It just keeps getting more interesting in the SEC. Here are a few reactions from this week’s SEC men’s basketball games.
It’s going to be a photo finish.
What was once a certainty is now the opposite.
Just a few short weeks ago, it seemed like the SEC was Kentucky’s league to lose. It looks like the Wildcats may have lost it. Although they’re tied for first in the conference standings, Calipari’s Cats look nothing like the Final Four contenders that they should.
As it stands, Kentucky, Florida and South Carolina all have identical records: 20-5 overall with a 10-2 record in SEC play.
Kentucky didn’t lose this past week, but they narrowly defeated LSU (9-15, 1-11 SEC), the worst team in the league, 92-85, at home. In their next game, the Wildcats only scored 67 against Alabama, but still came away with the win.
Where Kentucky was fortunate, South Carolina was not. The Gamecocks lost at home to the Crimson Tide this week, 90-86, in quadruple-overtime and struggled to beat Mississippi State on the road.
Florida, on the other hand, is playing like a league champion. The Gators have won six games in a row, including an 88-66 thrashing of Kentucky on Feb. 2 during that streak. This week they’ll face Auburn and Mississippi State, so their streak should jump to eight games if the Gators keep their focus.
The league’s top three teams may not all be playing their best basketball, but the race to the top is still neck-and-neck.
Tennessee is hanging on by a thread.
A head-scratching loss in Starkville on Feb. 4 looked bad at the time for the Vols, but a victory against Ole Miss in the next game seemed to right the ship, right?
Tennessee (14-11, 6-6 SEC) squandered a 14-point lead in the second half to the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday, and probably squandered a ticket to the NCAA Tournament with it. Even with 30 points from freshman forward Grant Williams, Tennessee managed to lose, 76-75, to Georgia. The loss to the Bulldogs was the fourth time this season Tennessee has lost after leading by double digits.
The Vols’ NCAA Tournament hopes aren’t completely gone, but Tennessee has to work some magic the rest of the way if it doesn’t want those hopes to disappear.
The SEC might only have three teams in the NCAA Tournament.
With Georgia (14-11, 5-7 SEC) and Tennessee walking on eggshells and Arkansas (18-7, 7-5 SEC) losing games to teams like Missouri and Vanderbilt, the NCAA Tournament could see as few as three teams represented from the SEC.
Although it seems like the Razorbacks’ record would be enough to punch their ticket to the Big Dance, one or two more bad losses would likely squash their chances.
Tennessee still has two tough road games remaining against Kentucky and South Carolina, and the Vols will likely have to steal at least one of those games to keep their tournament hopes alive.
Georgia improved its chances of landing a spot in the NCAA Tournament with a win against Tennessee, but the Bulldogs have no true signature wins so far this season.
The door is open for six SEC teams to be in the NCAA Tournament, but for now, only Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina are locks.
Edited by David Bradford
Featured image by Hayley Pennesi, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics