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SEC Tournament: Four storylines to follow this week in Nashville

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Let’s get this thing going.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament Championship-Tennessee vs Kentucky Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

The SEC Tournament gets rolling tonight in Nashville with Missouri vs. Georgia and Vanderbilt vs. Texas A&M. The fun really starts on Thursday afternoon, however. With tournament season officially upon us, here’s what to follow this week.

LSU Drama

LSU cut down the nets on Saturday night and celebrated an SEC title — without Will Wade. They had Javonte Smart in street clothes as the drama around the FBI investigation continues.

Now a No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament, LSU isn’t even favored to win, despite a clear path to Sunday. Why? Because we don’t know the status of Wade or Smart. LSU will get Naz Reid back from injury, but very well could be without Smart and Wade for the rest of the season. LSU is still hopeful on Smart, however.

As I’ll point out below, the draw really isn’t all that great for LSU either. They may run into a Florida team which gave them trouble twice on Friday, while a hot Auburn team could stand in their way on Saturday. Beyond that, if they get to Sunday, they would likely have to beat Kentucky or Tennessee once again. Perhaps without a key player or their head coach.

Auburn getting hot at the right time?

Winners of four in a row and six of their last seven games, Auburn enters the SEC Tournament as hot as anyone. Tennessee experienced this on Saturday as the Tigers ended the Vols’ hopes of a regular season SEC Title. Bryce Brown and Jared Harper are as good of a guard duo as you’ll find and they’re capable of giving anyone in the country a challenge if they are hitting from long range.

No. 5 seed Auburn gets the winner of Missouri/Georgia on Thursday, then plays No. 4 seed South Carolina with a win. With everything going on at LSU, Auburn is the popular pick to upset the top half of the bracket and advance to Sunday’s final.

Tennessee — Kentucky round three... for a No. 1 seed?

If Kentucky beats Alabama/Ole Miss and Tennessee beats Mississippi State/Texas A&M/Vanderbilt, round three is on for Saturday.

That means another huge opportunity for both teams would await. It’s a chance to add another big time win to the resume as both teams try to secure a No. 1 seed. For Tennessee, it’s going to take a full run through the SEC Tournament and a title on Sunday. The Vols were in a pretty good spot before the loss to Auburn, now they’ve got some work to do.

Gonzaga did help them out on Tuesday, losing to St. Mary’s in the West Coast Conference final. That bad loss could kick the Bulldogs down to the second line, but Tennessee has to do their job this weekend to take advantage.

Bubble watch for Florida and Alabama

Both the Gators and the Crimson Tide are currently in our last eight teams in, as of Wednesday morning. Each have chances to really solidify their place in the big dance if they can get wins on Thursday.

Florida gets Arkansas for the right to play LSU, who the Gators have already beaten this season. In fact, they probably should have two wins over the Tigers. Regardless, they’ll get a third opportunity if they can handle the Razorbacks. A win over Arkansas should have the Gators feeling decent about their chances on Selection Sunday. A win over LSU would leave no doubt.

Alabama’s situation is a little more tricky. At 17-14 overall, the Tide have been one of the more debated teams over the past few weeks. The good news is that they’ve got a big opportunity on Thursday against an Ole Miss team that is solidly in the field. The bad news? Well, they probably can’t afford a loss.