Just a few more days, my friends, and March Madness will be upon us! The big dance is what we all look forward to, but conference tournaments often provide the perfect build-up.
For the Southeastern Conference (SEC), this week is an important one in deciding the seeding for many for the conference tournament in Nashville, but also for the few schools still on the bubble for the NCAA tournament.
As we all prepare for tournament season, let’s take a look at the most likely scenarios for what the seeds will be in the SEC Tournament next week.
For now, the standings look like this:
The Top 4
The final standings can easily be broken into three categories. The first includes the top four teams, which are all highly likely to start out their conference tournament play on Friday.
If Kentucky wins out or splits their two remaining games (Vanderbilt, @ Texas A&M), no matter what Florida does Kentucky gets the #1 seed because Kentucky has a better record than Florida against South Carolina. It seems unlikely that Kentucky drops two in a row to end the season, but that is Florida’s only chance at the top seed.
Florida is almost assured to hold onto the #2 seed. The only scenario that would knock them down is for the Gators to lose their remaining games (Arkansas, @ Vanderbilt) and have South Carolina win out (Mississippi State, @ Ole Miss) without Arkansas winning out (@ Florida, Georgia). However, I would not put money on that even though the Gamecocks have an easy ride into the tourney.
If Arkansas and South Carolina finish with the same record, the Razorbacks hold the head-to-head tie-breaker for the #3 seed. But South Carolina is favored to win their remaining games, and I just do not see Arkansas winning at Florida.
Top 4 Prediction:
3. South Carolina
The Messy Middle
From Ole Miss even down to Auburn, a lot can happen from the 5-11 seeds. Assuming Vanderbilt does not win both of their remaining games (@ Kentucky, Florida), the winner of the Ole Miss and Alabama game on Wednesday likely decides the #5 and #6 seeds.
Vanderbilt, who is the hottest team in the conference, has a very unfortunate stretch to end their conference schedule. The Commodores would also lose a tie-breaker to Georgia if it came down to it, but the Bulldogs do not have an easy road themselves (Auburn, @ Arkansas), especially without star forward Yante Maten.
Georgia holds the head-to-head tie-breaker with Tennessee, but would lose a 3-way tie-breaker with Tennessee and Texas A&M and a potential head-to-head tie-breaker with Auburn should their records be tied. Unless Georgia can find some magic, they are in line for a major fall in the standings before the tournament begins.
Auburn has two very winnable games remaining (@ Georgia, Missouri), and I look for Bruce Pearl and company to make a run to end the regular season.
Tennessee is sliding quickly, but would be greatly benefited by their win over Kentucky in a potential tie-breaker with Texas A&M.
Messy Middle Prediction:
6. Ole Miss
9. Texas A&M
The Hopeless Few
Not everyone in the lists above has a shot at the big dance, but it is for darn certain that these teams don’t.
There is technically a scenario where Mississippi State could grab the #11 or even the #10 seed, but that is a big reach. Their SEC ranking is likely to stand pat without a major upset over South Carolina and some help from above (both higher seeds and a divine being).
Missouri and LSU are guaranteed the bottom two seeds. It will be tough for Missouri to get another win (Texas A&M, @ Auburn), and if LSU can upset Mississippi State they would hold the head-to-head tie-breaker with Missouri.
However, LSU is one of the worst basketball teams the SEC has ever seen. And that’s saying something.
Hopefless Few Prediction:
12. Mississippi State
Thus, the final bracket would look like this:
To follow along with the action this week, here are the remaining match-ups in the SEC to determine seeding for the tournament.
Tuesday, February 28
7:00 p.m. Mississippi State at South Carolina
7:00 p.m. Texas A&M at Missouri
9:00 p.m. Vanderbilt at Kentucky
Wednesday, March 1
6:30 p.m. Auburn at Georgia
7:00 p.m. Arkansas at Florida
7:00 p.m. Tennessee at LSU
8:30 p.m. Ole Miss at Alabama
Saturday, March 4
12:00 p.m. Kentucky at Texas A&M
1:00 p.m. Alabama at Tennessee
2:00 p.m. Georgia at Arkansas
2:00 p.m. Florida at Vanderbilt
3:30 p.m. Missouri at Auburn
6:00 p.m. LSU at Mississippi State
8:30 p.m. South Carolina at Ole Miss
And just for fun, Team Rankings actually did their own projection of how the seedings will end up, as well as the odds for each team to advance in each round and win the whole thing:
Given these scenarios, what do you think of Kentucky’s potential draw in the SEC Tournament?