2015 SEC Basketball Tournament for March 12: Who, what, where, and when

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Today marks the first full day of the 2015 SEC Basketball Tournament as eight teams will face off.  Today should be a good day to take in the actions as two teams that have NCAA aspirations need to win to keep them alive and the league’s hottest team (besides Kentucky) will see if they can make a run in this years bracket.  Before we look at today’s games, let’s take a quick look back at last night.

Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Thompson hit a three-pointer with 2:47 remaining to give the Auburn Tigers a 69-65 lead and the Auburn Tigers never looked back in a 74-68 win over Mississippi State.  Thompson went 3-3 from long-range for 16 points and KC Ross-Miller had 21 points to help lead Auburn to their first SEC Tournament win in six years.  KT Harrell went 6-10 from the field to finish with 19 points for Auburn.  Mississippi State was led by Craig Sword with 21 points and IJ Ready with 18.  The real difference in this game was three-point shooting.  The Bulldogs connected just once in 12 attempts while Auburn went 8-15.  The Bulldogs finish their season at 13-19.

Sindarius Thornwell scored 18 points and hit four 3-pointers to lead South Carolina to a 63-54 win over the Missouri Tigers.  South Carolina led most of the game, but the Tigers never let them pull away.  Montague Gill-Caesar hit two free throws to cut the deficit to 52-50 with 6:42 remaining, but that was as close as the Tigers would get.  Michael Carrera  added 12 points and 6 rebounds to pace the Gamecocks.  Missouri only had one player to crack double digits scoring and that was Gill-Caesar, who had 10 points.  Poor shooting doomed the Tigers, which shot 36% for the game and just 25% from 3-point range.  The Tigers finish the season at 9-23.

Today’s action can all be caught on the SEC Network, starting at 1:00PM EST.  Let’s look at today’s action.

1:00PM EST
#8 FLORIDA GATORS 15-16 (8-10)
#9 ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE  18-13 (8-10)

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I have to admit that it is a bit of a shock to see Billy Donovan’s Gators playing this early, but this has been a “season on the Brink” type year for Florida.  The Gators limp into today’s game having gone 3-7 over their past ten games, but the whole season has been tough.  The Gators are led by Dorian Finney-Smith and Michael Frazier, and both have missed time this year.  Finney-Smith was suspended by Donovan, but has been playing well since his return,  He averages 13 points and 6 rebounds a game, and can be one of the conference’s best big men.  Frazier missed time with an injury and just returned.  He averages 12.8 points and hits 40.3% of his three pointers and can take over a game with his shooting.  If the Gators can get PG Kasey Hill (7.3 points avg) untracked in the scoring column, they could make a run.  He looked great against Kentucky with 15.  The Gators have the talent to make a deep run, but that has not come together this year.

The trademark of Anthony Grant’s team has always been a terrific defense but points have always come at a premium.  Such is the case this year.  6’5 guard Levi Randolph gives you a bit of everything from scoring (15.2) to rebounding (5.0) to defense (1.4 steals) and he hits 34.7% of his three pointers.  Rodney Cooper is the only other Alabama player to average in double digits with 10.5 points a game.  Cooper has worked to make himself a three-point threat at 37.1%.  Michael Kessens (5.4 points) is the leading rebounder with 6.0 a game and Jimmie Taylor adds defense with 1.8 blocks a game.  With 18 wins, the Crimson Tide could perhaps play themselves into bubble talk with two wins, but you get the feeling they need to win the whole thing.

Florida and Alabama met once this season and appropriately, it was a defensive grind as Florida held off Alabama 52-50.  As is their tendency this year, Florida blew a 13 point lead and needed late heroics from Dorian Finney-Smith to win the game.  That game gave Florida a 10 game winning streak over Alabama.