The SEC men's basketball tournament kicks off on Wednesday, and with it we have some storylines.
The Pursuit Of Perfection©
Oh, never mind, I forgot. This isn't ESPN, we don't have to use their silly Storyline They've Been Pushing For The Last Two Months.
There Are Other Teams In The SEC
No, seriously guys, we get it. Kentucky is really good, they're probably going to win the SEC Tournament, yadda yadda yadda. If your only knowledge of college basketball in general, and the Southeastern Conference specifically, comes from the talking heads at ESPN, then you might have been convinced that Kentucky plays in the rough equivalent of the Southland Conference. You also might have learned that Kentucky is the Harlem Globetrotters and the rest of college basketball is the Washington Generals.
Anyway, Kentucky will lose a game in either the SEC Tournament or the NCAA Tournament because ESPN has spent the last two months building them up as some sort of invincible juggernaut and we all know that ESPN is never, ever wrong about these things. It's gotten to the point that ESPN is posing "Who would win a best of 7 series, Kentucky or the Philadelphia 76ers?" as a legitimate question. Why not go for the gusto and ask if Kentucky would beat an actual NBA team?
The Cliffs Notes version of the rest of the SEC goes like this: Arkansas is good. LSU alternates between really good and godawful depending on the day of the week. Georgia has guys who can flat out play, but gets treated as though they're trotting out random guys from the student section. Texas A&M "hasn't beaten anybody*" (*except LSU, a terrible team in the context of A&M's tournament resume.) Ole Miss has a really good offense and so-so defense. Vandy started slow and is now on fire. Florida sucks, but a lot of people pretend they're good for some reason. Alabama's coach is about to get fired. Tennessee started hot, but it turned out to be smoke and mirrors. South Carolina is coached by Frank Martin (you know what that means.) Mississippi State is... Mississippi State. Auburn plays defense like they do in the NBA All-Star Game. Missouri really sucks and unlike Florida, nobody pretends they're good.
How Many Tournament Teams Are There?
Somewhere between four and six, in all likelihood. You can count on Kentucky, Arkansas, and probably Georgia as well. My gut tells me that LSU will get in; fortunately, the bracket pretty much guarantees that they won't pick up another bad loss. Ole Miss probably just needs to survive their Thursday game against South Carolina or Missouri. Texas A&M is cooked if they lose on Thursday, probably 50-50 if they lose to LSU on Friday, and a bit better than that if they get to the semifinals. And they're basically a lock if they get to the finals since that (in all likelihood) would mean they beat Kentucky.
Does Anyone Other Than Kentucky Have A Chance?
According to ESPN, no, but then they aren't just pushing this Pursuit of Perfection© thing for ratings, I'm sure. Ken Pomeroy hasn't published his Log5 of the SEC Tournament at the time I'm writing this but I suspect he'll be giving Kentucky something like a 75-80 percent chance of winning it. That's probably much closer to reality than the ESPN narrative: they're the favorites, to be sure, but the idea that they could lose a game here is not something induced by huffing paint thinner. I mean, it's been a week since Georgia had them on the ropes, and remember Georgia is a bad team according to the people who insist that Florida is a good team.
Could Somebody Steal A Bid?
Well, remember, stealing a bid requires that you beat Kentucky. So it's unlikely. The bottom eight teams in the league enter the tournament as auto bid or bust, and out of that group, the one I'd peg as most likely to do it is (HOMER ALERT) Vanderbilt. The Commodores aren't even a bubble team due to a sketchy non-conference SOS and four sub-100 losses (Rutgers, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, and Tennessee, for those keeping score at home), while their best win is over... Ole Miss. But this team is as hot as anybody in the league right now, and if anybody is going to emerge from the bottom half of the league, it's going to be them. Or Florida, because they're talented, but that would require the Gators to play at a level they haven't shown themselves capable of playing all season.