It seems hard to believe, but the 2018-19 college basketball season is on its last legs. The regular season concludes for many of the major conferences this week, while the mid-majors are primed and ready for conference tournament fever.
Two weeks ago, we talked about what the SEC looked like as we were knee deep in February. Two weeks later... not too much has changed. But let’s look down the ladder and see what’s at stake.
The Tennessee Volunteers and Kentucky Wildcats are still vying for a No. 1 seed, just as they were a few weeks ago. The Volunteers’ win over the Wildcats this past weekend certainly helped them gain ground on UK for that primo spot. It helped to split the series, and a win would’ve given Kentucky a major edge over Tennessee. Alas, that was not the case. And now Kentucky is probably the top 2-seed as of this moment, with the North Carolina Tar Heels likely giving them the most push from behind.
UK will finish the season with matchups against Ole Miss and Florida this week. Meanwhile, Tennessee will face Mississippi State and Auburn. The Volunteers certainly have the tougher road, as State and Auburn are ranked 21st and 18th on KenPom. The Rebels, meanwhile, are 44th and the Gators are 29th. Record wise, none of these teams really pack a significant punch, although Auburn and Mississippi State have both accumulated 20 wins, while Florida and Ole Miss are below that mark as of now. How these teams fare will go a pretty significant way towards finding out who will be on that 1-line come Selection Sunday.
There is, of course, the LSU Tigers, as well. LSU of course owns tiebreakers over BOTH Tennessee and Kentucky. And LSU does not exactly have the toughest slate ahead. They play aforementioned Florida as well as lowly Vanderbilt. They’ll have to travel to Gainesville but will play Vandy at the PMAC. So, the Fighting Tigers could come away with at least a share of a regular season championship, which could certainly help their cause to have a very high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Because of how they fared in the nonconference portion of their schedule, they will need to do some very heavy lifting in the SEC Tournament if they even want to legitimately think about a Top 2 seed in the tourney, but right now, per the Bracket Matrix, they are the best team on the 3-line.
The triumvirate of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, Auburn Tigers and Ole Miss Rebels are still relatively safe here. Neither team is near a double digit seed right now, at least if you buy into the Bracket Matrix. State is a 6, Auburn a 7, while Ole Miss is a 9. That all sounds about right, and considering what’s ahead of them, they each can certainly help their cause this week if State and Auburn are able to catch Tennessee napping while Ole Miss looks to knock Kentucky off.
And once again, from here is where things get dicey. The Florida Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide are pretty much on the bubble right now. The Gators are an 11 and the Tide are a 12 as per Bracket Matrix at this juncture, which certainly seems just about right. There is not much contention right now as there are a lot of weak bubble teams, at least from the major conferences. So will they get in? It all depends on how this week shakes out.
The Gators of course have to face both LSU AND Kentucky, which puts them at significantly staggering odds to go even 1-1 based on how things have gone. If anything, them beating LSU at home is more reasonable, but the Tigers are no joke. Alabama needs quite a lot of help and they can start by beating Auburn before they move on to the Arkansas Razorbacks.
They do get Auburn in Tuscaloosa, which could help their cause, as Auburn has five losses on the road in SEC play and six on the whole this season. Arkansas is Arkansas and at this point, after their woeful six-game losing streak, they are out of the tourney and should be easy pickens for Avery Johnson and the Tide.
As it pertains to seeding for the SEC Tournament, things are likely to get wacky. Right now, we’ve got three teams within one game of the #1 seed in the tourney (Tennessee, LSU, Kentucky). Then there is a very steep four-game drop, as we’ve got five teams at 9-7 in league play (Auburn, Mississippi State, Florida, Ole Miss and the South Carolina Gamecocks). Alabama is 8-8, so that’s six teams that are within one game of each other. Madness!
The bottom five sees two teams at 6-10 (Arkansas and the Texas A&M Aggies) and one team at 4-12 (Missouri Tigers). Unfortunately, the Georgia Bulldogs probably have the 13 seed locked in as they’re 2-14, and unfortunately, the poor Vanderbilt Commodores still haven’t won an SEC game and will likely have last place on lock.