SEC Basketball: First round preview, predictions for 2023 NCAA Tournament

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 21: The NCAA March Madness logo is seen on the basket stanchion before the game between the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles and the Florida Gators in the second round game of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on March 21, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 21: The NCAA March Madness logo is seen on the basket stanchion before the game between the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles and the Florida Gators in the second round game of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on March 21, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The 2023 NCAA Tournament is here and eight SEC teams have the privilege to “go dancing.”

Let’s take a look at who each SEC team is matched up with and make some predictions.

SEC Basketball first round preview, predictions for 2023 NCAA Tournament

(11) Mississippi State vs. (11) Pittsburgh – March 14 – 9:10 P.M. EST

The Bulldogs from Mississippi State kick things off for us this year when facing the Pittsburgh Panthers in the First Four.

The Panthers have lost three out of its four games in March and are not looking sharp at the time they need to.

After earning the No. 25 ranking in the AP Poll at the start of the month, Pitt’s play declined drastically.

Since becoming ranked, Pitt lost to the 11-19 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and the Miami Hurricanes.

Those two results put Pitt as the No. 5 seed in the ACC Tournament where they took care of business in the second round, but later got slammed by the red-hot Duke Blue Devils in the Quarterfinals.

The problem for the Bulldogs is that they haven’t played good basketball recently either.

Mississippi State kicked off the month of March with a loss to Vanderbilt, 77-72.

They earned the No. 9 seed and played No. 8 Florida in the second round of the SEC Tournament.

The Bulldogs defeated Florida 69-68 but got eaten up by Alabama in the Quarterfinals, 72-49.

Although both teams have been similar recently, I think Pittsburgh is the stronger team and will win this game, 68-66.

(7) Missouri vs. (10) Utah State – March 16 – 1:40 P.M. EST

Due to Missouri’s 23-8 regular season record, the Tigers earned a double bye in the SEC Tournament, meaning they only needed to win three games in order to be crowned SEC Tournament champions.

As the No. 4 seed in the SEC Tournament, the Tigers defeated the Tennessee Volunteers in the quarterfinals, 79-71.

The Tigers then fell to the mighty No. 1 seeded Alabama Crimson Tide in the Semifinals on March 11, 72-61.

Missouri was only down by a basket heading into the second half, but Alabama was able to pull away late due to the help of Noah Clowney and Brandon Miller.

Senior, Kobe Brown, is leading the Tigers in points per game as he is averaging 15.8.

Senior, D’Moi Hodge, is also guiding the way for Missouri as he is averaging 14.8 points per game.

The Tigers are matched up against the Utah State Aggies who finished the season off with a 26-8 overall record.

After making it to the Mountain West Tournament Championship Game, the Aggies were defeated by the No.1 seeded San Diego State Aztecs.

The Aztecs later earned a No. 5 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Aggies lost 62-57 but kept it close which is a plus in my opinion.

I am taking Missouri to win this game, 74-68.

(1) Alabama vs. (16) Texas A&M Corpus-Christi/SE Missouri State – March 16 – 2:45 P.M EST

Whether Alabama plays Texas A&M Corpus-Christi or SE Missouri State, I think the Crimson Tide will roll over them no matter what.

There has only been one time in history when the No. 1 seed lost to the No. 16 seed and I do not see Alabama becoming the second.

Alabama earned the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament and wiped its opponents off the table, defeating Mississippi State, Missouri, and then Texas A&M in the championship.

The Tide won each game in the SEC Tournament by at least 11 points.

I am not going to sell Texas A&M Corpus-Christi or SE Missouri State short of the credit they deserve.

For the small programs that they are, it is amazing to see them get to experience the joy of March Madness.

With that being said, I am still taking Alabama in this one, 87- 50.

(8) Arkansas vs. (9) Illinois – March 16 – 4:30 P.M. EST

Ah, the good ol ‘eight vs. nine games.

This is the hardest game to predict in my opinion because each team is even in pretty much every category.

Arkansas had only won one game out of its last five, however, Illinois has only won two out of its last five and each team averages a little over 70 points per game.

Arkansas averages 73.2 points per game while Illinois averages 70.2 to be exact.

To me, the only difference in this game is Nick Smith Jr. and Anthony Black.

Smith Jr. and Black, who are both true freshmen for Arkansas, have been playing excellent basketball recently.

Ricky Council IV leads the Razorbacks in points per game with 15.9 but Smith Jr. and Black are not far behind as they average 14.0 and 12.8.

