BEST FIRST-ROUND GAME
Auburn vs. Florida. This might be the season for the Gators: Win and they're probably in the NCAA tournament. Lose, and they'll sweat out Selection Sunday. Auburn has plenty to play for, too - its many seniors, including Richland Northeast graduate Lucas Hargrove, are probably done for their career if they lose this one.
WORST FIRST-ROUND GAME
Georgia vs. Arkansas. A game with no NCAA tournament implications, and it's the last of a long day. Even Vanderbilt fans, whose team will play the winner, might want to skip this to hit some good honkey-tonk bars on Broadway.
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Florida's fate might depend on how it does today. If it wins and faces Mississippi State on Friday, that could be a play-in game, although the Bulldogs probably need to get to the semifinals. Mississippi, which has a bye into the quarterfinals, might have a tough win-and-in game Friday against Tennessee.
MOST EXCITING PLAYER
Kentucky's John Wall is a smooth point guard who manages the game well and occasionally uncorks a highlight-reel dunk. But South Carolina's Devan Downey produces more "wow" moments over 40 minutes, mainly because he has to on his undermanned team.
MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER
Vanderbilt point guard Jermaine Beal gets overshadowed by Downey and Wall, but he had a superb senior season, and has a chance to have a good pro career. He could carry his team far this weekend.
COACH ON THE HOT SEAT
Auburn's Jeff Lebo is wrapping up his sixth year on the Plains, with no NCAA appearances and a 35-61 SEC record. But Lebo has a big buyout, so the question is whether they care enough about basketball at Auburn to ante up for a new coach. A long run in Nashville could give Auburn an excuse to keep Lebo around.
BEST TURNOUT GUESS
The league's three best teams are Kentucky (three hours away), Vanderbilt (a couple minutes away) and Tennessee (fans all over the state.) Contrast that with last year, when few showed up in Tampa, even Florida fans.
Why is the West is so terrible? The top four teams in the East went a combined 24-0 against the West.
- Seth Emerson