SEC Basketball: The March To Madness
You know it; we know it; and they know it.
The SEC is a dominant football conference. There's no two ways about that fact.
Basketball, on the other hand—not so much.
In a season that has featured an abnormally down ACC, a beat up Big East, and a terrible PAC 10, the SEC has become the beneficiary of a less-than-stellar overall college basketball landscape.
Don't worry, Big East fans. I know you have three of the best eight teams in America, but you cant argue that your conference as a whole is down.
I know the ACC fans wont try it, and PAC 10 fans have gone into hibernation until August.
With that said, I decided to go through the SEC and handicap what the remainder of the season should look like for the teams in the conference.
What I found was not as pretty as I'd like it to be. However, considering the parity in the other conferences, the SEC stacks up pretty well heading into March.
Current NCAA Tournament Status: No. 1 national seed, odds-on favorite to play for a national title
Remaining Games: vs. South Carolina, @ Tennessee, @ Georgia, vs. Florida, SEC Tournament
Current Record: 26-1
Interesting Fact: Coach John Calipari was given a ton of money to turn Kentucky back into a champion this offseason. That’s interesting for a coach that has been to a whopping two Final Fours and one Final without ever winning a championship.
Outlook: Kentucky is clearly one of the best two teams in America. The knock on the ‘Cats all season long has been their youth. Outside of Patrick Patterson every other major contributor is a freshman and two of those freshmen will be in the NBA next season.
The close wins on the road in the SEC lately have many believing that this team can win it all despite that youth. Once the SEC tournament is finished, however, this torrid stretch will become even more difficult as it will be March and Kentucky will always going to take their opponents biggest and best shot.
Will their sheer talent alone be enough to take the ‘Cats to the Promise Land?
My Prediction: Kentucky will lose once more during the regular season finishing 29-2. The 'Cats will win the SEC Tournament. They will be a No. 1 seed in the tournament. They will come up short, however, losing in the Elite 8.
Current NCAA Tournament Status: Could be anywhere from a No. 4 to a No. 9 seed depending on the results of the last four games and conference tournament.
Remaining Games: vs. Georgia, @ Arkansas, @ Florida, vs. South Carolina, SEC Tournament
Current Record: 20-6
Outlook: Vanderbilt is a very experienced, talented team. They are more physical than any team, not-named-Kentucky, in the SEC. Problem is they don't always play like it.
The Commodores elevate their physicality when they have to, which is a good thing in some circumstances. But inexplicable losses to Georgia and Western Kentucky show that this team doesn't always bring their "A" game.
With the SEC Tournament being played in Nashville, expect that energy to pick up big time at the most important time of year for the 'Dores.
My Prediction: They'll finish the regular season 23-7 and play into the Semi-Finals of the SEC Tournament. Vandy will end up as a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament and will lose in the second round.
Current NCAA Tournament Status: Could be anywhere from a No. 5 to a No. 9 seed depending on the results of the last four games and conference tournament.
Remaining Games: @ Florida, vs. Kentucky, vs. Arkansas, @ Mississippi State, SEC Tournament
Current Record: 20-6
Outlook: It’s been an up and down season for the Basketball Vols. There have been off-the-court issues, on-the-court issues, big wins, humiliating losses, etc.
This season the Vols have run the gamut of emotion from being blown out by a bad USC team to defeating No. 1 Kansas for the Jayhawks lone loss of ’09-10.
The win over Kansas, a top-three finish in the SEC East, and a 20-win season will be enough to get the Vols in the tournament. What they do once there is anyone’s guess. The Vols have a hard time scoring the ball on offense. On defense they rarely match their most physical opponents intensity.
My Prediction: The Vols lose twice more heading into March to finish with a 22-8 record. The Vols will make the semi-finals of the SEC Tournament before being upended. They will end up as a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament and will lose in the second round.
Current NCAA Tournament Status: Squarely on the Bubble. A split in the final four games and a decent showing in the SEC Tournament should land the Gators back in the tournament. Anything above a No. 10 seed is highly unlikely, however.
Remaining Games: vs. Tennessee, @ Georgia, vs. Vanderbilt, @ Kentucky, SEC Tournament
Current Record: 19-8
Interesting Fact: Since winning back-to-back National Championships in '05-06, '06-07 the Gators have not been back to the NCAA tournament.
Outlook: Florida is a tough team to figure out. They struggle on the offensive side of the ball, but are big enough to impose their will on out-manned teams. For some reason, however, they don't do it nearly enough.
The final four games will tell the tale for the Gators in '09-10.
My Prediction: The Gators will lose three of their final four games and bow out in the first round of the tournament. They will miss the NCAA Tournament, but will win the NIT.
Current NCAA Tournament Status: On the Bubble. Mississippi State's outlook for the NCAA Tournament is much better than most "bubble" teams. if they make the tourney, anywhere from a No. 8 seed to No. 12 is possible.
Remaining Games: vs. Alabama, @ South Carolina, @ Auburn, vs. Tennessee, SEC Tournament
Current Record: 19-8
Outlook: Mississippi State is another one of those hard to figure teams. They've played well enough to almost beat Kentucky then nearly lost to LSU five days later.
Big man Jarvis Varnado is a difference-maker on the inside. The Bulldogs have relied on some good guard play for much of the season, but those guards sometimes get a little trigger happy from beyond the perimeter.
My Prediction: Mississippi State will finish the regular season with four wins to go 23-8. They will play well in the SEC tournament as the Bulldogs so often do by making it to the finals. They will end up as a No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament and lose in the first round.
Current NCAA Tournament Status: Sliding off the bubble quickly. The Rebels will likely have to win out and play into the semi-finals of the SEC tournament to make it to the NCAAs.
Remaining Games: vs. Auburn, @ Alabama, vs. LSU, @ Arkansas, SEC Tournament
Current Record: 17-9
Outlook: Inconsistent play has plagued Ole Miss all season long. It's big men have faltered late in big games and that has all but eliminated Ole Miss from being in the final field of 65. The home loss to Florida on Saturday likely sealed the Rebels fate.
My Prediction: Ole Miss will lose two of their final four games and lose in the first round of the SEC tournament. They will play in the NIT where their lackluster attitude will cost them in the first round of that tournament.
South Carolina: Any remote possibility of the Gamecocks making the field of 65 ended with its loss to Tennessee at home on Saturday. They'll have to win the SEC tournament to get the automatic bid to play in the NCAAs. An NIT berth is possible.
Georgia: Expect this to be the final year that Georgia doesn't make it for the foreseeable future. Mark Fox has this program headed in the right direction. A big finish in the SEC tournament is possible this season, however. No NIT or NCAA bid for the 'Dawgs.
Alabama: Another program that could be headed in the right direction. Not as many indicators of that in Tuscaloosa right now, but Anthony Grant is a star-coach in the making. No postseason in '09-10 though.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks have held the lead in the SEC West for much of the season despite a terrible out of conference record. At 14-13 overall an NCAA bid is highly unlikely without the Hogs winning the SEC Tournament. An NIT bid is possible.
Auburn: The Jeff Lebo experiment appears to be on its last leg on the Plains. Auburn has been remarkably inconsistent in '09-10 and things are not looking up, at all. No postseason for the Tigers.
LSU: Things went down the tube fast in Baton Rouge this season. A stunning turn of events considering the Tigers recent success. LSU has yet to win an SEC game. Good thing spring football practice starts this week.