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SEC Tournament Bracketology

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Setting the stage with three games to go.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Before we get into the weekend's games, it's worth taking a look at where things stand for the SEC Tournament.

As a reminder, Missouri will not be participating due to a self-imposed postseason ban due to Frank Haith's NCAA violations. That means only the 12-seed and 13-seed will play a first round game, with the 11-seed getting a bye that it otherwise wouldn't get.

To begin, here is how the tournament would look if the season ended today. I broke all ties using the conference's tiebreaker method.

First Round

12 Auburn vs. 13 Mississippi State

Second Round

8 Georgia vs. 9 Alabama

5 Vanderbilt vs. AU/MSU

7 Ole Miss vs. 10 Arkansas

6 Florida vs. 11 Tennessee

Third Round

1 Kentucky vs. UGA/Bama

2 South Carolina vs. Miss/Ark

3 Texas A&M vs. Vandy/AU/MSU

4 LSU vs. UF/UT

Tiebreakers

12/13-seed at 5-10: Mississippi State and Auburn haven't played yet, so AU's 1-0 record versus 1-seed Kentucky beats MSU's 0-1.

8/9/10-seed at 7-8: Georgia is 1-0 versus the others, Alabama is 0-0, and Arkansas is 0-1. UGA gets the 8-seed, Bama the 9, and Arkansas the 10.

6/7-seed at 8-7: Florida is 2-0 against Ole Miss.

4/5-seed at 9-6: LSU is 1-0 against Vanderbilt.

2/3-seed at 10-5: South Carolina is 1-0 against Texas A&M.

Initial Reaction

There are a lot of meaningful games left to go for the seeding purposes. MSU and Auburn are tied and haven't played yet. Alabama is in a three-way tie with Georgia and Arkansas but hasn't played either of them. The field is really bunched up.

The Tide is the only bubble team with a guaranteed shot at Kentucky—provided it beats Georgia in the second round—so it has the advantage over Vanderbilt and LSU in that respect. That is the one win this tournament has to offer to make a statement for at-large NCAA Tournament consideration.

LSU is next up should the Wildcats win their first game and the Tigers get past the Florida/Tennessee winner. It's impossible to predict LSU at this point, though.

Vandy has the toughest path of the three bubble teams towards the title. It would likely have to beat all three of South Carolina, Texas A&M, and Kentucky to win the whole thing and get the conference's auto-bid.

The Favorite

Kentucky is the best team in the SEC and has the clearest path to the top seed: win out. It won't be easy, though, as its next two games are on the road against Vandy and Florida. After that is a home match with an LSU team that is both full of talent and desperation for a big win. Though the Wildcats are a game up on anyone else, they have the toughest road.

The Next Ones

South Carolina is looking solid in second right now. The Gamecocks own head-to-head tiebreakers over Texas A&M, LSU, and Vanderbilt, and their remaining games are at Mississippi State, Georgia, and at Arkansas. All of those are winnable, although nothing is guaranteed in SEC road play this year.

Texas A&M has road games against Mizzou and Auburn before a home match against Vanderbilt. Though the road games are not as bad as Carolina's road games, Vandy tips the schedule strength scales towards A&M. The Aggies do have a win over Kentucky, but they lost to South Carolina, split with LSU, and lost their first game against the Commodores.

If Kentucky loses a game while these two win out, there will be a three-way tie at 12-5. The first tie breaking step is a wash as they're all 1-1 against each other. The next step is to look at records from first place on down, meaning that the team in fourth place and possibly also fifth place will matter. Here are the contenders' records against teams within a game of the fourth spot. An asterisk denotes that the teams still have another game left to play.

Team LSU Vanderbilt Florida Ole Miss
Kentucky 0-1* 1-0* 1-0* 1-0
South Carolina 1-0 1-0 1-0 1-0
Texas A&M 1-1 0-1* 1-0 1-0

The stars show how every one of Kentucky's games is a key game from here.

