts won the America East Conference Tourney with an 82-43 victory over UMBC. They went 28-5 this season and since December 1 has gone 23-2.
The Razorbacks may well be in for a scrap here. Vermont’s offense is potent and they don’t have too many weaknesses that can be exploited. Their perimeter defense isn’t too great, however, Arkansas’ perimeter offense hasn’t fared too well either.