The midweek games in SEC basketball have a lot of NCAA Tournament stakes baked into them. And since the conference's teams are all bunched up, they have plenty of SEC Tournament stakes too. It's a big week.
GAME OF THE MIDWEEK
Bama is in precarious position as an 11-seed in the latest Bracket Matrix projection after losing to Mississippi State over the weekend. The Tide would improve its lot considerably by doing the near-impossible and knocking off a John Calipari team in Rupp. UK, for its part, is a 4-seed, but being a 3-seed is generally better thanks to avoiding a region's 1-seed until the Elite Eight.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23
Even ESPN must be giving up on the Tigers' tournament chances at this point if they're relegating Ben Simmons to ESPNU. They're first up in the "next four out" section of the Bracket Matrix after blowing their road match at Tennessee in their last game. The Hogs are a crisp 12-3 at home this year, and they're only one game up on Mississippi State when it comes to getting the final bye in the SECT. They've got plenty of reason to try in this one.
Two weeks ago, Vandy's path to the Big Dance was clear: don't lose any of its next four games to Mizzou, Auburn, MSU, and Georgia, and then get a couple of wins from its final four against Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee (must win), and Texas A&M. Well, only got three of four because of losing to the Starkville Bulldogs. Now the 'Dores are more looking at needing to go at least 3-1 given that they're two behind LSU on the "next four out" of the Bracket Matrix.
Winning at Florida won't carry the cache of beating UK or winning at A&M, but it'd be a good start. The Gators fell down to a strong 9-seed after their loss to South Carolina, but they probably wouldn't lose a ton of ground by dropping this one. But with tough games against LSU and Kentucky still to go, securing a victory here would help avoid needing to sweat anything out on Selection Sunday.
Mizzou is the only team truly just playing for pride given their self-imposed postseason ban for Frank Haith's sins, and it's been working lately with them picking up two recent wins. Ole Miss is a couple games above the fray regarding the last SEC Tournament bye, and winning this winnable contest would help keep them there.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24
What I just said about the Rebels applies to UGA. The Bulldogs have been good about avoiding losses like what this would be, as they're 6-0 against teams below them in the current conference standings. Had they only gotten a few more wins against those above them, they'd be in bubble contention.
Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Texas A&M Aggies, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
This isn't really a chance for MSU to spoil another bubble team, as A&M certainly isn't one as a 5-seed in the Bracket Matrix. It would be a spoiler kind of game in the conference standings, though, as a loss would likely knock TAMU out of contention for the SEC regular season title. Let's also not forget that MSU is only one game out of earning the final SECT bye, adding real stakes for them beyond just playing the spoiler.
UT, along with Arkansas, is one of the teams a game ahead of MSU in that last-SECT-bye race. The Vols got an unexpected win by beating LSU and moving to 3-1 against the top four teams of the conference. None of those wins came on the road, though, and UT's sole road victory on the season came against Mississippi State. South Carolina basically has to win this one to stay in the race for the top spot, so both sides have plenty to play for.