As of today, I am breaking down each team in the SEC East. Although the SEC isn't the best conference this year, I do expect three teams to make major noise come March.
I am breaking down each team in the East, from the two leaders, Kentucky and Florida, to Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, and Vandy. I break down each team's chances of a tournament bid, where they will finish, and why they are at their spot in the conference.
Enjoy the slideshow, and feel free to debate any of my predictions.
As of right now, I think the Cats are on pace to finish with two to three losses in the East. Although they had a tough loss in Oxford Tuesday night, look for them to get key wins against South Carolina, Mississippi State, and possibly Florida. With great play from Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson, Kentucky has one of the best one-two punches in America. If they can somehow find a third scorer, WATCH OUT for Kentucky in March!
Key Remaining Games: vs. Florida (Feb. 10), @Arkansas (Feb. 14), vs. Tennessee (Feb. 21)
Although the Gators were under the radar at the beginning of the season, they are starting to peak at the right time. With a 5-1 record (tied for first with Kentucky), the Gators are a strong force in the East. After a heartbreaking last second lay-in by South Carolina to lose by one, Florida answered with a blowout victory in Nashville last Sunday, 94-68. The Gators could not miss and gained confidence in a much needed win.
With the leadership of Nick Calathes at point, and other role players such as Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons, look for the Gators to sneak in the NCAA Tournament as a nine or 10 seed.
Key Remaining Games: @Tennessee (Jan. 31), vs. South Carolina (Feb. 3), @Kentucky (Feb. 10), @Mississippi State (Mar. 4)
Tennessee, the preseason favorite to win the East, has slid down to 3-2 and second place in the East. After starting off with a big win against Georgia, the Vols lost in embarrassing fashion at home to the Kentucky Wildcats, where Jodie Meeks scored a school-record 54 points that night. After back-to-back wins against South Carolina and Vanderbilt, and a loss to LSU last night, the Vols need a turnaround fast. That is, if they want to keep pace with Florida and Kentucky for the SEC East crown.
Tennessee has some key games coming up and will need role players such as Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism to produce in a big way. Look for the Vols to receive a six or seven seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. I also think they will make a run in the SEC Tournament in mid-March.
Key Remaining Games: vs. Florida (Feb. 2), @Kentucky (Feb. 21), vs. Mississippi State (Feb. 25), @South Carolina (Mar. 5)
With a 4-2 record in the East, the Gamecocks are the somewhat surprising team in the conference. After coming off a buzzer-beating win over Florida eight days ago, the Gamecocks showed that they can really play. They also proved that they will be fighting till the end for the SEC crown. The Gamecocks are riding a three-game winning streak and are headed to Lexington to face the Kentucky Wildcats this Saturday. This is a HUGE game for the Gamecocks, as it will put a dent in the SEC East lead, if South Carolina can pull the upset in Lexington (that is, if you want to call it an upset).
With the leadership of Devan Downey, the Gamecocks could very well finish second or third in the East if they continue their fast-paced, aggressive defensive style of play. Provided the Gamecocks finish third or fourth in the East, I think they can receive a bid to the big dance come March. I also think they are going to need to make a little run in the SEC Tournament as well. Look for the Gamecocks to get a 10 or 11 seed come tourney time.
Key Remaining Games: @Kentucky (Jan. 31), @Florida (Feb. 3), vs. Tennessee (Mar. 5)
Vanderbilt is in trouble! After losing to Kentucky in their SEC opener, it looked as if it would be a long SEC schedule for the 'Dores. After a 10-point win over Georgia, in which Vandy only scored 50 points, things were starting to look even worse. Since their win over Georgia, Vandy has lost four straight games. They have failed to score 80 points or more in that losing streak. Also, all four of their losses have been by 10 points or more.
Fans in Nashville might want to reach for the panic button, and quick, as Vandy is falling fast. Even with the star in A.J. Ogilvy, Vandy is in major need of help from other players. Look for Vandy to have an early exit in the SEC Tournament, and to be invited to the NIT this season. After losing leaders from last year's squad, I knew that Vandy would have a tough time looking for role players this season.
Key Remaining Games: @Tennessee (Feb. 14), vs. Kentucky (Feb. 17), @Florida (Feb. 21), vs. South Carolina (Feb. 28)
What else can you say about the Bulldogs, other than disaster? They are 0-5 in the SEC East and are getting worse, if that's even possible at this point. In their first five SEC games, the Bulldogs have managed to score over 60 points twice and over 70 points just once. Their main problem is a complete lack of scoring. The Bulldogs have no leaders and are still searching for an identity.
In my opinion, it's a little too late for the 'Dogs, who are headed to finishing last in the East and losing first round of the SEC Tournament. As if the 'Dogs don't have enough problems, they are also in the process of finding a new coach. All I can say for the fans in Athens is, wait till next year.
Key Remaining Games: @South Carolina (Feb. 7), @Tennessee (Feb. 11), @Kentucky (Mar. 4)