The final Saturday of the SEC basketball season is upon us, and everything is up in the air. Three different teams can win the regular season title, three teams are fighting over the final two SEC Tournament double byes, three teams are battling for the final SEC Tournament single bye, and we can end up with as many as five teams tied at 9-9 in the middle.
It's a packed day of action. Every game really does count.
GAME OF THE WEEKEND
Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Texas A&M Aggies, noon ET, ESPN2
We get to know right off the bat with the noon set of games whether or not the Aggies will clinch the regular season title. If they take this game, they earn the crown. If they lose it, then they can't win the league and someone else will. It's that simple for TAMU.
Standing in their way are the Commodores, who have already defeated the Aggies once this year. Vandy is the one team among the top set that can't win the regular season title outright, but a victory here just about locks them into the NCAA Tournament and anyway will earn them a double bye in Nashville. With a loss, VU is in danger of dropping all the way to the 5-seed and missing out on the double bye goodness. Both teams should really want this win.
SATURDAY, MARCH 5
Just as with the regular season title, a team can clinch the final SEC Tournament bye in the noon set. If the Vols win, they earn the 11-seed and that last bye. They can still get it with a loss, but that would require Kentucky to lose at home.
UT is 5-3 at home in SEC play, including wins over the likes of Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, and LSU. Ole Miss is a decent 6-7 on the road, though—the second best road record in the SEC behind A&M's 5-5—and it'll have Stefan Moody while UT will be missing Kevin Punter. It's hard to say who will win this one, but the Vols need it more.
This is the other game that will decide who will win the regular season championship. If the Wildcats complete an undefeated home season, then they'll win the title if A&M falls. LSU can still win the championship if both it takes this game and Vandy beats A&M to set up a four-way tie at 12-6.
If Tennessee and LSU both lose, then the winner of this game will get the 11-seed in the SEC Tournament. They should know by game time, or a little after, if UT has won or not. The Vols really are the key, since a Tennessee win makes this game solely about who gets a 12 and who gets a 13 by its name.
This game is all about seeding in Nashville. If Georgia wins, it will get no worse than the 6-seed. If it loses, it's looking at the 9 or 10-seed. Alabama can rise as high as the 6-seed with a win, but a loss will lock it into the 9 or 10-seed.
Carolina has been on a slide of late, and losing this one could put its dance ticket in jeopardy should it lose its first game in the SEC Tournament as well. The Gamecocks' possibilities range from the 3 to the 8-seed, so they're one of the wildcard teams. Arkansas varies a bit too, ranging from the 6 to the 10-seed.
Mizzou is the one team that isn't playing for seeding, and it'd be stuck in the 14-spot even if it wasn't taking a postseason ban. The Tigers do have a big say in the SEC Tournament seedings, though. Like so many other teams, Florida has a variety of places it could end up in the Nashville bracket. By tip time those possibilities will have narrowed, but ahead of time, it's impossible to say where the Gators will be with a win. We can say though that with a Missouri win, UF will be stuck with the 10-seed for sure.
There also is the matter that a loss would be devastating to the Florida's NCAA Tournament chances. They're probably on the wrong side of the bubble, but only just. A loss in this one would probably end UF's at-large chances.