Can anyone top the Wildcats? SEC Tournament preview
When & Where: Thursday, March 8 to Sunday, March 11, New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, La.
No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (bye)
No. 2 Tennessee Volunteers (bye)
No. 3 Vanderbilt Commodores (bye)
No. 4 Florida Gators (bye)
No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide
No. 6 Mississippi State Bulldogs
No. 7 Mississippi Rebels
No. 8 LSU Tigers
No. 9 Arkansas Razorbacks
No. 10 Auburn Tigers
No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs
No. 12 South Carolina Gamecocks
Favorite: Kentucky Wildcats
Potential Cinderella: Alabama Crimson Tide
What's at stake?
For three bubble teams, quite a lot is at stake. Alabama, Mississippi State and Tennessee all sit on various parts of the bubble. The Crimson Tide are in considerably better shape than the Volunteers and the Bulldogs. Likely all they need to do to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament is beat lowly South Carolina in the SEC Tournament first round. Even if they are upset there they still could be ahead of Mississippi State and Tennessee given their non-conference wins over Purdue, VCU and Wichita State and their top-20 strength of schedule.
For Mississippi State and Tennessee things are a bit more dicy. Before winning two straight to close out the year, the Bulldogs had nosedived, losing five in a row. At 8-8 in the SEC and with an RPI of 60 and a strength of schedule of 77, Mississippi State will need to beat Georgia in the first round of the SEC Tournament, and will probably also need to upset Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals to earn an at-large bid.
Tennessee is an entirely unique case. The Volunteers went just 8-7 in non-conference play, have an RPI of 75, and were 3-10 in road/neutral court games. However, they didn't have the services of Jarnell Stokes for the first half of the season, are 8-1 in their last nine games and finished second in the SEC at 10-6. It is anyone's guess what the committee will make of the Volunteers. In my opinion, Tennessee would do well to get to the SEC Tournament final to get a bid.
As for the rest of the SEC, Vanderbilt and Florida have locked up bids, as has Kentucky, who is the clubhouse leader for the No. 1 overall seed. If the Wildcats, who were undefeated in the SEC this season, can win the conference tournament