The main threat to Arkansas is Illinois’ senior, Terrence Shannon, who is averaging 17.1 points per game.

Even though Arkansas is a little inexperienced having two true freshmen in its starting five, I see the Hogs beating Illinois and advancing to the round of 32.

I am taking Arkansas 79-75.

(9) Auburn vs. (8) Iowa – March 16 – 4:30 P.M EST

Here is another eight vs nine matchup that has the ability to tear brackets up.

Finishing the regular season with a 79-70 win over the Tennessee Volunteers was huge for Auburn as they suffered two losses before then.

Getting on a streak heading into the madness of March is very important and a huge win over the Volunteers really solidified that for the Tigers.

A tough loss was presented to Auburn not too long after that win though as they lost in the second round of the SEC Tournament to the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Even though the final score of that game was 76-73, a loss is a loss and for me, it showed that Auburn is cold heading into the NCAA Tournament.

They are facing the Iowa Hawkeyes who also lost in its first tournament game.

The Hawkeyes finished the regular season 19-12 after losing to the 16-15 Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Losing to Nebraska was difficult for the Hawkeyes as it froze them heading into the Big Ten Tournament.

The Hawkeyes lost in its first game of the Big Ten Tournament to Ohio State, 73-69.

Both teams had tournaments that ended in non-favorable results and that is what is making this choice so difficult.

With that being said, I am going to choose Iowa to defeat Auburn, 69-68.

(4) Tennessee vs. (13) Louisiana – March 16 – 9:40 P.M. EST

After defeating No. 13 Ole Miss in the second round of the SEC Tournament, the Volunteers were later defeated in the quarterfinals by the No. 4 seeded Missouri Tigers.

The Volunteers are not playing its greatest basketball at the moment as they have lost two out of its last three games and are playing without its second-best scorer, Zakai Zeigler.

The Ragin’ Cajuns are on a better streak as they have won five straight games and swept the Sun Belt Tournament.

Defeating Georgia Southern (17-16), Texas State (16-19), and South Alabama (19-16) in the Sun Belt Tournament, the Ragin’ Cajuns were able to secure its first conference tournament win since 2014.

I am going to pick the Ragin’ Cajuns to upset Tennessee in this game as I think the cold Volunteers are going to be outworked by the hungry Ragin’ Cajuns.

I am taking Louisiana, 75-72.

(7) Texas A&M vs. (10) Penn State – March 16 – 9:55 P.M. EST

Texas A&M clinched the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament and made it to the championship game where they lost to the No. 1 seeded Alabama Crimson Tide.

The Aggies lost pretty badly to the Crimson Tide with the final score reading 82-63.

They have a tough matchup with the red-hot Penn State Nittany Lions who made it to the Big Ten Championship game as the No. 10 seed.

The Nittany Lions only lost 67-65 to the No. 1 seeded Purdue Boilermakers and have won five out of its last six games.

For Texas A&M, Wade Taylor IV is leading the team in points per game, averaging 16.5, while Penn State’s senior, Jalen Pickett is averaging 17.9.

The Aggies average 73.2 points per game compared to Penn State’s 72.3, and this makes this game tough to pick.

Texas A&M has been playing solid and so has Penn State, but there is a reason Penn State was a No. 10 seed in its conference tournament.

I am taking Texas A&M, with the final score being 79-68.

(6) Kentucky vs. (11) Providence – March 17 – 7:10 P.M. EST

Last but certainly not least, Kentucky vs. Providence.

Kentucky would be a guarantee in this game for me if they did not lose to Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament, and if obviously last year’s mind-boggling game against Saint Peter’s did not occur.

Yes, last year is in the past, but I don’t like the way Kentucky has matched up with teams below them.

For example, Kentucky lost to Vanderbilt twice this season, and the Cats also lost to South Carolina and Georgia, two teams who were not even looked at to be in the NCAA Tournament.

The only reason I am going to pick Kentucky in this game is because of how cold the Friars are.

Providence has lost four out of its last five games, including a 24-point loss to the Seton Hall Pirates.

Let me remind you, Seton Hall did not even make the NCAA Tournament this year.

I think Oscar Tshiebwe will play solid and I think Jacob Toppin and Cason Wallace will also do their part in securing the Wildcats’ victory.

I am going with Kentucky to win this one, 72-67.

This sums up my 2023 first-round predictions for each participating SEC team.

The college basketball world is in for a huge treat this NCAA Tournament.

Next. Alabama on top in final 2023 SEC power rankings. dark