It's still early yet for solid projections of how many teams the SEC might get into March Madness. Will outlined his thoughts here yesterday, and he seemed reasonably sure of four teams being in decent shape: Kentucky, Arkansas, Georgia, and LSU. Joe Lunardi's latest field projection has those four teams in with Tennessee the first team out. Chris Dobbertean, SBN's resident bracketologist, is the most optimistic with six SEC teams in his last projection. Alabama is the new one in there.
This being late January, those predictions are subject to change a lot. What they tell us for the weekend is that the league has little to gain and a lot to lose.
Those six teams who are in some level of bracket contention don't play any of each during the weekend slate of games:
- Kentucky at South Carolina, noon ET, ESPN
- Texas A&M at Tennessee, 1 p.m. ET, FSN/ESPN3
- Arkansas at Missouri, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN2
- Georgia at Mississippi State, 3 p.m. ET, FSN/ESPN3
- LSU at Vanderbilt, 6 p.m. ET, ESPNU
- Florida at Ole Miss, 6 p.m. ET, SEC Network
- Auburn at Alabama, 8:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
The only game without any of them is Florida at Ole Miss, a game between middle class teams with few notable wins (Cincy for Ole Miss, and, uh, *cough* Yale for Florida) and some bad losses (Charleston Southern and WKU for Ole Miss; Florida State for Florida). They've both basically blown their chances at dance tickets barring an SEC Tournament championship or the Gators somehow beating Kentucky twice.
So really, Saturday is all about not screwing things up. Alabama, the fringiest of the contenders, would basically bow out by taking on a fourth straight conference loss, especially with it coming to Auburn. Tennessee is in the mix like how it seemingly always is, with a good win (Butler), losses due to decent non-conference scheduling (Kansas, NC State), and no catastrophic defeats (though falling 56-38 to Bama isn't a good look). A tournament worthy team should beat Texas A&M. We'll see how the Vols fare.
Arkansas and Georgia will likely win their games, but you never know with teams on the road sometimes. South Carolina won't be too afraid of Kentucky, thanks to knocking off a not-as-good Wildcats team as a much worse Gamecocks team last year. UK should win—as it probably should win basically every league game—but watch out.
The team in the most peril is probably LSU. Vandy has had a rough start to conference play, going 1-4 with a loss to Mississippi State and the only win coming against Auburn. Still, the Commodores nearly beat Georgia and were able to hang with Kentucky far better than anyone thought on Tuesday. The Bayou Bengals have yet to find consistency in SEC play, with good wins over Georgia, Ole Miss, and Florida but bad losses to Missouri and Texas A&M. A loss to Vanderbilt would be another step backwards to go with those strides forward, and LSU can only have so many more of those.
So that's where the conference is this weekend: don't do anything you'll regret later. That's not too much to ask, is it?