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Projecting the SEC Tournament. Where Will Vanderbilt, Florida, Tennessee End Up?

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There's only a week left in the regular season, and Vanderbilt has bounced back from a 1-7 start to make a run at the upper half of the SEC. How is the SEC Tournament shaping up now that we are 16 games through conference play?

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Despite a rocky start, things are looking pretty good for Vanderbilt Basketball at the SEC Tournament.

The Commodores won't be sniffing a double-bye and they face an uphill battle to notch a .500 record in league play, but a win next week would put them in solid position for the league's last hurrah in 2015. If Vanderbilt can go 1-1 against Mississippi State and Ole Miss, then they'll be in position to make a respectable run when postseason play starts next Wednesday. That means taking the first day of the tournament off and avoiding a potential matchup against the league's undefeated juggernaut before the finals.

Here's how the league looks through 16 games. Tiebreakers are factored in to these standings:

Team Record
1 Kentucky *16-0
2 Arkansas *12-4
3 Texas A&M *11-5
4 LSU *10-6
5 Georgia *10-6
6 Ole Miss *10-6
7 Vanderbilt *7-9
8 Florida *7-9
9 Alabama *7-9
10 Tennessee *6-10
11 South Carolina *5-11
12 Mississippi State *5-11
13 Auburn *4-12
14 Missouri *2-14

There's one place Vanderbilt *really* doesn't want to be - the bottom four. That's where season-ending upsets against Mississippi State take place. The Bulldogs will be a big part of that equation this year as well. Vandy would have to lose their final two games to potentially fall behind MSU in the rankings and onto the schedule for the first day of the conference tournament. Beating State on Wednesday would ensure an extra day off at the SEC Tournament. That's something that this young team absolutely needs.

There's also a less exciting option for SEC teams - the #8 or #9 seed. The winner of that Thursday matchup will be forced to face a (probably) undefeated Kentucky team one day later. While the Commodores put up a valiant effort against the Wildcats in Rupp Arena, it's safe to say that they don't want to see Big Blue again so soon. Even though this game is being played three miles from campus, Kentucky's mobile fanbase ensures that the Bridgestone Arena will be Rupp Lite next weekend.

Vanderbilt can't break into the top six. They can't fall any lower than 11th. Let's break down how the race for that #7 seed - and the opportunity to avoid the Wildcats - is projected to play out. The game projections are courtesy of RealTimeRPI.com, which has some lower seeded teams winning at home in play (Florida over A&M? Alabama over Ole Miss?).

7. Vanderbilt
Remaining Games: vs. Mississippi State, at Ole Miss
Projected Finish: 8-10 (Win, Loss)
Projected Seed: 7th (3-1 vs. Florida, 'Bama)

8. Florida
Remaining Games: vs. Texas A&M, at Kentucky
Projected Finish: 8-10 (Win, Loss)
Projected Seed: 8th (2-1 vs Vandy, 'Bama)

9. Alabama
Remaining Games: vs. Ole Miss, at Texas A&M
Projected Finish: 8-10 (Win, Loss)
Projected Seed: 9th (0-3 vs. Vandy, Florida)

10. Tennessee
Remaining Games: at LSU, South Carolina
Projected Finish: 7-11 (Loss, Win)
Projected Seed: 10th

11. Mississippi State
Remaining Games: at Vanderbilt, Missouri
Projected Finish: 6-12 (Loss, Win)
Projected Seed: 11

Well...that certainly didn't change much. So, let's toss out those high-seed home wins for Florida and Alabama. That puts the Gators, Tide, and Volunteers tied vying for 8th place at 7-11 in league play. However, since Florida has gone 2-0 against UA and UT and the Vols finished 0-2 against those same opponents, we're left with the same 8-9-10 order as before.

Barring an upset, Vanderbilt and Tennessee will fight their way to a third meeting in 2015. That's a win for the SEC. The first meeting between these teams had UT stealing an overtime road win despite trailing by five points with under 15 seconds to play. The second one got Vandy coach Kevin Stallings some unwanted face time on ESPN after he cussed Wade Baldwin IV out for his aggressive postgame clapping. A Commodore/Volunteer matchup would almost certainly be the most watched game of that Thursday session.