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SEC Tournament: Four storylines to follow in St. Louis

Here’s what I’ll be watching for.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Tournament-Kentucky vs Arkansas Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

It’s tournament season! Conferences all across the country this week are settling on a champion and sending their best teams to the big dance. The Big Ten and a few other have already wrapped up their tournaments, but the best is yet to come.

Here’s a look at the full bracket.

SEC Tournament Bracket ESPN/SEC Network

Let’s dive into some SEC Tournament storylines to follow this week.

There isn’t a dominant team

Thanks to a down year from Kentucky, this year’s SEC tournament is truly wide open.

Despite Tennessee and Auburn being able to distance themselves from the pack down the stretch of SEC play, I’m not sure anyone would call either squad dominant. Auburn is just 2-3 over their last five games. They clearly aren’t the same team without big man Anfernee McLemore.

Tennessee is probably your most consistent option, but as we’ve seen — even they have proven to be shaky against bottom-tier SEC teams.

More than anything though, that’s just a product of the SEC. It’s a deep, talented conference this year — probably the best in the country. You could make a case for almost any of the top nine seeds to make a deep run to Sunday this week.

That fact alone is going to make for a really fun, unpredictable tournament.

Tennessee’s historical SEC Tournament struggle

The Volunteers are probably a slight favorite to cut down the nets on Sunday, but they’ll have to overcome history to do so. They haven’t advanced to the title game since 2009, where they lost to Mississippi State. Before that, you’ve got to go back to 1991 to find the next appearance in the final game.

Tennessee has put out so many good teams that it’s pretty surprising that they haven’t been more of a factor in these SEC Tournaments. It was a totally different era and staff, but it’s hard to get those somewhat recent heartbreaking tournament losses to Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas out of your head.

Tennessee has just four SEC Tournament titles to their name. That last one was way back in 1979. You have to go back into the ‘40s to find another.

History isn’t on their side, but they’re in as good of a spot as ever to bust out of this slump.

Will Michael Porter Jr. play?

The Missouri Tigers have a pretty solid basketball team this year. That team may be about to add Michael Porter Jr. — the nation’s No. 2 overall recruit in 2017 — into the mix. According to an ESPN report, Porter is looking to play this week in St. Louis.

The 6-9 NBA-ready small forward would send a jolt of energy through Missouri, just in time for tournament season. Nothing has been confirmed yet by the school, but Porter has been trending towards a return for a couple of weeks.

If that’s the case, nobody is going to want to play Missouri this week or next week in the NCAA Tournament.

Alabama on the bubble

Even as a Tennessee fan, I’ve been frustrated with the Alabama men’s basketball team this year. That’s saying a lot. How on earth they managed to lose 14 games with Collin Sexton, Donta Hall and the rest that talent on the roster is beyond me. They’re one of the most underachieving teams you’ll ever see.

After losing five straight to end the regular season, the Crimson Tide find themselves squarely on the bubble. They currently sit as the last team in the big dance, according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.

A win in their first game over Texas A&M would go a long way towards punching their ticket.