South Carolina is sitting pretty given that it is the only team undefeated against LSU and the only one guaranteed to be undefeated against Vandy.

The Last Double Bye

The 4-seed is a good spot because it's the last one that gets a double bye. Let's go with the four teams I highlighted above as the contenders for it.

LSU and Vanderbilt are tied for fourth at 9-6, and LSU has the sole win in that series this year. Florida is tied with Ole Miss for sixth at 8-7, but the Gators' season sweep of the Rebels gives them strong positioning here.

Vanderbilt is in the toughest spot schedule-wise. It has a home game with Kentucky this weekend and closes on the road at Texas A&M. Sandwiched in there is a home game against Tennessee. The Vols have hurt the top of the league, but it's all been in Knoxville. Maybe they could do it in Nashville as well? We'll see.

LSU has to play at Kentucky, so it's all but guaranteed to take on another loss. The Tigers do get a home game against Mizzou, but before that one it has to host Florida. The Gators are in a similar boat, having to travel to LSU before hosting Kentucky and finishing at MU. They each don't have it quite as bad as VU does, but it's close.

Ole Miss has the lightest schedule the rest of the way. It plays at Georgia, Mississippi State, and at Tennessee to close out. I would be fine with penciling them in at 11-7. The catch with the Rebels is that they're 0-1 against LSU along with 0-2 against Florida. They can only win a head-to-head tiebreaker against Vandy, as they're 1-0 against the 'Dores.

The tiebreakers are a mess. Only Ole Miss can't win a three-way tie breaker among any of these teams, although it is possible for the Rebels to be the only one of them finishing with as good as an 11-7 record. That would only require UK to sweep its final three games, Florida to beat LSU, and Vandy to lose at A&M. That's very possible.

The outcome of the LSU-Florida game actually doesn't affect the outcome of any three-way tiebreakers. LSU wins the LSU-UF-VU tiebreaker either way, and Florida wins the LSU-UF-Miss tiebreaker either way. It would affect a four-way tie, though, as an LSU win means its 3-1 record against the rest would win out and a Florida win means its 4-2 record against the rest would win out.

Vanderbilt, for its part, would win a tiebreaker among itself, Florida, and Ole Miss. LSU is the only team that can win two of the three-way tiebreakers: LSU-UF-VU and LSU-VU-Miss.

The Last Bye

Tennessee is a game up on Auburn and Mississippi State for the 11-seed. The good news for the Vols is that those teams will play each other, guaranteeing that one will pick up a loss. More good news for UT is that only one of its final three games is on the road, as it's a dismal 1-10 in road play this year, and that road game is against the toughest opponent in Vandy. Both factors that make a game the likeliest loss happen in the same contest. The other games the Vols have left are against Arkansas and Ole Miss.

Auburn has the toughest schedule with a road game at Bama and a home match with Texas A&M before going to Mississippi State. The Bulldogs don't have it easy either with South Carolina and a road game at Ole Miss prior to their matchup with the Tigers. It's not hard to see one of those teams finishing 0-3.

Tennessee is 1-1 against Auburn and 1-0 against Mississippi State, good for a 2-1 record against the others. Auburn can finish with a 2-1 record against the others by beating MSU, while MSU at best can go 1-1. That means State can't win a three-way tie with UT and AU. Tennessee wins the three-way tie if Mississippi State beats Auburn, but Auburn wins it if it beats MSU. Both UT and AU beat 1-seed Kentucky, but the Vols also lost to the Wildcats while the Tigers only played the one game with UK.

Tennessee can clinch the bye with a 2-1 record in its last three games as long as Mississippi State beats Auburn, but it has to go 3-0 to clinch it if Auburn upsets some combination of Bama and A&M. MSU and AU don't play until the final game of the regular season, though, meaning any Volunteer loss puts the fate of the final bye in real doubt should the Tigers win a game between now and then.