It’s hard to believe, but we’re coming down to crunch-time in the SEC schedule. In the most recent edition of Bracketology, Joe Lunardi had six SEC squads making the tournament. Florida, Vanderbilt and Kentucky all are looking to be in pretty good shape to make the NCAA’s, with Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee in dangerous bubble territory.
Each team has played 12 games in-conference, so there are just four games left for everybody to jockey for position. Let’s take a look at what happened this week.
Games of the Week That Was
Vanderbilt 64 Georgia 56 (Wednesday)
Outside of Kentucky, Vandy has been the quality team in the SEC that has had the most trouble on the road this year, so picking up this win against a very motivated Georgia squad was very impressive. Georgia had a 14 point lead behind some stifling defense with just over 13 minutes remaining, but that’s when John Jenkins went crazy. Before then, he was scoreless, but notched 21 points down the stretch to lead the ‘Dores to the win.
Vandy, including another road win Saturday at Auburn, has won six in a row.
Georgia 69 Tennessee 63 (Saturday)
Especially having lost earlier in the week at home to Vandy, UGA needed to make up ground. They responded, picking up a massive road win over the Vols which keeps them on the right side of the NCAA bubble…for now.
Georgia had not won in Knoxville in 10 years and it looked like they were en route to blowing another one as UT closed to within two with 42 seconds left. Dustin Ware, though, sealed the game with four free throws, allowing the Bulldogs to survive a career-high 32 points from Scotty Hopson. The Vols, now, are left hoping their non-conference successes will be enough to let them keep playing.
Kentucky 85 Mississippi State 79 (Tuesday)
Tennessee 73 South Carolina 67 (Wednesday)
Ole Miss 90 Auburn 59 (Wednesday)
Arkansas 94 Florida A&M 55 (Wednesday)
Alabama 67 LSU 56 (Thursday)
Mississippi State 71 Ole Miss 58 (Saturday)
Vanderbilt 77 Auburn 60 (Saturday)
Kentucky 90 South Carolina 59 (Saturday)
Alabama 69 Arkansas 56 (Saturday)
Florida 68 LSU 61 (Sunday)
Games of the Week That Will Be
Tennessee @ Vanderbilt – Tuesday 9 PM, ESPN
Lunardi still may be projecting UT to make the tournament, but you have to think Bruce Pearl wants to pick up one more quality win to cinch a spot. This one, along with a home finish against UK, is a chance to do just that. Unfortunately, winning in Memorial against a psyched up late night ESPN crowd is quite the tall order.
Jeff Taylor entered the season as the Commodore with the most hype, but John Jenkins has clearly taken over that mantle, leading the SEC in scoring and potentially in line for conference POY honors as just a sophomore. UT will counter with a wing player of their own who is playing at a high level in Scotty Hopson. The two don’t figure to guard each other, but their production will go a long way to determining a winner here. Pearl will break out the creamsicle jacket Tuesday night, but I don’t think it will be enough.
Georgia @ Florida – Thursday 7 PM, ESPN2
In principle, this is a very similar game to Vandy-UT. It pits a road team fighting for its tourney life against a home-standing squad with a very solid home floor and NCAA profile. Florida, though, is a bit more susceptible to a loss in my opinion. Florida has had unpredicted hiccups this year and Chandler Parsons is unlikely to play. The Gators have a quick turnaround after this one before a trip to Lexington to face UK, so there’s a chance they could be looking ahead a bit. It should be interesting to see if the Bulldogs can capitalize on an opportunity.
Florida @ Kentucky – Saturday 4 PM, CBS
And here’s the game I was referring to. It’s always rowdy in Rupp for the Gators, especially when Florida has already knocked off UK earlier in the year. Florida will be coming off of a tough test against the physical Bulldogs with less than 48 hours of rest, while UK plays on Wednesday and does not have to travel. Advantage: Kentucky.
Florida, though, has played the most consistent basketball of any team in the SEC East in conference play, so past performance suggests they will win at least one game this week. If they don’t, the race for the title in the East could get very interesting in the final week of the season.
Ole Miss @ South Carolina – Tuesday 7 PM, ESPNU
Kentucky @ Arkansas – Wednesday 8 PM, SEC Network
Auburn @ Alabama – Wednesday 8 PM, SEC Network
LSU @ Mississippi State – Wednesday 9 PM, CSS
Arkansas @ Auburn – Saturday 1:30 PM, SEC Network
Vanderbilt @ LSU – Saturday 1:30 PM, SEC Network
Alabama @ Ole Miss – Saturday 4 PM, SEC Network
Mississippi State @ Tennessee – Saturday 6 PM, ESPN
South Carolina @ Georgia – Saturday 7 PM, FSS
1. #13 Florida 21-5 (10-2) – They’ve won nine of 10 entering a very tough closing stretch (UGA, @UK, ‘Bama, @Vandy)
2. #18 Vanderbilt 20-6 (8-4) – Could sneak away SEC East title with some help from Florida
3. #22 Kentucky 19-7 (7-5) – Are they primed for a big stretch run?
4. Alabama 18-8 (10-2) – Conference title could be theirs thanks to cannibalism in the SEC East
5. Georgia 18-8 (7-5) – Resume still short on quality wins, but in decent shape
6. Tennessee 16-11 (6-6) – Vols probably need four wins in last four+SEC Tourney to feel good
7. Mississippi State 14-12 (6-6) – Thanks to divisional set-up, they’ll likely get first round SEC Tourney bye
8. Ole Miss 17-10 (5-7) – With SEC West way down, this was a wasted season for the Rebs
9. Arkansas 16-10 (5-7) – Gotta love the random Feb. match-up with Florida A&M
10. South Carolina 13-12 (4-8) – Lost five in a row in consecutive games against SEC East teams
11. Auburn 9-17 (2-10) – Eight of 10 SEC losses have been by nine points or more
12. LSU 10-17 (2-10) – Trent Johnson has aged considerably this year