• Projected tournament champion: Florida. The Gators are head and shoulders above the rest of the SEC. All three league losses have come on the road and with a lineup depleted by injuries. With a healthy team for the first time in more than a month, the veteran, balanced Gators are the favorites to capture the title — the program’s first since a three-peat in 2005-07.
• Sleeper pick: Tennessee. The Vols have probably the best offensive trio in the league when Trae Golden, Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes are all clicking at the same time. They were for three weeks last month during a six-game win streak. Needing to strengthen its NCAA Tournament case, UT should play desperately, with a sense of urgency — as will be the case for most of the field.
• Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Georgia, SG
Just a sophomore, the 6-foot-5 wing could be the second SEC player taken in this summer’s draft behind Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel. A smooth player with tremendous range, a knack for quickly piling up rebounds and a tough defender, his 18 points a game have kept the Bulldogs out of the conference basement.
• Marshall Henderson Ole Miss, SG
Say what you want about him — and he’ll probably offer a rebuttal — Marshall Henderson adds entertainment value. The league’s top scorer at 19.6 points a game, he’s not afraid to taunt opposing fans or run his mouth after draining a long-distance 3. But the Rebels need the SEC’s most polarizing player to avoid another off night — he was 3-of-18 3-point range in a stunning loss to Mississippi State — if they want to work their way back into the NCAA Tournament.
• Phil Pressey Missouri, PG
The SEC’s preseason player of the year is one of the more fascinating point guards in the country. His court vision is uncanny, the way he can exploit openings and deliver highlight-worthy passes. He had an incredible 19 assists against UCLA this season and leads the league with 7.1 assists per game. However, he also is among conference leaders in turnovers, too, with 111. His decisions at the end of games have been costly and mind-boggling. The Tigers need him to be the catalyst, not a one-man wrecking crew.
• Jarnell Stokes Tennessee, F
The Memphis product continues to impress in his second season on campus. With a shoe size of 20, he is the ideal man-child, grabbing grown-man rebounds and averaging a double-double in SEC play despite seeing double and triple teams due to the season-ending injury of post-mate Jeronne Maymon. The Vols’ chance at a run toward the title starts with the 6-foot-8 270-pounder.
• Scottie Wilbekin Florida, PG
He is not the most prolific scorer, but his defense can’t be undersold. Considered by many league coaches as the best on-ball defender in the SEC, the 6-foot-2 junior is a key cog for a defense that averages just 53.4 points a game — third-fewest in the country. He also runs the offense, averaging 5.3 assists a game.
Game 1: No. 12 seed vs. No. 13, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Game 2: No. 11 vs. No. 14, 9 p.m. (SEC Network)
Game3: No. 8 vs. No. 9, noon (SEC Network)
Game 4: No. 5 vs. No. 12/No. 13, 2:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Game 5: No. 10 vs. No. 7, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Game 6: No. 6 vs. No. 11/No. 14, 9 p.m. (SEC Network)
Game 7: No. 1 vs. Game 3 winner, noon (ESPNU)
Game 8: No. 4 vs. Game 4 winner, 2:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 9: No. 2 vs. Game 5 winner, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Game 10: No. 3 vs. Game 6 winner, 9 p.m. (SEC Network)
Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, noon (ABC)
Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
Semifinal winners, noon (ABC)