SEC Tournament Second-Round Best Bets: Nick Smith Jr.’s Return Has Changed Arkansas

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NCAAB Pick: Arkansas +1 (-113) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Arkansas +1 (-113)
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The second round of the SEC Tournament from Nashville is Thursday, and we have leans on two of the four games: Mississippi State-Florida and Arkansas-Auburn. 

Here are our NCAAB picks for each game with odds from the best sportsbooks.  

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Florida Gators 

Thursday, March 09, 2023 – 01:00 PM EST at Bridgestone Arena

This is the first game of the second round of the SEC Tournament with the SEC Network having the telecast between the No. 9 Bulldogs and No. 8 Gators. The winner has the chore of facing No. 1 Alabama in Friday’s quarterfinals, and I don’t give either team much shot there. 

MSU Made It to Round-2 After Five Years

Via ESPN Bracketology, Mississippi State (20-11, 8-10 SEC) is among the “Last Four In” for the NCAA Tournament and is set as a No. 11 seed in the First Four against fellow No. 11 Utah State. MSU hasn’t been to the Dance since 2019 under former coach Ben Howland. 

First-year coach Chris Jans preaches defense. MSU is the only team in the country to rank inside the Top 15 in scoring defense (60.4, eighth nationally), opponent field goal percentage (39.3, 10th), and steals (8.94, 17th). The 60.4 points per game allowed are the fifth-lowest in school history since 1955-56. The 8.9 steals average is the third-best in program history.  

The Bulldogs are pretty bad offensively, allowing 66.4 ppg. Tolu Smith is the only double-digit scorer at 15.4 ppg. Before heading to Starkville, Jans led New Mexico State to the NCAA Tournament three times in his five-year stint there, winning the WAC Tournament three times. 

Will Florida Miss Colin Castleton?

Florida (16-15, 9-9) will miss the NCAA Tournament under first-year coach Todd Golden unless it wins this tournament. If Florida was healthy, the Gators might be talented enough to make a run but not without one of the SEC’s best players in center Colin Castleton, who is out for the season injured. He averaged 16.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks.

Since he was hurt on Feb. 15 vs. Ole Miss, the Gators are 2-3 and those wins were over very bad Georgia and LSU teams.  

“It seemed like they changed their entire offense,” said MSU star Smith of the Gators without Castleton. “There’s not a lot of rim protection, but they have a lot of good guard play. They have some veteran guards and they like to do a lot of spacing out and play. So we just have to take advantage of what we usually do on offense.” 

Teams’ Stats

  • Under is 4-0 in Bulldogs’ last 4 neutral site games. 
  • Under is 8-3 in Gators’ last 11 Thursday games. 

The Pick

Florida won at MSU 61-59 on Jan. 21 behind 13 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals from Castleton. Following the NCAAB odds, I expect another rock fight so let’s stick with the Under.  

NCAAB Pick: Under 131 (-110) at BetOnline

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Under 131 (-110)
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Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Auburn Tigers 

Thursday, March 09, 2023 – 07:00 PM EST at Bridgestone Arena

While I give neither team above a chance of winning this tournament, I do think the 10th-seeded Razorbacks actually could as they open against No. 7 Auburn on the SEC Network. The winner gets No. 2 Texas A&M in the quarterfinals. 

Arkansas Has a Very Talented Squad

Yes, Arkansas (19-12, 8-10) lost its final three games but they were at Alabama, at Tennessee, and vs. Kentucky, quite the gauntlet. The reason I think the Hogs have a big ceiling was the fairly recent return of touted freshman Nick Smith Jr., a likely 2023 lottery pick.

He was injured and then contemplated simply ending his season to prepare for the draft but returned in mid-February and got hot down the stretch with three games scoring at least 24 points.  Prior to Smith’s full-time return, Arkansas was shooting 30.6% from three-point range, which was 324th nationally. Since his return, the Hogs have improved to 32.1% from deep.  

Coach Eric Musselman has a very talented squad led by Smith, Anthony Black, Ricky Council IV, and Davonte Davis. Black was voted second-team All-SEC and to the SEC All-Freshman team; Council IV was tabbed second-team All-SEC, and Davis was named to the SEC All-Defensive team. Thanks to 513 points this year and ranking third in the SEC in scoring (16.5 ppg), Council IV is just two points shy of 1,000 for his career. 

Arkansas is +1200 to win this tournament for the second time in school history (2000) and Auburn is the same price at Alabama betting sites to win it for a third time overall and first since 2019.

Green Jr. and Broome Lead Auburn’s Offense

Coach Bruce Pearl’s team is led by junior guard Wendell Green Jr. and sophomore forward Johni Broome, both named second-team All-SEC. Green ranks third in the SEC in assists (4.2 apg), 15th in scoring (13.9 ppg), fourth in free throw percentage (.831), and 10th in steals (1.7). Broome is one of only nine league players to rank in the Top 15 in scoring (14th, 14.0 ppg) and rebounding (2nd, 8.4 rpg). 

The Tigers (20-11, 10-8) closed the regular season with an impressive 79-70 home win over No. 12 Tennessee but haven’t won back-to-back games since January. Auburn snapped a three-game skid vs. Arkansas with a 72-59 home win on Jan. 7 in the lone meeting of the season. Green had 19 points, and Broome had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Smith wasn’t around for the Hogs then. Thursday will be only the second all-time neutral-site meeting between the programs. 

Teams’ Stats

  • Razorbacks are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 neutral site games. 
  • Tigers are 5-13 ATS in their last 18 games following an ATS win. 
  • Tigers are 7-20 ATS in their last 27 games following a straight-up win. 

NCAAB Pick: Arkansas +1 (-113) at BetOnline  

*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.