SEC Basketball at the Half

The title of this post is not some sort of terrible new halftime show like what we saw last night in the Super Bowl ("I tell you Jim, if the Colts can get back to doing what they were doing when they were doing well, they'll be right back in it!" Right, because the Colts aren't trying to play well anymore). Rather, thanks to a weekend where all 12 teams had a game on Saturday, everyone has played at least eight of their 16 conference games.

To me, the biggest news is not Kentucky being atop the SEC East. That was fully expected, and though being 22-1 is indeed a big deal, it's not really a shock. The biggest deal to me is the sight of Arkansas alone atop the West division.

A week ago, I said the Hogs looked like a classic spoiler. Now, they are somewhat unbelievably the leaders in the division after a wild and woolly win over Auburn. Just a season ago, the program was a wreck after going 2-14 in conference. John Pelphrey looked like he might have been in over his head. Heck, this season didn't start so great either. Pelphrey kept things together though, and underwhelming seasons by division favorites Ole Miss and Mississippi State have opened the door for the Pigs. I have doubts about whether they'll be getting a first round bye in the league tournament, but then, I had doubts as to whether they'd be in the top half of the division before SEC play began too.

But anyway, back to those 22-1 guys. They had no trouble in whomping hapless LSU two days ago, looking every bit like the frontrunner they are. Taking care of business with authority is what great teams do.

With that in mind, I can safely say that Vanderbilt is not a great team.

Not only did Vandy fail to take care of business against East Division doormat Georgia, but it was an epic second half collapse that did the Commodores in. It was a win that inspired hope for the future in Athens, and rightfully so. However, it was just crushing for Vanderbilt to spit the bit against one of three SEC teams under .500 on the year and have supposed star C A.J. Ogilvy play weakly in the process.

It wasn't a bad weekend though for the teams that now find themselves in second place in the divisions. Tennessee dropped a train on South Carolina, effectively ending whatever faint hopes the Gamecocks may have had left at getting an at-large bid to the Big Dance. Devan Downey got his 26, but the rest of his team outscored him by just a single point, while Wayne Chism's career day helped the Vols to a laugher.

Meanwhile in Oxford, Ole Miss staged a comeback for the ages in taking down Alabama. The Rebels found themselves down 20 at the half, but they stormed back and ended up winning by seven. It was quite a comeback for a team that appeared to be on its way to a third straight loss after having dropped two in a row to Arkansas and Kentucky. For the Crimson Tide, it was just another in an increasingly long line of blown leads.

On the conference's Bubble Watch, Florida managed to eke out a win over Mississippi State. The win moved the Gators up a couple spots on the latest version of SB Nation's Bracketology, while the second consecutive loss bumped the Bulldogs off to being fifth in line for the last spot in. It was C Vernon Macklin's first big SEC game for the Gators, a necessary occurance since UF's top three scorers made just seven field goals combined.

According to SB Nation's Bracketology, the conference has five teams in the field of 65: Kentucky (a 1 seed), Tennessee (4), Vanderbilt (6), Ole Miss (8), and Florida (10). Mississippi State is out for now but is in striking distance of getting back in. Anyone else will probably have to catch fire and win the conference tournament to go dancing.

While you can't really count anyone out for sure after we all saw Georgia win the Tornado Tournament in '08, I would give the best chances of winning the SEC tourney to break into the NCAAs to Arkansas from the West and South Carolina from the East. The Hogs are hitting their stride at the right time, but it appears there's even more improvement to go. The Gamecocks have one of those one man wrecking crews in Downey that almost all March legends are made of, and as long as he gets some kind of help from his teammates, Carolina could upset some teams that are coasting from having secured tournament bids already.

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