After an important weekend in SEC basketball, three teams came out as clear winners.
The first one is Kentucky, who held off Vanderbilt 83-74 to clinch its 45th SEC regular season championship. The Commodores managed to hold a one-point lead at the half, which counts as a real achievement in Rupp Arena this year, and they kept it close over most of the second half. The nine-point final margin is a slight bit deceiving, as the margin was only five after a VU score with 50 seconds to go. Anthony Davis played the best game of his young career, dominating with 28 points, 11 rebounds, and six blocks.
UK is now a fairly unanimous pick as the No. 1 overall seed for March, and the AP game recap points out that this team has a chance to be only the third team since 1956 to go undefeated in SEC play. The other two, of course, were other Kentucky teams in 1996 and 2003.
Alabama welcomed back JaMychal Green from suspension, but Levi Randolph stole the show as the Crimson Tide took down Mississippi State 57-60. Randolph led his team in four categories: points with 18, rebounds with seven, assists with four (tied with Trevor Releford), and steals with three. This win over fellow bubble team MSU feels like the peak of a crescendo for this Tide team, which faced adversity and came out better on the other side than anyone would have predicted. Bama is moving ever closer to "should be in" territory in relation to March Madness. The Bulldogs, however, are quickly sliding towards "last four in" status.
Tennessee, meanwhile, deserves a lot of credit for where it's at right now. The team was picked to finish eleventh in the conference by the media in the preseason, but its win over South Carolina on Saturday kept it in a tie with Alabama for fourth in the league standings. UT would not get an SEC tournament first round bye if the season ended today, as Alabama holds the tiebreaker, but it's a far cry from being near the cellar of the league. Bama will probably lock up that fourth spot this week, as it has Ole Miss and Auburn left while Tennessee has LSU and Vandy to go. Still though, Cuonzo Martin deserves some big time credit for guiding his Vols this far.
Finally, Florida has to be seen as a weekend loser. The Gators played poorly on the road yet again, this time losing decisively to a bad Georgia team 76-62. UF shot just 21.7% from downtown in the loss, reinforcing the idea that the team is doomed if it can't make its threes. It was also a bad first game without key reserve Will Yeguete, who was lost for the season to injury last week. The Gators had better refocus quickly if they want to avoid a three-game skid heading into the conference tournament, as they have a game at Vandy and at home versus Kentucky yet to go.
The SEC sent out a notice over the weekend that Florida locked up a tournament bye despite the loss, but that was about it for the good news. Patric Young is the only real inside threat the team has, so it's very susceptible on nights like Saturday when Erving Walker goes 4-11, Kenny Boynton goes 4-11, and Bradley Beal goes 5-12 all in the same game. When this team's season ends in March, it will almost certainly be to a team with a good inside game on a day when the outside shots aren't falling.