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SEC Hoops Picture Clears Up a Little

SEC basketball had two games last night, and they remarkably did more to clarify the conference situation than the six games last Saturday did.

In Oxford, Ole Miss staged what could have been its last stand in falling 82-78 at the hands of Vanderbilt. A.J. Ogilvy had a breakout game for the Commodores, topping the 20 barrier for the first time since January 16. Jeffery Taylor and Jermaine Beal also went into double digits for Vandy, who did not win pretty by some standards. It understandably was a frustrating loss for the Rebels, who wasted a 23 point effort from Chris Warren.

Elsewhere on the bubble, Florida held off a feisty Auburn team 78-70 to preserve for now its hopes for making the tournament. The Gators' front court, including a surprisingly useful Dan Werner, made up for a rough field goal shooting night for guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker, who scored 19 of their combined 24 points from the charity stripe. Chandler Parsons led Florida with 17, while Auburn's DeWayne Reed led all scorers with 22.

For Ole Miss, the task is fairly clear: win out or win the conference tournament to get into March Madness. November's win over Kansas State still looks good, but the best SEC win the Rebels have is over South Carolina.

For Florida, the hopes are a little brighter. With Tennessee, Vandy, and Kentucky still to go, the Gators have chances to pick up their first A+ win since beating Michigan State in November. However, the odds of getting one of those wins still doesn't look great when it takes a reemergence of Werner just to hold off an under .500 Auburn team. UF is simply a tired team with no depth.

Saturday's set of six games should give some more clarity. Florida and Ole Miss clash in Oxford, and the loser's tournament hopes will be in dire straits. LSU could knock Mississippi State out of the running with its first conference win. Whatever hopes Arkansas has as an at large (based mostly on a stellar conference record) can be preserved by taking down Auburn. We've even got Kentucky visiting Vandy with the top spot in the East on the line.

This is what late season basketball is all about: figuring out who will survive and who's going to the NIT.