COLUMBIA, Mo. – We have officially entered the final week of the college basketball regular season. Here are your main storylines in the Southeastern Conference…
1. Who’s in it? Who went out ? Right now, the SEC looks like a six-candidate league for the NCAA Tournament with a projected seventh team among the top eight teams in the mix. That would be Florida, which could still pick up two Quad 1 wins this week at Vanderbilt and at home to Kentucky. Otherwise, the top five teams in the league are virtual locks for the Big Dance and probably the sixth team (LSU) as well.
2. Which seat is hot? Georgia is almost certainly heading for a coaching change. Tom Crean is 15-55 in SEC play over the past four years. It will sink you in any school. As Ben Frederickson wrote last week, Missouri AD Desiree Reed-Francois faces her biggest decision at work when it comes to Cuonzo Martin’s future. What about Kermit Davis at Ole Miss? By next week, he will have twice as many appearances on the dreaded opening day of the SEC Tournament as he has had appearances in NCAA tournaments. Has Frank Martin done enough to return for another season in South Carolina? The Gamecocks are expected to finish 9-9 in the league but still have just one Big Dance appearance in Martin’s 10 years, albeit a Final Four five years ago. Buzz Williams disappointed at A&M. Florida (Mike White) and Mississippi State (Ben Howland) are treading water.
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3. It’s almost time for Tampa. Missouri is locked in seed No. 12 or 13 no matter what happens this week. If the top-ranked team using the NCAA NET wins all SEC games this week, here’s what the matchups for the SEC tournament would look like:
No. 12 Missouri vs. No. 13 Ole Miss
No. 11 Texas A&M vs. No. 14 Georgia
No. 8 South Carolina vs. No. 9 Mississippi State
No. 5 Alabama vs. Mizzou/Ole Miss
Florida No. 7 vs. Vanderbilt No. 10
LSU No. 6 vs. Texas A&M/Georgia
No. 1 Auburn vs. South Carolina/Mississippi State
No. 4 Arkansas vs. Alabama/Mizzou/Ole Miss
No. 2 Tennessee vs. Florida/Vandy
Kentucky No. 3 vs. LSU/Texas A&M/Georgia
PD POWER RANKINGS
1. Kentucky (23-6, 12-4), No. 4 NET
Saturday featured two matchups between the league’s top four teams, and while Arkansas and Tennessee won both of those matchups, we keep Saturday’s losers atop the power rankings — just barely. The methodology here has always considered the whole body of work without relying too much on the most recent games. And on neutral ground, it says here that the UK are still the best team in the league thanks to their superior attack and, importantly, the quality of their defeats. Unlike the other SEC Big Three, Kentucky’s losses over the past six weeks have only come to the Big Three, while Auburn has lost to Florida, Arkansas to Alabama, and Tennessee to the Big Three. Texas. The UK has the most Quad 1 wins of the SEC Big Four – and that beating from Kansas to Lawrence goes up in value every week.
Last week: Beat LSU, lost to Arkansas
This week: vs. Ole Miss, Florida
2. Auburn (25-4, 13-3 SEC), No. 11 NET
Auburn’s three SEC losses are a combined 10 points, although in games decided by 4 points or less the Tigers are 4-3.
Last week: beat Ole Miss, lost to Tennessee
This week: At Mississippi State, against South Carolina
3. Arkansas (22-8, 12-4), No. 23 NET
It’s getting harder and harder to remember the warts of the league’s hottest team, but the selection committee can’t completely ignore those losses in December and January.
Last week: beat Florida, beat Kentucky
This week: vs. LSU, Tennessee
4. Tennessee (21-7, 12-4), No. 8 NET
The Vols are undefeated at home, and while there’s no shame in losing to Texas and Texas Tech, that win over the Arizonas has become a priceless commodity.
Last week: beat Mizzou, beat Auburn
This week: in Georgia against Arkansas
5. Alabama (19-10, 9-7), No. 22 NET
The Tide claims to rack up some wins. A very dangerous team.
Last week: beat Vanderbilt, beat South Carolina
This week: vs. Texas A&M, at LSU
6. LSU (20-9, 8-8), No. 16 NET
The defense is suffocating. The offense is unpredictable. A .500 SEC record seems inevitable.
Last week: lost to Kentucky, beat Mizzou
This week: At Arkansas, against Alabama
7. Florida (18-11, 8-8), No. 51 NET
Does beating Georgia still count as a win?
Last week: lost to Arkansas, beat Georgia
This week: At Vanderbilt, against Kentucky
8. South Carolina (17-11, 8-8), No. 91 NET
The Gamecocks have won four out of five, perhaps enough to give Martin another season.
Last week: Beat Mississippi State, lost to Alabama
This week: vs. Mizzou, at Auburn
9. Mississippi State (17-12, 8-8), No. 52 NET
The Bulldogs aren’t going anywhere fast.
Last week: lost to South Carolina, beat Vanderbilt
This week: vs. Auburn, Texas A&M
10. Vanderbilt (14-14, 6-10), No. 74 NET
So much for a .500 SEC finish. The Dores are a one-man show.
Last week: lost to Alabama, lost to Mississippi State
This week: against Florida, at Ole Miss
11. Texas A&M (18-11, 7-9), No. 66 NET
The Aggies have won three of four and could break even in SEC play after a dismal few weeks.
Last week: beat Georgia, beat Ole Miss
This week: At Alabama, vs. Mississippi State
12. Missouri (10-19, 4-12), NET No. 155
The Tigers have avoided playing the first night of the SEC tournament only twice in the last eight seasons.
Last week: lost to Tennessee, lost to LSU
This week: in South Carolina against Georgia
13. Ole Miss (13-16, 4-12), No. 110 NET
The rebels hobble to the finish line.
Last week: lost to Auburn, lost to Texas A&M
This week: In Kentucky, against Vanderbilt
14. Georgia (6-23, 1-15), NET No. 215
Is it already the spring of football?
Last week: lost to Texas A&M, lost to Florida
This week: vs Tennessee, in Mizzou
FC Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky: Can’t blame the big man for Saturday’s loss to the Hogs. He scored 30 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked three shots.
GJD Notae, Arkansas: The SEC Player of the Week scorched the Cats for 30 points and eight assists.
FC Jaylin Williams, Arkansas: Look who joined the first team poll. He posted 16 points and 12 boards against the UK and now has 15 straight double-digit points.
G Scotty Pippen Jr., Vanderbilt: He had 58 points and 10 assists in Vandy’s last two games. It’s not his fault the Commodores can’t win.
F Jabari Smith, Auburn: Was outstanding in Auburn’s loss to the Vols with 27 points, eight rebounds.
C Walker Kessler, Auburn: His scoring has been quiet lately.
C Colin Castleton, Florida: We are making room for two centers in this team.
F Tari Eason, LSU: He continues to thrive off the bench, scoring 18 with two blocks against Mizzou.
G. Kennedy Chandler, Tennessee: The first year made the show in Mizzou: 30 points, eight rebounds, six assists and zero gifts.
G Santiago Vescovi, Tennessee: So solid at both ends.
G Iverson Molinar, Mississippi State
Jaden Shackleford, Alabama
Wendell Green Jr., Auburn
Jermaine Cousinard, South Carolina
Player of the Year and Transfer of the Year: No change here. It is always Oscar Tshiebwe.
Coach of the Year: We stick to Eric Mousselman. The Hogs have been exceptional since January.
Freshman of the Year: No change here. It is always Jabari Smith.