Somehow, it feels like this basketball season has flown by.
Today is March 1, which means (a) the SEC Tournament is a little over a week away, and (b) this is the final week of the regular season where SEC teams are concerned. Four teams have separated from the pack and clinched the vaunted double-bye at the SEC Tournament, but there’s still a lot to sort out for seeding both there and in the middle of the league. Just one team — Georgia — knows exactly what seed it will have, and the Bulldogs are not exactly where you want to be.
The numbers listed below are where the teams would be seeded if the season ended today — not “power rankings” or any such thing. But there’s a lot to talk about.
1. Auburn (25-4, 13-3)
This week: at Mississippi State (Wednesday), South Carolina (Saturday)
Going into the final week, the Tigers have a one-game lead on three other contenders for the top seed. That they have two winnable games this week — which would mean they could claim the top seed simply by winning — is the good news. The bad news is that their tiebreaker situation is relatively week, having gone 1-2 against the trifecta of Kentucky, Arkansas, and Tennessee who are currently tied for second. And it’s likely that if Auburn goes 1-1, one of Arkansas or Tennessee will be tied with them, and possibly Kentucky as well — and Auburn can’t win any tiebreaker that involves the Razorbacks or the Vols.
2. Arkansas (23-6, 12-4)
This week: LSU (Wednesday), at Tennessee (Saturday)
Remember when Arkansas was 0-3 in the SEC? Since then, they’ve gone 13-1 and, more importantly, picked up wins against Kentucky, Tennessee, and Auburn, giving them all the relevant tiebreakers here. That could change if they lose at Tennessee on Saturday, but for now, their seeding position is extremely strong. And, of course, Wednesday’s home game against LSU isn’t a gimme either.
3. Tennessee (21-7, 12-4)
This week: at Georgia (Tuesday), Arkansas (Saturday)
Tennessee currently holds a tiebreaker over Kentucky thanks to the Vols’ win over Auburn on Saturday. They can gain a game on Arkansas simply by beating the Razorbacks on Saturday, and I don’t think Georgia will give them much trouble on Tuesday night.
4. Kentucky (23-6, 12-4)
This week: Ole Miss (Tuesday), at Florida (Saturday)
Kentucky might actually be the best team in the SEC — KenPom thinks so, at least — but losses to Auburn and Arkansas along with a split with Tennessee mean their tiebreaker situation is weak. They probably can’t be the top seed in the SEC Tournament unless they win out, Auburn loses out, and the winner of Saturday’s Tennessee-Arkansas showdown somehow loses their midweek game (more likely if it’s Arkansas.) But they’re not a team you want to see in Tampa.
5. Alabama (19-10, 9-7)
This week: Texas A&M (Wednesday), at LSU (Saturday)
The Tide currently hold a one-game lead on the four-team logjam at 8-8. And, they’re currently 4-1 against that group, though that obviously could be affected by the matchup in Baton Rouge on Saturday. Basically, they’ve done surprisingly well against the middle of the league, with most of their losses coming against either the top (two losses apiece to Auburn and Kentucky) or bottom (random, dumb losses to Missouri and Georgia.) And even in a two-way tiebreaker against LSU, they’d actually fare pretty well because LSU has managed to do just as poorly against the top of the league — unless, somehow, Kentucky finishes ahead of Tennessee and Arkansas in the standings, Alabama wins that tiebreaker.
6. LSU (20-9, 8-8)
This week: at Arkansas (Wednesday), Alabama (Saturday)
7. Florida (18-11, 8-8)
This week: at Vanderbilt (Tuesday), Kentucky (Saturday)
8. Mississippi State (17-12, 8-8)
This week: Auburn (Wednesday), at Texas A&M (Saturday)
9. South Carolina (17-11, 8-8)
This week: Missouri (Tuesday), at Auburn (Saturday)
And here’s the four-team logjam at 8-8. Right now, how this works out is: LSU and Florida each went 2-1 against the other three (with LSU holding the tiebreaker win over Florida), Mississippi State went 2-2, and South Carolina went 1-3. What’s more, Florida and Mississippi State are the league’s two bona fide bubble teams, meaning either could really boost their chances with a 2-0 week.
That said, neither of those seems particularly likely, and in fact both Florida and Mississippi State are more likely to go 0-2 this week. That could mean South Carolina ends up with the 6-seed — if they split this week and LSU does as well.
10. Texas A&M (18-11, 7-9)
This week: at Alabama (Wednesday), Mississippi State (Saturday)
For a while there, Texas A&M looked like they had turned the corner — but they’ve gone 3-9 since starting the season 15-2, though they did pick up two wins last week to move into 10th place. That said, avoiding Wednesday night means finishing ahead of Vanderbilt, which means the Aggies will need to win at least one of two this week and hope that the Commodores don’t sweep their week.
11. Vanderbilt (14-14, 6-10)
This week: Florida (Tuesday), at Ole Miss (Saturday)
Yeah, winning out is doable, and given Texas A&M’s upcoming week splitting the week might even be good enough to avoid Wednesday night. But no, this is not where we wanted to be, or even where we thought we would be a couple of weeks ago. That’s what going 0-2 last week while Texas A&M went 2-0 did.
12. Missouri (10-19, 4-12)
This week: at South Carolina (Tuesday), Georgia (Saturday)
13. Ole MIss (13-16, 4-12)
This week: at Kentucky (Tuesday), Vanderbilt (Saturday)
Two bad teams about whom I have two completely different feelings; Missouri holds the tiebreaker thanks to a season sweep of Ole Miss, and it seems unlikely that the Rebels will pass the Tigers in the standings what with Ole Miss facing a near-certain loss at Kentucky tonight and Missouri getting Georgia at home on Saturday. Missouri is a young team that’s going through what basically amounted to a planned rebuilding year; Ole Miss is a more experienced squad that’s had a hell of a time with injuries, but looked to be a disappointment even before the injury bug hit. Either of these teams could be looking for a new coach after the season.
14. Georgia (6-23, 1-15)
This week: Tennessee (Tuesday), at Missouri (Saturday)
You know something? It looks really bad on the 2018-19 Vanderbilt team when you consider that they will continue to be the only SEC team to ever go 0-18 in conference play, because somehow this Georgia team won a conference game. They’re terrible, Tom Crean is definitely getting fired, and they probably just want this season to be over. Oh, yeah, and since they’re three games behind 13th place, they’re definitely going to be the 14-seed.