The SEC is easily the most dominant conference in college football, but not so much in NCAA hoops outside of Kentucky. No SEC school other than the Cats has won a national title since 2007. Here are the only legitimate contenders to win it all this year with College Basketball odds.
NCAAB: Which SEC Teams Can Win National Title?
Kentucky has won eight national championships, second only to UCLA’s 11. The Cats, though, have somewhat underachieved in recent years as they haven’t won it all since 2012 despite a ton of future NBA players being on the roster over the years. Last year, the Cats were a No. 2 seed but lost in the Elite Eight 77-71 in overtime to No. 5 Auburn. UK had won both regular-season meetings.
This current Kentucky team got great news this week when Ashton Hagans returned to practice. He missed the regular-season finale vs. Florida due to personal reasons. There’s an infamous video of Hagans waiving a ton of money around circulating on the internet. Kentucky clearly needs him. He averages 11.5 PPG and 6.4 APG. Kentucky has made 37% of its shots from beyond the arc with Hagans and just 26.3% of its 3-point attempts without him. Hagans, the 2019 SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, made the SEC All-Defensive Team (coaches) for a second consecutive season.
One bright side of Hagans being out last weekend was some of Kentucky’s role players finally stepped up and provided consistency off the bench, which hasn’t happened often this season. The trio of Keion Brooks, who started his first game since mid-January, Johnny Juzang and Nate Sestina combined for 39 points, 11 rebounds and five 3-pointers in the comeback win over the Gators.
UK’s star is Immanuel Quickley, who was named SEC Player of the Year. Quickley is the ninth player in school history to win the coaches’ SEC Player of the Year award and the fourth in 11 seasons under John Calipari. A year removed from averaging 5.2 points on 37.2% shooting, Quickley emerged as the go-to scorer on the SEC’s regular-season championship team. He entered the SEC Tournament averaging 16.1 points per game and shooting a team-best 42.8% from 3 (41.6% overall). Quickley is also a 92.3% FT shooter, third nationally.
Also on the SEC First Team was junior forward Nick Richards. He averaged 14.0 points per game and team highs in rebounds (7.8 pg) and blocks (2.1 pg). Richards had 10 double-doubles and is shooting 64.4 percent from the field, fourth in the nation. Richards also was named to the SEC All-Defensive Team.
UK, in the conversation for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, is 9-3 vs. quadrant one teams in the NCAA Evaluation Tool rankings. The nine wins are tied for the sixth most.
Coach Bruce Pearl has worked wonders at Auburn, a football school, as the Tigers reached the Final Four last season. The Tigers would lose a thriller to No. 1 Virginia, the eventual national champion, 63-63 in the national semifinals. Kyle Guy made three free throws with 0.6 seconds left to lead the Wahoos. Fifth-seeded Auburn had erased a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes and taken a 4-point lead. No fifth seed, by the way, has ever won a national title.
This season, Auburn finished second in the SEC and split the two meetings with Kentucky – both winning at home. Won’t surprise anyone if they meet in the SEC Tournament final. Tigers guard Samir Doughty was named First Team All-SEC and forward Isaac Okoro was tabbed Second Team All-SEC.
They are the seventh and eighth Tigers to be selected as all-conference players under Pearl. Okoro also was named to the SEC All-Defensive Team and SEC All-Freshman Team. Doughty is the first player to garner first-team honors by the league’s coaches since Chris Porter and Doc Robinson following the 1999 season. He has raised his scoring average from 7.3 points per game as a junior to 16.7 points per contest as a senior. He is on pace to be the fourth guard to average 16 or more points per game under Coach Pearl.
Okoro is the fourth Tiger freshman ever to earn all-conference accolades by the league’s coaches, joining Eddie Johnson (1974), Ronnie Battle (1990) and Toney Douglas (2005). He is one of just three players in the SEC to average 12 points per game with at least 25 steals and 25 blocks on the year. Okoro’s 51.4 field goal percentage is ranked inside the top 15 nationally among freshmen, and he has the highest field goal percentage of any freshman with at least 15 made 3-pointers.