1. Florida (27-2, 16-0)
2. Kentucky (21-8, 11-5)
3. Georgia (16-12, 10-6)
4. Arkansas (20-9, 9-7)
5. Tennessee (18-11, 9-7)
6. Missouri (20-9, 8-8)
7. LSU (17-11, 8-8)
8. Texas A&M (17-12, 8-8)
9. Ole Miss (17-12, 8-8)
10. Vanderbilt (15-13, 7-9)
11. Alabama (12-17, 6-10)
12. Auburn (13-14, 5-11)
13. South Carolina (11-18, 4-12)
14. Mississippi State (13-16, 3-13)
An extremely interesting week in the Southeastern Conference saw two losses from ranked Kentucky, two wins for a pair of programs trying to sneak into the Big Dance, one 38-point showing from Vanderbilt and, as always, smooth-sailing for front-running Florida.
Starting at the top, life as the No. 1 team in the country agreed with the Gators, who celebrated their first week in that lofty ranking by sliding past the ‘Dores in Nashville before blowing the doors off LSU in Gainesville. Florida has now won a cool 21 contests in a row and is a perfect 16-0 in the O'Connell Center this season. Barring a surprise quick exit in the SEC Tournament, UF will be a number one seed in the NCAAs, if not the number one overall seed.
The league's long-standing second in command, Kentucky, had a nightmarish week, falling at home in overtime to resurgent Arkansas in the midweek prior to taking part in the upset of the SEC season on Saturday – losing at South Carolina, 72-67. John Calipari was so disgusted with his ‘Cats performance that he got himself ejected midway through the second half. Big Blue, losers of three of its last five, is now only one game ahead of Georgia, which split its games last week.
The Vols earned a pair of victories this week to climb to 9-7, getting by Mississippi State in Starkville and doubling up Vanderbilt in Knoxville by the final tally of 76-38. Rocky Top, at 18-11, owns three less overall wins than Arkansas, 20-9, but Tennessee's 87-52 thumping of Virginia, now the No. 12 team in America and 16-1 in the ACC, in non-conference play is a win growing in importance for UT and its tourney résumé.
After the top five are a quartet of teams that enjoyed being .500 so much at 7-7 last week that they decided to make it 8-8 going into the final week of conference play. Missouri, LSU, Texas A&M and Ole Miss each won at home and lost on the road last week, solidifying the fact any of the four would have to win the SEC Tournament to make the big show and all four will likely have some work to do in Atlanta to secure an NIT berth.
Mississippi State, which amazingly began league play at 3-2, is now at 11 consecutive losses, taking over sole possession of last place in the SEC. Filling out the league standings, from 10th to 13th, are Vanderbilt, Alabama, Auburn and South Carolina. While the head coaches of the Commodores and Gamecocks are locks to return for next season, the same cannot yet be said for the men leading the two league programs in the state of Alabama. There will be unrest surrounding both Alabama and Auburn heading into the offseason.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Arkansas over No. 17 Kentucky, 71-67, in OT // The same ol' Arkansas team which couldn't win on the road under Mike Anderson has now won two straight and three of four away from Bud Walton Arena. By far the biggest feather in the Razorbacks' cap, though, was Thursday night's overtime triumph in Rupp, a victory which gives Arkansas the season sweep over Kentucky. The Hogs got a combined 37 points from the starting trio of Coty Clarke, Rashad Madden and Michael Qualls, offsetting 16 points and 13 rebounds from UK big man Willie Cauley-Stein. The true difference in the ballgame was free throws. Arkansas shot 16-of-16 from the charity stripe while home-standing Kentucky put in just 12-of-22 attempts from the line. The win for Arkansas will go a long way toward helping their chances at the Big Dance.
In Right Now: Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee
Still in the Mix: Arkansas (barely out), Georgia, Missouri
Wrong Side of the Bubble: LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M
- Arkansas and Tennessee did themselves big favors in the week that was, particularly the Razorbacks by virtue of winning in Lexington and securing the season sweep over NCAA Tournament-bound Kentucky. It's my belief that Arkansas has a better tournament résumé than Tennessee, especially considering how much hotter the Hogs are right now, but the committee will value the Volunteers' win over Virginia heavier than anything Arkansas did in non-conference action. Because of that, anticipating what the committee will do, I'll temporarily slot Tennessee ahead of Arkansas.
Perhaps the bigger news is that a conference that was slipping into the possibility of getting only two teams in is now knocking on the door of four entrants. Missouri is a pretty extreme reach to make it, in my opinion, but any or all of the other three trying to make a move – Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia – are in striking position. Mark Fox's Bulldogs will have the farthest to go, because of the 6-6 record pre-conference play, but it's no stretch to think the SEC could get in two of those three.
WHAT'S COMING NEXT WEEK
Alabama has two opportunities to play spoiler, first traveling to Lexington to take on wounded Kentucky on short rest Tuesday night and then hosting Arkansas Saturday in Tuscaloosa. The latter game will be particularly pivotal for an Arkansas team hunting for the four-seed in the SEC Tournament. The conference's other team on the rise, Tennessee, has a fairly favorable final week – playing at Auburn on Wednesday before a home date with Missouri over the weekend. By week's end, seeding for the league tournament in Atlanta will be finalized.
Alabama: at Kentucky (Tues), vs. Arkansas (Sat)
Arkansas: vs. Ole Miss (Wed), at Alabama (Sat)
Auburn: vs. Tennessee (Wed), at Texas A&M (Sat)
Florida: at South Carolina (Tues), vs. Kentucky (Sat)
Georgia: vs. Mississippi State (Wed), at LSU (Sat)
Kentucky: vs. Alabama (Tues), at Florida (Sat)
LSU: at Vanderbilt (Thurs), vs. Georgia (Sat)
Mississippi State: at Georgia (Wed), vs. South Carolina (Sat)
Missouri: vs. Texas A&M (Wed), at Tennessee (Sat)
Ole Miss: at Arkansas (Wed), vs. Vanderbilt (Sat)
South Carolina: vs. Florida (Tues), at Mississippi State (Sat)
Tennessee: at Auburn (Wed), vs. Missouri (Sat)
Texas A&M: at Missouri (Wed), vs. Auburn (Sat)
Vanderbilt: vs. LSU (Thurs), at Ole Miss (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.