1. Florida (25-2, 14-0)
2. Kentucky (21-6, 11-3)
3. Georgia (15-11, 9-5)
4. Missouri (19-8, 7-7)
5. Arkansas (18-9, 7-7)
6. LSU (16-10, 7-7)
7. Texas A&M (16-11, 7-7)
8. Ole Miss (16-11, 7-7)
9. Tennessee (16-11, 7-7)
10. Vanderbilt (15-11, 7-7)
11. Alabama (11-16, 5-9)
12. Auburn (12-13, 4-10)
13. Mississippi State (13-14, 3-11)
14. South Carolina (10-17, 3-11)
While the top three teams in the SEC held serve, opportunities were lost in numerous other locales across the conference landscape in the week that was.
Florida, which is expected to rise to the No. 1 ranking in the country with two straight losses from previous top dog Syracuse, played two surprisingly tight games, but the Gators prevailed in both. Billy Donovan’s team skimmed by at home versus Auburn in the midweek (71-66) before pulling out a come-from-behind effort in Oxford on Saturday over Ole Miss (75-71).
Kentucky also went into Tad Smith Coliseum and beat the Rebels this week prior to playing a classic game in Rupp this weekend against LSU, a contest the Wildcats won in overtime when freshman Julius Randle put in a loose-ball lay-up with 3.9 seconds remaining. The Georgia Bulldogs split a pair of away ballgames, falling in Knoxville before beating South Carolina in Columbia. With four games left it seems a virtual certainty these three teams will be locked into the 1-2-3 seeds for the SEC Tournament in Atlanta.
Of course that’s due in large part to a complete reticence by the rest of the league to get over the (road) hump and challenge the top tier. In a truly amazing development, half of the conference’s 14 teams stand at 7-7 with four games to go in the regular season. Four of those seven .500 teams – LSU, Missouri, Tennessee and Vanderbilt – stayed pat from last week, winning one and losing one, while Ole Miss dropped its two home games against UF and UK to join the bogged-down and apparently desirable middle of the pack.
Alandise Harris and Arkansas are surging
The flip side of being 7-7, though, is what Arkansas and Texas A&M had to go through to get there. Both enjoyed an unblemished week to climb the conference ladder, with the Aggies feasting on two home games (most notably topping Tennessee in overtime Saturday) and the Hogs winning at and away from Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks’ road victory may have come at dead-in-the-water Mississippi State, but kudos are due to Mike Anderson, who’s now led Arkansas to two SEC road wins this season, equaling the program’s total from the previous two campaigns combined under Anderson.
Rounding out the SEC standings through 14 games are the state of Alabama’s two representatives followed by Mississippi State and South Carolina. The Tide pulled off an impressive win at home versus Mizzou on Saturday, getting 18 points and a season-high six assists from guard Trevor Releford, who limped into the locker room early in the game only to come back and burn the Tigers. The Bulldogs and Gamecocks dropped each of their two games this week, and it will be a shock if Auburn or Alabama falls below these two in the race for the bottom by season’s end.
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 18 Kentucky over LSU, 77-76, in OT // The Wildcats may be head and shoulders above the non-Florida portion of the SEC in 2013-14 according to their record, but frontcourt-heavy LSU, which beat UK in Baton Rouge nearly a month ago, matches up well with Big Blue this season. The two played one of the season’s most entertaining games in Lexington on Saturday with John Calipari’s ‘Cats sending the game into overtime on two Andrew Harrison free throws with 11 seconds left in regulation. Once in the extra period, the contest saw five lead changes – the final coming with just 3.9 ticks left as Julius Randle put back a loose ball to secure victory for home-standing Kentucky. Chalk it up as a resilient win for the Wildcats and another opportunity squandered for LSU in the hard-luck loss.
In Right Now: Florida, Kentucky
Still in the Mix: Technically everybody else aside from Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State and South Carolina
- Doubt has officially hovered in over Tennessee like a storm cloud that’s here to stay. Cuonzo Martin’s crew, like so many others in the middle, simply can’t win on the road. So even a favorable schedule down the stretch for the Volunteers is seemingly not going to be enough for UT to get right, in terms of solidifying an NCAA Tournament bid pre-SEC Tournament. The same can be said of one-time Big Dance contenders LSU, Ole Miss and Missouri, all of which will need to finish with a flourish in the coming weeks to have a prayer at reappearing in legitimate tourney talk.
The highest riser from the past week is Arkansas, back from the dead after a 2-6 start in SEC play. Pig Sooie now has more overall wins than everybody in the league not named Florida, Kentucky or Missouri, and the ‘Backs are coming on strong at the right time.
The simple fact is none of the SEC’s teams outside of the top two have any form of postseason security at this point, meaning someone is probably going to have to go on a major run in Atlanta to give the league a third team into the Big Dance.
WHAT’S COMING NEXT WEEK
The upcoming 14-game battle royale provides another chance for the quagmire of 7-7 teams to disperse. Of course the way this season has gone south of the Mason-Dixon Line, it’s more likely they’ll choose to just remain together, hanging out in the crowded land of average. Six of the seven .500 teams in the SEC figure to be underdogs in their road games (Arkansas at Kentucky, LSU at Florida, Missouri at Georgia, Ole Miss at Texas A&M, Texas A&M at LSU and Vanderbilt at Tennessee). The only exception are those Vols, who play at hapless Mississippi State in the midweek. So the question lingers: Do any of these teams actually want to make the postseason?
Alabama: at Ole Miss (Wed), vs. Auburn (Sat)
Arkansas: at Kentucky (Thurs), vs. Georgia (Sat)
Auburn: vs. South Carolina (Wed), at Alabama (Sat)
Florida: at Vanderbilt (Tues), vs. LSU (Sat)
Georgia: vs. Missouri (Tues), at Arkansas (Sat)
Kentucky: vs. Arkansas (Thurs), at South Carolina (Sat)
LSU: vs. Texas A&M (Wed), at Florida (Sat)
Mississippi State: vs. Tennessee (Wed), at Missouri (Sat)
Missouri: at Georgia (Tues), vs. Mississippi State (Sat)
Ole Miss: vs. Alabama (Wed), at Texas A&M (Sat)
South Carolina: at Auburn (Wed), vs. Kentucky (Sat)
Tennessee: at Mississippi State (Wed), vs. Vanderbilt (Sat)
Texas A&M: at LSU (Wed), vs. Ole Miss (Sat)
Vanderbilt: vs. Florida (Tues), at Tennessee (Sat)
Ben Love is the publisher of Scout.com’s LSU site, TigerSportsDigest.com. CLICK HERE to try a free seven-day trial at TSD, and CLICK HERE to visit the site’s premium message board.