This is a very important weekend for SEC basketball as the season hits the home stretch here.
Tonight, Alabama squares off against Arkansas in a critical game for the Crimson Tide. The Hogs have disappeared from the bubble discussion, but Bama is right in the thick of things. It could be the last game they play without JaMychal Green, who Anthony Grant reinstated to the team but who won't be in uniform tonight. The team could definitely use the win to stay on the right side of the bubble.
On Saturday, the Tide has another crucial matchup against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have been sinking of late, picking up three straight bad losses to Georgia, LSU, and Auburn. MSU led much of the game against Kentucky on Tuesday before losing as the Wildcats surged late. It could have been a season-bolstering win, but instead it was another disappointment for a team that has been collecting disappointments this year. Both teams are the best left on each other's schedules, so the loser won't have a chance to build its resume prior to the conference tournament. The winner will probably be fine for March if it wins out, while the loser will probably have to win a couple games in New Orleans to feel safe(r).
Of course, these teams have more motivation: the fourth seed in the conference tournament is completely up in the air. Kentucky will be the top seed, while Florida and Vanderbilt will safely get two of the other three first round byes. LSU and Tennessee are actually tied for fourth right now at 7-6 in league play, with Alabama a half game out at 6-6 and MSU a game out at 6-7. LSU has Ole Miss and Tennessee has South Carolina, both winnable games for the tied-in-fourth-place squads. The race for the final bye will be compelling and rich down the stretch.
And of course if you're just looking for good basketball without necessarily caring about all the postseason ramifications, could I interest you in Vanderbilt facing Kentucky? The Commodores gave UK all it could handle in Nashville, and the close scrape with Mississippi State might have been a sign of waning focus from John Calipari's bunch. Then again this one's in Rupp, where everything is different for this team. It should be an exciting weekend.