The middle of the SEC has gotten very bubblelicious lately with a seven-way tie for fourth popping up after the conclusion of Saturday's action.
Arkansas is one of those teams in that deadlock with a game scheduled at No. 17 Kentucky (21-6, 11-3) Thursday night at 6 p.m. that will be televised by ESPN and then a home game with Georgia on Saturday at 3 p.m.
Top-ranked Florida (25-2, 14-0) and Kentucky seem like locks for the NCAA Tournament while third place Georgia (15-11, 9-5) joins the horde tied for fourth trying to fight its way in with four games each left in the league slate.
"We talk about getting into February and ballgames are big and they just got bigger," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said referencing the tie.
Arkansas is jammed in the standings with Missouri, Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M.
Only Missouri (45) and Tennessee (58) are ahead of Arkansas (65) in the RPI out of that group, but only Missouri (32) is ahead of the Razorbacks (35) in terms of BPI.
Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has Florida, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee (one of his last four in the 68-team field) in the NCAA Tournament projections with Arkansas and the others on the outside looking in.
"Everyone talks about the strength of our league and there are some very good teams and very good coaches," Anderson said. "In league play, you beat up on each other and teams get better as the season goes on…Teams are prepared. It seems like everyone is holding court serve at home and there are some wins sprinkled out at home. It is going to make it interesting going down the stretch with four games to go.
"Could anyone have forseen this taking place? Not really, but it just shows you that with the game of basketball anything is possible," Anderson added.
Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin says there is one tried and true coach speak phrase that definitely fits now.
"It comes down to these last four games, but all coaches are like ‘it's one game at a time' and all of a sudden each game is at a premium," Martin said. "They all should have been that one, but these are just the ones presented to us now."
LSU head coach Johnny Jones marveled at the logjam.
"We talked about it as a staff and I don't think I have ever seen anything like that, but for us it is just try to get out of this seven-way tie on top," Jones said. "For us, it's just one game at a time, but I don't think I have ever seen that in a league before."
Jones also talked about how the SEC shouldn't get criticized as much as it does nationally.
"If you look at all the numbers – (bracketologist) Jerry Palm and all those numbers, the SEC has nine teams in the top 100, but yet you still get criticized during the course of the season," Jones said. "Yet you look at the numbers and look at league standings and where you are as far as RPI, the SEC is one of the top leagues in the country."
The team that gets the fourth seed in the SEC Tournament would get a double bye and not have to play until Thursday in the five-day event that starts Tuesday, March 11 in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.
"It could prove big, but at the same time the teams that are playing (earlier), it keeps them in the continuity of something that they have been doing since January – just playing games," Anderson said. "Every game is a big game and it will be interesting to see how it shakes out."
The Razorbacks beat Kentucky 87-85 back on Jan. 14 at Bud Walton Arena when Michael Qualls slammed home a Rashad Madden miss right before the buzzer.
"We are getting ready to face a Kentucky team that is really playing well," Anderson said. "It's played in a lot of close games. We played earlier in the year and had a game that was won at the buzzer.
Now we got a chance to go and play at their place and I'm sure (Kentucky head coach) John (Calipari) will have his team ready to play," Anderson added. "Hopefully we will be ready to play and it will be a great atmosphere. It sure be a great ballgame."
Michael Qualls slams home the game-winning dunk against Kentucky back on Jan. 14.
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