Tuesday, February 28
Vanderbilt 77 Florida 67
Ole Miss 77 Arkansas 75
Wednesday, February 29
Alabama 55 Auburn 49
Mississippi State 69 South Carolina 67 (OT)
Tennessee 74 LSU 69 (OT)
Thursday, March 1
Kentucky 79 Georgia 49
Saturday, March 3
Georgia 67 South Carolina 55
Ole Miss 60 Alabama 51
Mississippi State 79 Arkansas 59
Auburn 67 LSU 52
Tennessee 68 Vanderbilt 61
Sunday, March 4
Kentucky 74 Florida 59
It’s a strange yet exciting time in the Southeastern Conference. As the regular season comes to an end, guess who is the No. 2 seed for the upcoming conference tournament. The Kentucky Wildcats are number one, but you’d think that preseason Final Four contenders (in the eyes of many pollsters) Florida and Vanderbilt would have found a way to occupy that slot, right? Or, maybe an immensely talented club from Mississippi State would have filled the vacuum?
Nope. It’s the Tennessee Volunteers. Yes, the same Tennessee team that lost to the likes of Oakland, Austin Peay, the College of Charleston, and Georgia during the regular season. The team that couldn’t win a single non-conference game of consequence in November or December. The team that was coming off the disastrously scandal-plagued Bruce Pearl era and was going into battle with both a new coach and a depleted roster. The team that was mired at the bottom of the SEC standings in the first few months of the season.
Yes, Tennessee is the second seed in New Orleans for the SEC Tournament following a pair of wins this past week, featuring a takedown of Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon. The Vols have bought into head coach Cuonzo Martin’s focus on defense, and they plainly outworked Vanderbilt from start to finish. Tennessee was faster to loose balls and far more committed to defending the backboard. Vanderbilt has Final Four-level talent, but the Commodores didn’t have a fraction of the willpower and ruggedness displayed by the Vols, who have put themselves into the NCAA conversation. If Tennessee can win two games this week in the SEC Tournament, it will put itself in the conversation for an at-large bid. That fact alone is really rather remarkable.
Another fact that’s remarkable is that Kentucky, for all of its accomplishments as a program, hadn’t won 30 regular-season games before. Well, it has now. The Wildcats, by becoming the eighth power-conference team in the past 30 years to go unbeaten in the regular season, won game No. 30 on the last day of the regular season. Coach John Calipari’s team looks somewhat mentally fatigued, so it might be well-advised to lose in this week’s conference tournament. Kentucky fans won’t exactly mind, though, if their Wildcats win yet another SEC Tournament championship.
Mississippi State is squarely on the bubble as it enters the SEC Tournament. The Bulldogs must win their opening-round game against Georgia, and they might need to win a possible quarterfinal against Vanderbilt on Friday. Alabama is probably in the field, but a win over South Carolina in Thursday’s first round would seal the deal for the Crimson Tide.
Southeastern Conference Tournament Matchups:
Game 1: (12) South Carolina vs. (5) Alabama
Game 2: (9) Arkansas vs. (8) LSU
Game 3: (10) Auburn vs. (7) Ole Miss
Game 4: (11) Georgia vs. (6) Mississippi State
Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. (4) Florida
Game 6: Game 2 winner vs. (1) Kentucky
Game 7: Game 3 winner vs. (2) Tennessee
Game 8: Game 4 winner vs. (3) Vanderbilt
Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner
Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner
Game 11: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer