Unlike the situation out West, the SEC East has five teams all jockeying for position in the field of
64 65 68. Here is where each of them stand in the final week of the regular season.
FLORIDA (22-6, 11-3)
The Gators have been reaping the rewards of their several years of rebuilding, as they are a veteran team that is solidly on the top four lines of the bracket for right now. Chris Dobbertean has UF as a three-seed; Joe Lunardi has UF as a four.
The team could be in better shape if not for several inexplicable losses. The Gators somehow dropped games to UCF and Jacksonville in the non-conference, and losses to Mississippi State and South Carolina in SEC play didn't help either. Florida finishes up with two tough home games with Alabama and Vanderbilt, with the former deciding the SEC regular season crown. Both Florida and Alabama sit at 11-3, so whoever wins between them clinches the title at least by tiebreaker.
VANDERBIILT (21-7, 9-5)
Vandy is a consensus five-seed according to both guys, so they do agree on some things. John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor have been the two main men for the Commodores as expected, and if they keep going as they've been going, Vanderbilt has a chance to move up on the bracket with two tough contests coming up to finish out 2011.
Tonight the Commodores go to Rupp Arena, where Kentucky is undefeated on the season, and they close with a showdown against Florida in Nashville. Winning out can't get them the East title even if UF loses to Alabama because of the tiebreakers, but it would clinch a first round bye in Atlanta. Beating Kentucky tonight clinches the other first round bye; a loss means Tennessee will need to beat Kentucky to still get VU the bye.
KENTUCKY (20-8, 8-6)
Kentucky is also a consensus five-seed, but it could be different depending on which Kentucky team you're talking about. The one that plays in Lexington is unbeaten. The one that plays on the road is 3-7 on the season with a great win over Louisville but bad losses to Ole Miss and Arkansas. To be fair, no UK loss has by more than six points and five of the seven were by no more than three.
What really helps the Wildcats is their collection of good wins, which includes Notre Dame, Louisville, Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia. They're currently ranked ninth in Ken Pomeroy's ratings too. They finish off the year with a home contest against Vanderbilt and a road game at Tennessee. Winning tonight against Vandy is required to avoid a season sweep, and winning out is required to get a first round bye in the conference tournament.
TENNESSEE (17-12, 7-7)
The Volunteers aren't out of the race for the second spot in the division either. They would need to win out, and have Vandy lose out to get a three-way tie for second among themselves, Vandy, and Kentucky all at 9-7. Tennessee would be 3-1 against the other two, with UK sporting a 2-2 record against the other two and Vandy having a 1-3 record against the other two. It's not out of the question with Tennessee having a say in its final two games and Vandy playing at Rupp and against division winner Florida.
Whether the Vols can even win out themselves, much less count on Vandy losing, is a question though. Inconsistency has plagued the team all season. They have a bevy of good wins though, with victories over Pitt, Villanova, Florida, Georgia, and a sweep of Vanderbilt. Dobbertean has UT as a 10-seed while Lunardi has them as a nine, and beating Kentucky on Sunday would only go to solidify their spot in the Big Dance even more. Losing at South Carolina on Thursday would be ill advised.
GEORGIA (19-9, 8-6)
The Bulldogs are ahead of the Vols in the standings, but I put them last because they have the slimmest prospects for the first round bye in Atlanta as of today. They got swept by Vandy and can't beat Kentucky in a tie breaker by virtue of having a worse East division record than the 'Cats do.
That's not necessarily something to get worked up about, given that this team is in the bracket as a consensus 11-seed and is not on either guy's last four in. Mark Fox has done a great job to get this team in position to go dancing in just his second season on the job. Unlike the rest of the teams listed here, the Bulldogs wrap up 2011 with two games against the West. LSU is up tomorrow night, followed by a trip to Tuscaloosa on Saturday. Winning both would be a good idea because LSU is bad and Alabama is a fellow borderline NCAA tournament team. Holding the head-to-head win would be handy if mid-major tournaments go haywire and push comes to shove.
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