A quick look at the current SEC basketball standings shows Florida holding the top spot as the Gators have all season, but a cluster of four teams all within a game of each other. Having already clinched at least a tie for the conference title, Florida is 13-3 in league play with two games remaining. Alabama and Kentucky are each 11-5. Ole Miss and Missouri are each 10-6.
Yeah, so? The big deal is that only the top four teams receive a double-buy at the SEC Tournament next week in Nashville. The four top seeds get to rest and watch on Wednesday night — when the league’s bottom four teams square off – and then all day Thursday when the tournament starts its normal 12-team format.
All it takes is one more Florida win or one more Kentucky loss for the Gators to officially claim the top seed. And even if Florida loses its last two games, Billy Donovan’s club is assured that will not start tournament play before Friday.
The other four teams are in much more limbo, however. So here’s a look at their remaining schedules.
Alabama (11-5): Right now, the Tide has the upper hand on Kentucky for the No. 2 seed thanks to its 59-55 win over UK in Tuscaloosa back in January. Alabama travels to Ole Miss on Tuesday, then returns home to face Georgia on Saturday. Tuesday’s game could depend on Ole Miss’ mindset after that crushing loss to Mississippi State on Saturday. If the Rebels aren’t ready, Alabama could sweep both its games this week and sew up the No. 2 seed.
Kentucky (11-5): You could argue that Kentucky faces the quartet’s toughest schedule. The Cats travel Thursday to Georgia, where the Bulldogs just cooled off red-hot Tennessee 78-68. And Kentucky has lost its last three road games by a combined 60 points. Less than 48 hours later, John Calipari’s club returns home to face the best team in the league, Florida.
Ole Miss (10-6): Who knows what frame of mind Ole Miss is in after losing by six points at Starkville on Saturday. Andy Kennedy’s club does get Alabama at home on Tuesday, but then travels to LSU on Saturday. It’s certainly possible Ole Miss could win the first, then stumble in the second. Or, the up-and-down Rebels could decide to just pack it in for the year.
Missouri (10-6): The Tigers have not lost at home all year and get Arkansas at Mizzou Arena on Tuesday. Then Frank Haith’s club goes to Tennessee on Saturday. The Tigers are just 2-6 in SEC road games, but the last two losses were a 2-point loss at Arkansas and an overtime loss at Kentucky. Can Mizzou get over the hump on Rocky Top?
Speaking of Tennessee, we might want to add the Vols to the possible double-buy mix. The Vols are 9-7, but get Auburn on Wednesday at Auburn. Tennessee will surely be favored there before returning home to face Missouri. Cuonzo Martin’s club could end up 11-7 — and kicking itself for Saturday’s loss at Georgia.
Arkansas is also 9-7, but the Razorbacks have a tougher row to hoe. Mike Anderson’s club will have a harsd time winning at Missouri. If it can somehow accomplish that feat, however, it does return home to face Texas A&M with the chance to finish 11-7.