SEC tournament: semifinals betting preview

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Florida Gators (-12.5, 116)

Top-seeded Florida had little trouble in its quarterfinal matchup with Louisiana State on Friday. No. 4 seed Alabama will try to give the Gators more of a challenge when the schools meet in the semifinals of the SEC tournament on Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. The Crimson Tide improved their NCAA Tournament resume by taking out Tennessee in the quarterfinals but could put themselves in a much more secure position by beating Florida.

The Gators got a career highs in points (27) and rebounds (12) from Erik Murphy on Friday and overwhelmed the Tigers on the defensive end. Alabama showed that it would have no trouble playing a rugged defensive contest in its victory over Tennessee and will have more on the line as it attempts to reach the SEC finals and attract the attention of the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Trevor Releford and Levi Randolph hit all the big shots when called upon Friday and should keep Florida busy guarding the perimeter.

TV:
1 p.m. ET, ABC

ABOUT ALABAMA (21-11): The Crimson Tide do not have the size to match the likes of Murphy and Patric Young on Florida’s interior but will spread the floor and penetrate the lane with a series of quick guards. Sophomore forward Nick Jacobs came off the bench Friday to pull down 12 rebounds and could be counted on again Saturday to provide an interior presence. Alabama had an eight-point lead on the Gators at one point in the regular season meeting but fell off down the stretch. Releford led the Crimson Tide with 12 points but went 0-of-3 from 3-point range and got little help from Randolph (three points) and Rodney Cooper (five). Alabama has not beaten a ranked team and dropped three of five to end the regular season. A win over the Gators could help the NCAA Tournament selection committee overlook losses to Dayton, Mercer and Tulane in the non-conference portion of the schedule.

ABOUT FLORIDA (25-6): The Gators have no reason to worry about a bid to the NCAA Tournament but would like to sweep through the SEC to ensure themselves of the highest possible seed when the field is announced Sunday. Florida came out with that purpose in mind Friday and dominated LSU, pushing the lead to 35 points in the second half before settling for an 80-58 victory. Murphy and Scottie Wilbekin combined to go 9-for-12 from 3-point range and Michael Frazier added a pair of 3-pointers off the bench as the Gators cruised. Florida led the SEC and ranked among the leaders nationally in scoring and field goal percentage defense, and proved it could turn that on with a 15-0 run in the first meeting with Alabama that erased the eight-point second half deficit. The Gators ended up holding the Crimson Tide to one field goal in the final 9:53 in that contest.

TRENDS:

* Crimson Tide are 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall.
* Under is 6-1 in Gators’ last seven overall.
* Underdog is 8-2 ATS in the last 10 meetings.

TIP-INS

1. Florida has not won the SEC tournament since taking the last of three straight in 2007.

2. Alabama’s second-leading scorer, guard Trevor Lacey, has totaled 11 points on 4-of-17 shooting in the last two games.

3. Murphy has scored in double figures in four straight games and matched a career high with five 3-pointers on Friday.

Ole Miss Rebels vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (+3.5, 131)

Vanderbilt looks to add a third upset to its SEC tournament experience when it faces No. 3 seed Mississippi in the semifinals Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. The Commodores, the No. 10 seed, have already taken down No. 7 Arkansas and No. 2 Kentucky in their first two games as they try to repeat as conference tournament champions.

The Rebels almost didn't make it to the semifinals, needing a second-half rally to down Missouri in the quarterfinals. The two teams had an overtime affair in the regular season in Nashville that Mississippi won in overtime. Marshall Henderson hit a 30-foot 3-pointer to send that game to overtime, and the league's leading scorer will be a big focus for both teams in this one as well.

TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

ABOUT VANDERBILT (16-16 SEC): The Commodores have won five straight SEC tournament games, having gone 3-0 in the tournament last year for their second title. If Vanderbilt can play like it did against Kentucky in the quarterfinals - shooting 50 percent - it will be able to hang with the Rebels' high-powered offense. Kedren Johnson leads the team in scoring, averaging 13.5 points, with Rod Odom at (10.5). Johnson and Odom have each made 54 3-pointers and hoisted a combined 301 as the Commodores try to stretch the defense. Vanderbilt ranks third in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 60 points and allowing opponents to shooting 40.6 percent. Since they've already overachieved, the Commodores can play loose, and that could help them to another upset win.

ABOUT MISSISSIPPI (24-8):
The Rebels showed how high-powered their offense can be when it gets going, especially Henderson, in the win over Missouri. Henderson scored 20 points in the second half as Ole Miss rallied, and he'll be a focus for the Commodores from the moment he steps on the court. But Mississippi has more than just the high-scoring Henderson (19.9 points), as shown by Derrick Millinghaus' game-tying and game-winning scores in the final minute against Missouri. Millinghaus is the team's seventh-leading scorer, showing the depth of the Rebels. Murphy Holloway (14.5 points, 9.7 rebounds) and Reginald Buckner (9.3, 7.5) will give Mississippi an advantage inside, especially on the boards.

TRENDS:

* Commodores are 5-0 ATS in their last five Saturday games.
* Over is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
* Over is 4-1 in Commodores’ last five vs. a team with a winning S.U. record.

TIP-INS

1. The Commodores' victory over Kentucky gave coach Kevin Stallings his 400th career victory.

2. Buckner needs three blocks to move into fifth on the all-time SEC list. The senior is the Ole Miss leader with 315 career blocks.

3. While Vanderbilt is the defending SEC tournament champion, Mississippi hasn't been to the championship game since 2001, when it lost to Kentucky.

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