For the second straight year, the SEC will be well represented in the NCAA tournament. Seven of the leagues 14 teams will be in the big dance. The conference has grown immensely in the past few seasons. The talent level from top to bottom in the league has never been higher, and now these teams have a chance to prove themselves in the postseason. Take a look at the key SEC players for each team’s success in March Madness.
Key SEC Players for the NCAA Tournament
If the Florida Gators want an extended stay in the West Region, they will need KeVaughn Allen to be at his best. The senior guard has the ability to get hot and carry this team offensively. Unfortunately for the Gators, he can also become anonymous during games and never really get involved. Allen has been a double-digit scorer all four seasons in Gainesville. He had 35 points in a Sweet 16 win over Wisconsin two years ago. Florida struggles to score at times, getting production from Allen will be important.
The Ole Miss Rebels are led by their trio of guards, Breein Tyree, Terrance Davis and Devontae Shuler. The latter of those three could play a huge role in the Rebels chances at beating the Oklahoma Sooners and getting a possible chance at the one seed Virginia Cavaliers. Shuler has been a steady presence as a sophomore, proving himself as the glue guy while his backcourt mates score in bunches. It will be a homecoming game for him since he is from Columbia, South Carolina, where this South Region pod is located. He does the little things on defense and in setting up his teammates but has shown he can fill a larger scoring role when needed. He has been in double figures seven of the last nine games.
Bruce Pearl‘s Auburn Tigers won the SEC tournament this past weekend. If they are to stay hot and survive the first weekend of the tournament, they will do so because of Bryce Brown. He has been one of the key SEC players for most of his career, making the all-league team in consecutive seasons. The senior guard is the most flammable player in college basketball. He can go from 0-4 to 6-10 in a matter of minutes. Brown has 14 games of 20 or more points in the last two seasons. He can shoot from anywhere on the court, and only needs a sliver of room to get his shot off. His ability to get hot from three so quickly can completely alter a game.
Quinndary Weatherspoon is the leader for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, but Aric Holman may be the biggest key to their success. He is a versatile 6’10” forward who can block shots and score from multiple areas. Holman has 15 double-digit scoring efforts this season, and the Bulldogs are 10-5 in those games. When he is involved and productive on offense, he can become a match-up nightmare. The senior shoots 43% from deep and can put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. If he can’t take pressure off the Bulldog guards by being aggressive offensively, expect to see them in the Sweet 16.
Going The Distance
Admiral Schofield is what you expect of a star college senior these days. He has improved each season and has helped the Tennessee Volunteers grow into a championship program. The versatile wing will now have one last chance to shine in March Madness and make amends for last seasons early exit. Success in the NCAA tournament can sometimes be reliant on match-ups. When he gets going, Schofield has a combination of size and skill that most opponents struggle to deal with. Tennessee is a relentless and physical team, and their senior forward epitomizes both those traits.
Reaching the Final Four is an annual expectation for the Kentucky Wildcats. Those can be lofty expectations, especially for a freshman. Luckily, guard Tyler Herro is no ordinary freshman. Most of the key SEC players on this list are seniors, as experience is often a major factor in tournament success. Herro plays with the moxie and awareness of a seasoned veteran. He brings a spark of confident aggression to the Wildcats on the offensive end. The 6’5″ guard does not shy away from taking and making big shots, and he is automatic from the free throw line.
Guard play is so crucial in the NCAA tournament, with every possession’s increased importance. For the LSU Tigers, leadership and execution at guard will hold even greater significance, since they will be without suspended head coach Will Wade. This means Tremont Waters will have tremendous pressure on his shoulders if the Tigers are to challenge in the East Region. The sophomore floor general has been excellent all season. He spearheads the LSU offense with 15.9 points and 6 assists a game. Waters is also a disruptive force on the defensive end, with an SEC-leading three steals per game.
On the Road
This conference has taken majors steps in the past few seasons toward proving its basketball credentials. A good showing in the next few weeks will cement that proof. These key SEC players will all be crucial to their team’s success. The madness is upon us, now its time to sit back and see who will step up on the big stage.