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Sorting through the SEC Tournament seeding

This is a weird year!

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 12 SEC Tournament Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So, it’s March, and the SEC Tournament is next week!

And Vanderbilt might not have to play on Wednesday night! That’s thanks in part to Auburn self-imposing a postseason ban, meaning that the #11 seed doesn’t play on Wednesday night! Still!

With one game left in the regular season, I thought we would take a look at how the SEC Tournament seedings will play out. Vanderbilt, for the record, can do no better than the 11-seed, but they might get it. First, here are this weekend’s games:

  • South Carolina at Kentucky
  • Mississippi State at Auburn
  • Alabama at Georgia
  • LSU at Missouri
  • Texas A&M at Arkansas
  • Vanderbilt at Ole Miss
  • Florida at Tennessee (on Sunday, for some reason)

Now, one of the weird things about the SEC standings this year is that with teams playing varying numbers of games, tiebreakers don’t actually come into play all that much — since the seedings are set based on winning percentage, there won’t be many actual ties. A 10-7 team is ahead of a 10-8 team in the standings. (At least, that’s how I assume this goes.)

So, let’s get the easy part out of the way:

Alabama and Arkansas are the top two seeds

This, of course, is something that exactly no one was expecting in November, but Alabama at 15-2 is three games clear of everyone else, and Arkansas at 12-4 is two games clear of the remaining teams. So, that’s easy. Everything else is not.

LSU is guaranteed a double bye

The Tigers are 10-6, with Florida at 9-6 and Tennessee at 9-7... but since Florida and Tennessee play each other this weekend, LSU can finish no worse than fourth in the standings. They’ll be the 3-seed if they beat Missouri or Tennessee beats Florida. The last of the double byes will go to the winner of Tennessee-Florida, and if it’s Tennessee, they’re the 4-seed; Florida can get the 3-seed if they win and LSU loses to Missouri.

And what of the Tennessee-Florida loser?

And here’s where things start getting weird because of the different numbers of games played.

Missouri, should they beat LSU, will be the 5-seed: they would finish ahead of the Florida-Tennessee loser (Florida on tiebreakers thanks to Wednesday’s win over the Gators, Tennessee on winning percentage thanks to 9-7 being better than 9-8.) 9-7 is also better than 10-8, which means that Ole Miss can’t pass Missouri (or Florida, for that matter) even with a win over Vanderbilt. So if Missouri wins and Florida loses, Missouri is the 5-seed and Florida the 6; Ole Miss, with a win over Vanderbilt, would be the 7. If Tennessee loses, they’re the 7-seed if Ole Miss beats Vandy and the 6-seed if Vandy wins.

And what if Missouri loses? Well, that puts Florida as no worse than the 5-seed, and Tennessee if they lose would either be the 5 (with a Vandy win) or the 6 (with an Ole Miss win.) But as for Missouri, the Tigers would be 8-8, and three of those losses came against Ole Miss and Mississippi State — meaning they would be at best the 7-seed, and could drop as low as 8th if Mississippi State beats Auburn to finish at 9-9.

(To tie up a final loose end here, if Mississippi State and Ole Miss both finish 9-9, that tie would be broken based on who wins between Florida and Tennessee: Mississippi State beat Florida and lost to Tennessee, while Ole Miss is the reverse, so a Florida win puts Mississippi State ahead and a Tennessee win puts Ole Miss ahead.)

The bottom of the middle

Entering the final weekend of the regular season, Mississippi State is 8-9, Kentucky is 7-9, and Georgia is 7-10. The scenarios where Mississippi State wins on Saturday are covered above, but if they lose, they’re in the bucket with these other two as the 8 through 10 seeds.

But actually, this isn’t difficult. Georgia is automatically the 10-seed with a loss thanks to winning percentage; with a Kentucky win and a Mississippi State loss, Kentucky is 8 and Mississippi State is 9. Mississippi State is no worse than the 8-seed with a Kentucky loss; Georgia would be the 9-seed with a win and a Kentucky loss, which would put the Wildcats as the 10-seed.

The bottom three

South Carolina, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt will be seeded 11 through 13 in some order.

Right now, South Carolina is 4-11, Texas A&M is 2-7, and Vanderbilt is 3-12. South Carolina would guarantee themselves the 11-seed with a win at Kentucky, and then Texas A&M and Vanderbilt are basically just left to determine who wears white on Wednesday night (A&M is the 12 with a win or a Vanderbilt loss, Vanderbilt is the 12 with a win AND a Texas A&M loss, but also none of this fucking matters, does it?)

If South Carolina loses, Texas A&M is the 11 seed with a win; Vanderbilt is the 11-seed with a win and losses by both of the other two. In the extremely likely scenario that all three lose, South Carolina is 11, Texas A&M is 12, and Vanderbilt is 13.