Saturday's basketball action remade the SEC standings with several big results.
The biggest was the South Carolina Gamecocks becoming the first conference team to hit 20 wins after upsetting the Texas A&M Aggies 81-78 in College Station. Sindarius Thornwell's 25 and Michael Carrera's 20 points led the way for the victors, but the latter left the door open late after making just one-of-two from the free throw line while up two points with 17 ticks on the clock. Danuel House would miss a potential game tying three pointer, and though the Aggies got to inbound it again with five seconds to go, they turned it over and thereby gave up their chance to win.
South Carolina picked up its best win of the year, something that helps validate it as one of the league's top teams. A&M is now officially on a slide, having lost three-of-four including two straight.
While A&M took a loss, the LSU Tigers rode 31 points from Antonio Blakeney to down the Mississippi State Bulldogs 88-77. The Tigers improved to 8-2 while the Aggies fell to 7-3, which means A&M is neither in the lead nor tied for it in the conference standings for the first time this year. The Tigers will want to beat TAMU next weekend to avoid a sweep and the tie breaking implications that would bring.
Meanwhile, the Kentucky Wildcats rose from the ashes of their implosion against Tennessee to play lights out ball and defeat the Florida Gators 80-61. UK started out white hot, running out to a 24-5 lead over the first 6:30 of the game. Jamal Murray beat LSU's Blakeney for the daily high in the conference with 35 points, and he nailed three triples and a pair of shorter field goals to supply 13 points in that initial run. UF never challenged in the second half, as it cutting the lead to 13 points with two minutes to go was as close as things got.
The win meant the Cats are now in a three-way tie for second place at 7-3 along with South Carolina and Texas A&M. These tied teams along with leader LSU and 6-4 Florida are the serious contenders for the four SEC Tournament double byes. One of those five squads will be left out, so every win among the group counts.
Tied for fifth with UF at 6-4 are the Georgia Bulldogs, who beat the Auburn Tigers 65-55 in Athens. As the score would indicate, it wasn't a work of art with UGA shooting 35% and AU shooting 26% for the game. J.J. Frazier led the Bulldogs with 16 points and Cinmeon Bowers led the Tigers with 12 points and 13 boards, but each made just three field goals.
Although Georgia does have a win over South Carolina, it also has losses to LSU, Texas A&M, and Florida and is well behind the other top five teams in the KenPom ratings. The Bulldogs are technically in contention for those double byes as much as Florida is, but they haven't proved themselves to be in the conference's upper tier.
Two other results generated another three-way logjam, this one in the middle of the standings at 5-5. Stefan Moody scored 23 points in the Ole Miss Rebels' 85-78 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores, while Moses Kingsley's 17 led the Arkansas Razorbacks over the Tennessee Volunteers 85-67. The Vols are at 4-6, but the rest of the teams from these games are now knotted up in the standings.
Vandy had been looking to make a move after a disappointing start to conference play, but the Commodores can't seem to get out of their own way. The Rebels are doing their best to make up for lost time, as they took several losses during a brief stretch when as many as three key players were out hurt. All of Arkansas's SEC losses so far have come to teams head of them in the standings, so it along with VU seems to be in the best shape of these teams to secure an SEC Tournament bye.
Tennessee right now is in a place where it has to fight for the last bye with the Alabama Crimson Tide, which won its third game in its last four with an 80-71 win over the Missouri Tigers. Riley Norris led Bama with 16 points, and he and Arthur Edwards each made three triples on the night. Mizzou's Kevin Puryear led all scorers with 22.