SEC teams could mess up your brackets

SEC teams could mess up your brackets

SEC teams could mess up your brackets
By DAVID JONES

Long one of the power-house conferences in college basketball, the Southeastern Conference has been humbled this season. With only the 18th-ranked LSU Tigers in the latest AP Top 25 poll, the SEC isn't having a banner year as March approaches. That doesn’t mean the SEC can’t do some damage in the tourney.

Here’s a quick scan of a few programs that could break up your bracket:

LSU Tigers (24-4, 12-1 SEC, RPI: 30)

After a Final Four trip in 2006, things quickly fell apart for the program over the last two years. New head coach Trent Johnson has promptly turned the LSU fortunes after the Tigers struggled to an 11-21 SEC record in the previous two campaigns.

The Tigers have a nice inside/outside attack with senior guard Marcus Thornton and junior forward Tasmin Mitchell doing most of the damage.

From a wagering perspective, LSU has failed to cover in three of its last four wins. With a tie for the SEC regular season title clinched, the Tigers may lose a little focus until the NCAA tournament. A very tough contest this weekend against a desperate Kentucky club at Rupp Arena.

South Carolina Gamecocks (20-6, 9-4 SEC, RPI: 42)

Another program that has seen immediate dividends from a new coach. Former Western Kentucky coach Darrin Horn turned last year's trip to the Sweet 16 into a gig in the SEC. The Gamecocks, who were stunned in the NCAA first round by a 15 and 14 seed in consecutive years in the late 90's, might finally be able to end their long drought (last win in 1973) in March Madness.

A couple of little guys have provided a big spark for the nation's 13th-ranked scoring offense (80 points per game). Sub six-footers Devan Downey (20 ppg) and Zam Frederick (15 ppg) have given opponents fits with their dynamic play in the South Carolina backcourt.

The strong guard play will provide a unique challenge for any early round foes in the NCAA tournament. The fast-paced style may enable Horn to make another surprise tourney run this year.

Florida Gators (21-7, 8-5 SEC, RPI: 43)

Florida will look to stay perfect (16-0) in Gainesville this weekend as the Gators seek revenge against Tennessee after being embarrassed earlier this season in Knoxville. The efficient Florida offense (11th in the country in FG percent) has averaged over 87 points per game in the last three home outings and the team has played over the total in its previous four contests.

The Gators are young after restocking the program following the departures of Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Taurean Green. Super sophomore Nick Calathes (18 ppg) leads a balanced attack that consists of six players averaging at least nine points per outing.

Donovan's steady hand may be able to offset a lack of experience for his club if the Gators can secure one of the NCAA tournament's 65 spots.

In addition to these three teams, Tennessee ( No. 2 seed in two of the last three NCAA tournaments) and Kentucky (17 straight NCAA bids) could create some damage in the tourney as well. Even in a down year, the SEC shouldn't be overlooked when you start to fill out your NCAA brackets.

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