Unraveling the SEC tournament tiebreakers

Kentucky (8-6) faces Vanderbilt (9-5) tonight in a game that could square the Cats with the Dores for 2nd place in the SEC East and the coveted Thursday bye. With a thin rotation, Kentucky can ill afford to have to play four games in four days. Georgia (8-6) also lurks with the possibility of SEC East # 2 as well. Here's how the tiebreakers work to unravel the mess.

In a two-team tie with either Vanderbilt or Georgia, Kentucky is in great shape. The first tie-breaker is head-to-head competition between the two teams. The Wildcats split with Georgia, and assuming they defeat Vanderbilt tonight and finish 10-6 with a win over Tennessee, they would split with Vanderbilt as well.

The 2nd tiebreaker is the division won-lost record of the two teams. This is where Kentucky would edge either Vanderbilt or Georgia, as they have a two game better record than either one in the SEC East, and in a two-way tie, Kentucky would obtain the SEC East # 2 seed.

All is good, then, right? Not so fast. Even if Kentucky defeats both Vanderbilt and Tennessee this week--a tall task, considering the quality of the teams, and that Tennessee will be fighting for NCAA lives, and playing at home on Senior Day--the Cats must hope for Vanderbilt to lose to Florida (after losing to Kentucky), or Georgia to lose at home to LSU, or on the road to Alabama. In a three-way tie, the SEC tiebreaker does Kentucky no favors.

In a three-way tie, the first tiebreaker is total won-lost record of games played among the tied teams. Vanderbilt swept Georgia this season, so they would be 2-0 versus Georgia, and 1-1 versus Kentucky, for a 3-1 mark. Kentucky split both series, so they would be 2-2, and Georgia be 1-1. Pursuant to the three (or more) way tiebreaker, Vanderbilt would get the SEC East # 2 bid, and Kentucky SEC East # 3.

So it's simple. Root for Kentucky to defeat Vanderbilt and Tennessee, as always, and for Georgia to lose to either LSU in Athens, or Alabama, in Tuscaloosa. Or for Vanderbilt to lose to Florida in Nashville. Or both. The three-way tie is a killer for Kentucky to obtain the SEC East # 2 seed and the coveted bye.

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