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March Madness sleepers? Upsets? Final Four locks? Here's the SEC teams poised to make noise

By Blake Toppmeyer and John Adams, USA TODAY NETWORK,


The SEC tied its conference record by qualifying eight teams for the NCAA Tournament, and the conference boasts the No. 1 overall seed, Alabama.

Otherwise, the conference didn't earn much respect in seeding.

Fourth-seeded Tennessee is the SEC team with the second-highest seed. The conference's second-place finisher, Texas A&M, earned a No. 7 seed. While Alabama has the talent to build a deep March Madness run, it may be the SEC's only team with much of a chance to last beyond the Sweet 16.

On this edition of "SEC Football Unfiltered," a podcast from the USA TODAY Network, hosts Blake Toppmeyer and John Adams put football on the back burner for a week to dissect the SEC's chances for a strong showing in the Big Dance.

Here's some topics they consider:

Who is your sleeper team from the SEC?

Adams: Missouri. The seventh-seeded Tigers have smashed expectations all year under first-year coach Dennis Gates. They play free and easy and should embrace the moment. They'll secure their first NCAA Tournament win in Round 1, then give No. 2 Arizona all it can handle in the second round.

Toppmeyer: Kentucky. This pick says more about the sixth-seeded Wildcats' draw than my belief in a UK awakening. First-round opponent Providence stumbles in having lost four of its last five. Kentucky has a better record against Quad 1 and 2 opponents than No. 3 Kansas State, its potential second-round matchup. Ride the Wildcats to the Sweet 16.

TOPPMEYER:Tennessee basketball an easy upset? Whoa, hold up ... Trust Vols early, Alabama later

ADAMS:Don't pick Tennessee basketball, Rick Barnes to go too far in your March Madness bracket

How far does Alabama go?

Adams: The Crimson Tide is the nation's best team, with the nation's best player in Brandon Miller. It will win the national championship. Alabama's dominance in the SEC Tournament restored my belief in the Tide's championship credentials.

Toppmeyer: Final Four. Alabama received a favorable draw, but whichever team emerges from the East Region – whether that be Purdue, Duke or Marquette – would be a formidable opponent in the Final Four.

[ MORE OPINIONS FROM TOPPMEYER AND ADAMS: Sign up for our SEC Unfiltered newsletter for exclusive columns delivered straight to your inbox ]

Who flops from the SEC?

Adams: No. 4 Tennessee will lose in the second round. No. 9 Auburn will be eliminated in the first round.

Toppmeyer: I agree with John. Also, I think A&M succumbs to a hot Penn State team in a 7/10 game.

Where to listen to SEC Football Unfiltered

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. John Adams is the senior columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel. You can subscribe to their podcast, SEC Football Unfiltered, or check out the SEC Unfiltered newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.

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