That's a good question. In fact, I don't think anybody has a solid answer as to who will win the crown because there is no clear-cut favorite. However, there are plenty of teams that can win.
Let us begin with the sparkling swagger of the top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats. After a poor start to the season, the Cats rebounded to share the regular season SEC title with Florida. That's nothing new.
The key for Kentucky's success might rest on SEC Player of the Year Tayshaun Prince. The 6-foot-9, 215-pound junior from Compton, Calif., can do it all for the Cats. Prince can post up or shoot the 3. And if the game is on the line, you can bet the house that he'll get the ball. Trying to stop him is a different story.
Plain and simple, Kentucky is just good. The Cats can win big or survive the nailbiters. Not to mention that they've played three of last year's Final Four teams in Michigan State, Florida, North Carolina. They lost to the Spartans by one, split the season series with the Gators and slaughtered the Tar Heels 93-76.
That brings us to the Florida Gators. The Gators are chomping at the bit to make an encore appearance in the Final Four after a stunning run last season.
Florida is playing the best basketball in the conference right now and needs that momentum to carry over into the tough SEC Tournament. Teddy Dupay is back on track netting 28 points against UK on Sunday. Brett Nelson can't miss a shot and Udonis Haslem ... well, he's Udonis Haslem, enough said.
The Gators earned a share of the regular season SEC title after beating Kentucky 94-86 on Sunday. That, my friends, may have been a tiny peek at the SEC championship game if the Gators can upset the West's No. 1-seed Ole Miss.
Ah yes, the Rebels.
Picked to finish last in the Western Division which they did in 2000 Mississippi has been the shocker of the SEC with its 23-6 record, 11-5 in the SEC. All the while, the Rebels received no respect from any of their opponents, the media, nor the poll voters Ole Miss is ranked 14th in the Associated Press Poll.
The tough thing for the Rebels falls in their bracket as they play the winner of the Tennessee-Auburn game. SEC Coach of the Year Rod Barnes has to keep his Rebels focused and hungry for some respect for Ole Miss to complete the Cinderella season.
Kentucky, Florida and Ole Miss are the clear-cut contenders with the Cats and Rebels earning top seeds. However, if you look a little deeper into the pairings, it can be anybody's tournament.
Arkansas enters the tournament as the defending champions and with a first-round bye. With youth on their side, along with a little luck, the Razorbacks may just be able to find that late-season spurt again. Especially with a smarter Joe Johnson leading the way.
Tennessee might have the best shot at upsetting its way to the semifinal round. Everybody in the league is laughing and pointing at the Vols due to the midseason crisis (8-8 in the SEC) after being picked to glide through the conference.
However, UT still has the best talent in the SEC. The Vols still have the most potential in the SEC. The big question is how much of Tennessee's desire to win a tournament game will be seen at 1 p.m. today? With high expectations heading into past SEC Tourneys, the Vols have been ousted in their first game for the last two years.
As for a sleeper, I'm going out on a limb to say Geaux Tigers. Now don't laugh, but LSU could come out of the first round. And the second. And the ... well, we won't push it. But, the talk in the LSU locker room is about how they're going to go 4-0 in the tourney. Their only problem is that five Tigers will play at least 35 minutes as lack of depth will send LSU back to the bayou. But next year, look out because Ronald Dupree and the Tigers will be on the prowl once again.
With all the possibilities that linger with this season's SEC Tournament, no one knows what can happen. Who will win? Who will lose in the first round? Who knows?
Welcome to March Madness.
SEC tournament up for grabs
Published: Thu Mar 08, 2001 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 03:32 p.m.