Tuesday, January 10

Florida 70, Georgia 48

Vanderbilt 67, South Carolina 57

Wednesday, January 11

Kentucky 68, Auburn 53

Ole Miss 71, Arkansas 63

Alabama 69, LSU 53

Thursday, January 12

Mississippi State 62, Tennessee 58

Saturday, January 14

Kentucky 65, Tennessee 62

Florida 79, South Carolina 65

Arkansas 69, LSU 60

Vanderbilt 77, Georgia 66

Mississippi State 56, Alabama 52

Auburn 69, Ole Miss 68 (2OT)

It’s only January, but the Southeastern Conference season is already becoming quite contentious, to the point that games are already feeling like bubble battles, elimination contests on the road to the NCAA Tournament.

There was a lot on the line this past week in the SEC. Teams who have regularly lived on the edge, sweating bullets on Selection Sunday, met with much at stake. Alabama and Mississippi State failed to make the NCAAs last season and are scratching and clawing to find a place in Bracketville. the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs obviously want to win the SEC West, but as last season showed, winning a division in the SEC means nothing in terms of NCAA inclusion. These divisional foes need to gain quality wins so that their national resumes will be able to stand up to scrutiny in eight weeks. There was a lot on the line when the two schools locked horns at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Mississippi. As it turned out, Mississippi State had just enough muscle and grit to get the job done.

MSU won one grinder on Thursday, beating Tennessee in a slow-tempo slog. The pace of Saturday’s game against Alabama was even slower, but in the end, Mississippi State was still able to generate enough defensive stops and clutch buckets to prevail. MSU led, 53-52, with five seconds left, and the Bulldogs – with the ball – were able to seal the deal on an inbounds play which began under their own basket. Bulldog coach Rick Stansbury drew up a very successful play out of a timeout. MSU’s Brian Bryant caught a baseball pass and scored on a layup with three seconds to go. He was fouled on the play, and when he nailed the foul shot, the Bulldogs had an insurmountable four-point advantage. Now, it’s indisputably clear that Mississippi State has a better resume than Bama in the fight for an at-large NCAA berth. If one team moved to the right side of the bubble and another team moved in the wrong direction, the SEC West offered a clear picture of the evolving landscape on Saturday.

In the SEC East, the three teams who were all expected to make the NCAAs are shoring up their weak spots and solidifying their seasons. Kentucky overcame an eight-point second-half deficit to win at Tennessee, holding off the determined Vols in an emotional scrap in Knoxville. Kentucky finally won a road game and eased fears about its ability to compete away from Rupp Arena. Florida, which was reeling after a loss at Tennessee two weekends ago, got back on the beam by whipping both Georgia and South Carolina. The Gators still have to prove that they can win on the road against good teams, but winning at South Carolina sure beats an ambush loss. Vanderbilt was in huge trouble regarding an NCAA berth on Christmas Day, but the Commodores have been superb since then, winning at Marquette in late December and then beginning the SEC season in style. Wins against South Carolina and Georgia have changed the mood in VU’s locker room, offering the Commodores the hope that they can still punch a Dance ticket this year.

Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer