The Southeastern Conference’s annual basketball bonanza is back in Music City.
The SEC Men's Basketball Tournament will take over Lower Broadway this week, tipping off Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena. The five-day event generated a record $19.97 million in direct economic impact last year, according to the Nashville Sports Council, and much of that came from Kentucky’s Big Blue Nation invading the city. But fans from all 14 schools will come to Nashville for the 13-game event.
Here's what you need to know for the big event.
Editor’s Note: Central Time is used throughout this story.
Tickets are still available. All seats are $15 and general admission. Ticket books for all 13 games cost $360 for the upper level and $435 for lower level, and they are available through SECticketoffice.com or the 14 schools’ ticket offices. To buy single-session tickets, try secondary online markets like StubHub.com, SeatGeek.com and VividSeats.com. Scalpers also will surround the arena with available tickets.
At the 2016 SEC Tournament, visitors spent an average of $268 per person in Nashville, and nearly 16,000 hotel rooms were booked because of the event, according to the Nashville Sports Council. In its previous four trips to Nashville, the SEC Tournament has yielded an average of nearly $18 million of direct economic impact.
There are two first-round games Wednesday night involving the bottom four teams in the regular-season standings. No. 12 seed Mississippi State plays No. 13 LSU at 6 p.m., and No. 11 seed Auburn faces No. 14 seed Missouri about 8:30 p.m.
Can Kentucky three-peat?
The Wildcats are certainly the favorites to win a third consecutive SEC Tournament title. They enter as the No. 1 seed, tout a 16-2 conference record and once again are loaded with NBA-caliber talent. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that Kentucky brings the biggest and most boisterous fan base, giving the Wildcats the feel of a home court at Bridgestone Arena.
What about the Commodores and Vols?
Vanderbilt and Tennessee have met in each of the past two SEC Tournaments. But that would only be possible in the championship game this week, as they start on opposite sides of the bracket. No. 9 seed Tennessee will play No. 8 seed Georgia at noon Thursday, with the winner facing No. 1 seed Kentucky in Friday’s quarterfinal. No. 7 seed Vanderbilt will play No. 10 seed Texas A&M at 6 p.m. Thursday, with the winner facing No. 2 seed Florida in Friday’s quarterfinal.
What are the NCAA Tournament implications?
Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina and Arkansas appear to be locks to get into the NCAA Tournament, regardless of what happens this week. But the SEC could squeeze in at least one more team. Vanderbilt could make the NCAA Tournament already, but winning one or two games in the SEC Tournament should remove all doubt. Georgia has an outside chance of an NCAA Tournament bid, but it probably needs to advance to the SEC final just to be in the conversation.
The first 10 games from Wednesday through Friday will air on SEC Network. Tune in to ESPN to watch both semifinal games Saturday and the championship game Sunday.
Gone, but not for long
Nashville is hosting the SEC Tournament for the fifth time in the past eight years. Next year it will take a detour to St. Louis, but then return to Music City. Nashville will host the SEC Tournament from 2019-21 and again in 2023-25. Tampa will host in 2022.
Reach Adam Sparks at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @AdamSparks.
SEC BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
At Bridgestone Arena
Wednesday, first round
(12) Mississippi State vs. (13) LSU, 6 p.m. (SEC Network)
(11) Auburn vs. (14) Missouri, 8:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Thursday, second round
(8) Georgia vs. (9) Tennessee, noon (SEC Network)
Mississippi State-LSU winner vs. (5) Alabama, 2:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
(7) Vanderbilt vs. (10) Texas A&M, 6 p.m. (SEC Network)
Auburn-Missouri winner vs. (6) Ole Miss, 8:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Georgia-Tennessee winner vs. (1) Kentucky, noon (SEC Network)
Mississippi State-LSU-Alabama winner vs. (4) South Carolina, 2:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Texas A&M-Vanderbilt winner vs. (2) Florida, 6 p.m. (SEC Network)
Auburn-Missouri-Ole Miss winner vs. (3) Arkansas, 8:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Quarterfinal winner vs. Quarterfinal winner, noon (ESPN)
Quarterfinal winner vs. Quarterfinal winner, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Semifinal winner vs. semifinal winner, noon (ESPN)