The brackets have been released, and March Madness can officially begin. The SEC has had banner year in basketball, culminating in a conference record eight teams making the NCAA Tournament. The SEC did not have a dominant team this year, but the conference was deep with teams who can beat anyone on a given night. This balance and depth is reflected in their seeding as well. The highest seeded SEC team is Tennessee at a 3, and the lowest seed is Alabama at a 9. As the tournament gets set to begin with the First Four games in Dayton on Tuesday, let us take a look at a player to watch from each of the eight SEC teams in the field of 68.
SEC Players To Watch in the NCAA Tournament
Admiral Schofield – Tennessee Volunteers – 3 seed
Teammate Grant Williams was named SEC Player of the Year, but it is Admiral Schofield who is playing the best down the stretch. The 6’5” 240 pound forward has scored in double figures in 11 of his last 12 contests, including four 20 point games in his last six. Schofield is a match-up problem for opponents. Blessed with the build of a football player, Admiral also has a skill set of a wing. He has size and strength to punish smaller defenders, and the shooting ability to hurt teams from the outside. For the season he is averaging 13.8 points and six boards per game, while shooting 39.5% from three.
Mustapha Heron – Auburn Tigers – 4 seed
There was a bit of a controversy when no Auburn Tigers were selected to the All-SEC 1st team after they won the SEC regular season title. Even more egregious an oversight was the fact that Mustapha Heron was not named to the 2nd or 3rd teams either. The former five star recruit led the Tigers in scoring at 16.6 points per contest. Heron had five 20 point games in SEC play and reached double figures in 17 of the 18 conference games. He is a versatile scorer, adept at getting to the rim, scoring in transition, while also being a solid three point threat. The sophomore wing can take over games and carry this Auburn teams at times.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Kentucky Wildcats – 5 seed
Like most of his teammates, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had an up and down season. Kentucky now seems to be playing its best basketball, and the freshman point guard is the main reason. He was named SEC tournament MVP after his 29 point performance in the title game. Gilgeous-Alexander has a certain smoothness to his game, and that was on display this past weekend. His length and quickness makes it tough for opponents to keep him from getting to the rim. His jump shot is still a work in progress, but his confidence is growing in that area. He can fill up a stat sheet, posting 13.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 5 assists each night. His length and athleticism also make him a disruptive force on the defensive end, with 1.6 steals a game.
Jalen Hudson – Florida Gators – 6 seed
Jalen Hudson’s play epitomizes this Gators team. When he is hitting his shots, he is a lethal offensive weapon. When he is not, his entire game suffers. The transfer from Virginia Tech led Florida with 15.3 points a game this season. Hudson had seven 20 point games, including a career high 35 in a win over Gonzaga in November. Like most streaky shooters, he can get hot in an instant and completely change the complexion of a game with his outside shooting. The Gators will need him to play at a high level. Hudson was in double figures in 15 of 18 SEC games.
Tyler Davis – Texas A&M Aggies – 7 seed
If you are looking for a skilled post scorer to follow this March, the Aggies have what you need. Tyler Davis has a unique combination of size, touch, footwork, and effort that make him a handful to deal with in the paint. The junior forward led the Aggies in points and rebounds, with 14.5 and 8.8 respectively per game. At 6’10” 266 pounds, he is able to create space in the post, and his nimble feet allow him to maneuver around defenders for buckets and offensive rebounds. A&M has struggled with consistent guard play, but Davis has been a rock in the paint all season.
Jaylen Barford – Arkansas Razorbacks – 7 seed
Sometimes winning in March comes down to toughness and the ability to make big shots. The Hogs are in good hands with Jaylen Barford. The senior guard is as tough as they come, and is no stranger to hitting big shots in key moments. He averaged 18 points a game this season while shooting 43% from beyond the arc. With 13 20 point games, Barford is one of the top scorers in the SEC. He can take over a game with his fearless attitude, willing to drive to the rim or pull up from deep at any moment. He and fellow senior guard Daryl Macon will look to lead the Razorbacks past the first weekend.
Jontay Porter – Missouri Tigers – 8 seed
Most of the hype surrounding these Tigers will be around Michael Porter Jr. returning to the line-up. However, it is his younger brother Jontay Porter who has been a steady force in the paint for Missouri this season. The 6’11” freshman has grown into a starring role for the Tigers, and is playing his best basketball as the post season arrives. The younger Porter is averaging 16.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5 assists over his last five games. The big man is a threat to score in the post, and has also developed into a solid three point shooter. He can also find open teammates when the defense shifts to him.
Colin Sexton – Alabama Crimson Tide – 9 seed
The first two days of the SEC tournament were the Colin Sexton show. The freshman point guard has been on a mission as of late. He has scored 102 points in his last four games, including 31, and a game winner against Texas A&M last Friday. For the season, Sexton averaged 19 points and 3.5 assists per contest. He is the type of player who can take over games and will his team to victories. A future lottery pick in the NBA, Sexton will get a chance to showcase his skills in the NCAA tournament before heading off to the pros. He is a strong guard who loves to get to the rim and push the pace. While his shooting isn’t the focal point of his game, he can get hot from the outside. When he gets going from deep, his ball handling and driving ability make him almost unguardable.
SEC Marching Along
Last season, the SEC had three teams in the Elite Eight, with the South Carolina Gamecocks making it to the Final Four. After setting a record with eight teams, now the focus will be on how the teams fare. Each of these players should play a huge role in leading their teams to success in the next few weeks.
BROOKLYN, NY – NOVEMBER 25: Alabama Crimson Tide guard Collin Sexton (2) during the first half of the Barclays Center Classic College Basketball game between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Alabama Crimson Tide on November 25, 2017, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)