Southeastern Conference Tournament Betting Advice and Analysis

Southeastern Conference Tournament Betting Advice and Analysis
© USA Today

With four teams in the Top 15 nationwide, the Southeastern Conference is poised to emerge April 4 in New Orleans with an NCAA men’s basketball title.

The SEC is represented in the national AP poll by Auburn (No. 4), Kentucky (No. 5), Tennessee (No. 9) and Arkansas (No. 15).

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Before that marquee event tips off, the SEC Tournament this week will punch a guaranteed ticket to the Big Dance and show which teams in the rugged conference are peaking at the right time. Let the March Madness begin.

The SEC tournament begins Wednesday at Amalie Arena in Tampa, with two games featuring lower-seed teams hoping to advance through the single-elimination bracket. The championship game is Sunday.

The conference tournament odds below are provided by FanDuel.

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Favorite: Auburn Tigers

Tournament success often depends upon which team has the dominant players.

Few teams in the conference, or nationally, are as stacked as Auburn, the SEC regular-season champion.

Coach Bruce Pearl says his Tigers (24-4) will have the best player on the floor every night in Jabari Smith and the best rim protector in Walker Kessler.

Smith, an unstoppable 6-foot-10 freshman forward, rules the paint and is shooting almost 44% from the 3-point range. He could end up being the top pick in the NBA draft.

The 7-foot-1 Kessler set a single-season school record with 140 blocked shots this year, swatting one of every five two-point attempts by opponents. Kessler is the key to a defense that Pearl calls “the heart and soul of what we do.”

Look for Auburn to run the table in Tampa. Take Auburn at +270.

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Sleeper: Arkansas Razorbacks

Arkansas has not won a league tournament title in 22 years but could be on track to claim the crown this year.

Led by 6-foot-2 senior guard JD Notae, Arkansas (24-7) under coach Eric Musselman is a hard-nosed team whose relentless play calls to mind Nolan Richardson’s “40 minutes of hell” Razorbacks in the 1990s.

With signature wins over Auburn and Kentucky, the Hogs have shown they are among the league’s elite. That was proven again last Saturday when the never-quit Razorbacks clawed back from a double-digit deficit in Knoxville, only to lose 78-74 to the higher-ranked Tennessee Volunteers.

FanDuel Sportsbook has them at +700, making the Hogs a good choice for bettors seeking a rewarding payout.

Long Shot: LSU Tigers

With a lockdown defense and the No. 2 team in the nation in steals at 11.2 per game, LSU (21-10) is capable of smothering the competition at the tournament this week.

The Tigers are known for their work ethic, with an impressive roster that includes fourth-year senior forward Darius Days and Cincinnati transfer Tari Eason, a 6-foot-8 forward who recorded seven double-doubles this year.

On defense, Eason registered two steals per game, second-best on the team. Eason was named Sixth Man of the Year on the Coaches All-SEC team.

After a 15-1 start, including wins over Kentucky and Tennessee, LSU has been uneven, letting close games slip away with questionable last-second shots.

But the Tigers might show their fangs in Tampa. LSU plays Thursday against the Missouri-Ole Miss winner and then would face well-rested Arkansas on Friday. If LSU beats Arkansas, momentum could carry the Bayou Bengals on a surprising path to the top.

At +1100, the Tigers are worth a pizza-money wager.

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