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NCAA Men’s Basketball SEC Tourney Odds and Value Bet

TBD() @ TBD()

  • Where: Bridgestone Arena. Nashville, TN
  • When: March 8, 2017 6:00 pm EST
  • Moneyline: Kentucky (+100) Florida (+165) South Carolina (+900) Arkansas (+1400) Vanderbilt (+1600) Alabama (+3300) Texas A&M (+3300) Georgia (+3300) Tennessee (+4000) Mississippi (+4000)

Generally, it is good to begin a futures-pick prediction with a little background, some perspective in which the gambler can gain wisdom before investing his or her time and stake. A profile of a head coach is always nice, or rambling about a rivalry.

But this time, it’s best to get right down to the brass tacks. A swift glance at the odds board and – whoa! – the University of Florida is posted as a near pick-’em against mighty Kentucky, the top two seeds only 65 doughnuts apart on the SEC tournament-winner futures money line.

Bookies are giving all other Southeastern Conference hopefuls grim chances to win, with South Carolina the only underdog falling under plus-four digits. But what makes the Gators, a team that lost at UK a few nights ago while dropping two of its last three games, so special as to warrant the eye-popping odds?

An incident in Gainesville

Perhaps the casino’s take on the SEC hinges on a snapshot in time from one month ago. On a Saturday night early in February, Florida ran past Kentucky 88-66 at home. Senior guard Kasey Hill scored 21 points as the Gators utilized one of their few competitive advantages over the Wildcats – experience. In their first win in six tries against the ‘Cats, the seasoned cagers out-rebounded UK 54-29.

UF has a decent draw in Nashville as a #2 seed, but not as easy as that of Kentucky, or even South Carolina – who must merely beat an inflated #5-seed Alabama or worse opposition to reach the semis. The Gators looked impressive enough in a 78-65 win over Arkansas last week, but only their guards scored points. There has been an inconsistency of scoring and physicality inside, and despite the early-February success on the boards Florida is only ranked 100th in Division 1 in overall rebounding.

Also, when the Gator Boyz traveled to Appalachia to play in Rupp Arena on 2/25, UK wore them down and won handily in the second frame.

Wildcats right on schedule

2017 SEC Tournament PredictionsAny tout of Florida over Kentucky is overlooking the John Calipari factor.

Wildcat basketball is not designed to be wildly successful for entire seasons at a time. Because of the program’s wink-nudge recruiting tactics, a team of teenage NBA prospects cannot be taught to sustain absolute on-court success through several winter months.

Instead, Calipari wants his ‘Cats to blossom in March. Each UK season has a similar flow to it – warm-up, a few academic bells and whistles, in-season “camp” (usually accompanied by in-game fatigue and frustration) and finally that “click” all super-talented teams want to hear. In 2016-17, the low point came at Florida.

After that? Click. Kentucky won eight games – all SEC games – in a row to finish the season. Not only are the pistons firing, but the firepower is unmatched in the conference. Calipari is directing not one, not two, but three underclassmen expected to go in the first round of the NBA draft: De’Aaron Fox, a blue-chipper guard with great passing and lane-driving ability, Malik Monk who is a constant threat to score from inside or outside, and finally the presence of 6’10” power forward Edrice Adebayo. The fearsome freshman from North Carolina has over 50 blocks on the season and an almost 62% average from the field.

Why Kentucky holds value

It’s not only the Wildcats’ likelihood of beating Florida in another re-match that makes UK the value play here. Calipari’s Lexington leapers will be highly motivated to win the SEC tournament.

First, the SEC isn’t considered as strong as the Atlantic Coast Conference, which contains potential nemesis UNC. North Carolina could lose late in the ACC tournament and retain a #1 or #2 regional seed. Kentucky may not have that margin of error. Coaches will be greedy when a #1 NCAA Region seeding is on the line, since it all-but-assures the squad of a Sweet 16 appearance. Second, Coach Cal will want to maintain the school’s excellent momentum. An unbeaten conference-tourney champ with a double-digit win streak would look pretty intimidating to early-round NCAA opponents.

Legitimate long-shot bids are scarce. South Carolina was granted a #4 seed and offers up the amazing senior Sindarius Thornwell, whose statistics among SEC cagers are striking – first in steals, second in scoring and sixth in rebounds. Thornwell is the type of kid who could post a quadruple-double in a D2 game, but this is D1 and the Gamecocks do not have the supporting cast to make a serious run.

How thin is the SEC beyond that? Bleacher Report is touting Vanderbilt as a potential dark-horse in the conference tourney. They barely stayed above .500 in 2016-17. Kyle Tucker of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tweeted that Vandy has five recent wins over top-30 RPI opponents, but guess what? Four of those listed play in the SEC. It appears as though football isn’t the only SEC sport with a “bubble” effect inflating the rankings. The Commodores will not win the tournament in Tennessee.

The Kentucky Wildcats are athletically superior to everyone in the Southeast, including the University of Florida. The only real hope for an upset is to catch Kentucky napping, which the Gators can’t do again. The bookies – and early wagerers – are too caught up in one head-to-head result which has already been proven anomalous.

Stranger and Wager

In a strange scenario, the bookies’ inflated belief in an underdog is putting added value in the favorites’ money line. Kentucky against the SEC field would usually be an even or minus-odds future, but one fortunate night in The Sunshine State has lured the odds in another direction.

Sell short on the Swampies and bet on the motivated Wildcats to assert their dominance in Nashville. UK may lose again in 2017, but it won’t be in this tournament.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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