SEC Basketball

SEC Tournament 2012: Ranking Tourney's Most Intriguing Potential Matchups

KNOXVILLE, TN - JANUARY 14: Anthony Davis #23 and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist #14 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrate at the end of the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Thompson-Boling Arena on January 14, 2012 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Kentucky defeated Tennessee 65-62. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2012

Entering this week's SEC tournament, all eyes are sure to be on the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats as they aim to complete a perfect season in the conference.

As good as the Wildcats are, though, there are plenty of other solid teams in the SEC as well, so there are several potential matchups that bear watching.

Kentucky is the heavy favorite for good reason, but by the time some teams get to the Wildcats, they will be battle-tested. It may not mean anything, ultimately, but the SEC tournament won't be a walk in the park for Kentucky.

Here are three potential matchups that should produce some exciting action in the SEC tourney.

 

3. Vanderbilt vs. Mississippi State

The 21-10 Mississippi State Bulldogs should have a fairly easy matchup against the Georgia Bulldogs in the first round of the SEC tournament, and if they are able to come out on top, then things will get extremely interesting. Should Mississippi State advance it will take on the tournament's No. 3 seed, the Vanderbilt Commodores. Vandy had a fantastic regular season, but it lost to Mississippi State in an overtime thriller on Jan. 21.

Bulldogs forward Arnett Moultrie was a dominant force in that game and was the biggest reason why Mississippi State was able to pull off the minor upset. Having to take on Moultrie and the Bulldogs in the second round would be pretty bad luck from the Commodores' perspective, but it seems quite likely at this point. Both teams are quite strong offensively, so the rematch should be just as exciting and high scoring as their first meeting.

 

2. Kentucky vs. Florida

LEXINGTON, KY - FEBRUARY 07:  Kyle Wiltjer #33 of the Kentucky Wildcats looks to pass the ball while defended by Will Yeguete #15 of the Florida Gators during the game at Rupp Arena on February 7, 2012 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty I
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Entering conference play it was thought that the team with the best chance of taking down the Kentucky Wildcats would be the Florida Gators. No team was able to beat the Wildcats, though, and the Gators didn't even come close—they lost their two meetings with Kentucky by a combined 35 points.

There is an excellent chance that Florida will get a third shot at the Wildcats, however, as they are on a collision course for the semifinals.

Florida has a ton of excellent offensive players, including Kenny Boynton, Bradley Beal, Erving Walker and Patric Young, but it hasn't been able to hang with the supreme athleticism of Kentucky. The key will be finding a way to slow down Anthony Davis. If the Gators can do that then this game should be much closer than the other two. If not, we could be looking at "blowout city" for a third time.

 

1. Kentucky vs. Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, TN - JANUARY 14: Jordan McRae #52 of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrates ahead of Terrence Jones #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats at Thompson-Boling Arena on January 14, 2012 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Kentucky defeated Tennessee 65-62. (Photo by Joe
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Wildcats were never in much danger of losing during conference play this season, but the team that gave them the biggest run for their money was the Tennessee Volunteers. While Kentucky destroyed Tennessee in the second meeting between the teams this season, the Vols lost by only three points at home early in the SEC slate. Tennessee held a six-point advantage at halftime in that game and effectively shut down the Wildcats' perimeter players.

Kentucky found a way to come back and pick up a victory, but it was the most vulnerable the Wildcats looked in any conference battle. Tennessee is the No. 2 seed in the SEC tournament, and as long as it takes care of business, another game against Kentucky seems inevitable. The Volunteers played about as well as they could against Kentucky earlier in the season and still lost, but if they bring the same intensity in the SEC finals, then there could be a monumental upset.

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