In & around SEC basketball

By Cole FrederickBy Cole Frederick

Auburn Week 9 recap

Auburn lost to both Vanderbilt and Tennessee last week, and the Tigers have now lost 14 of their last 15 games. Auburn dropped to 9-21 overall and 3-14 in conference play. The Tigers’ 21 losses are the most in school history. Auburn travels to Starkville on Saturday (Mar. 3) to take on Mississippi State in a battle for last place in the SEC.

Alabama Week 9 recap

The Crimson Tide suffered two road losses last week to Florida and Ole Miss. Alabama dropped to 19-11 overall and 11-6 in league play. The Crimson Tide finishes the regular season at home on Saturday (Mar. 9) against Georgia.

SEC men’s rankings

1. Florida (24-5, 14-3)
 2. Missouri (22-8, 11-6)
 3. Kentucky (20-9, 11-5)
 4. Ole Miss (22-8, 11-6)
 5. Tennessee (18-11, 10-7)
 6. Alabama (19-11, 11-6)
 7. LSU (18-10, 9-8)
 8. Arkansas (18-12, 9-8)
 9. Georgia (14-15, 8-8)
 10. Vanderbilt (13-16, 7-10)
 11. Texas A&M (17-13, 7-10)
 12. South Carolina (14-16, 4-13)
 14. Mississippi State (8-21, 3-14)
 15. Auburn (9-21, 3-14)

Week 10 previews and predictions
(Week 9: 9-4; season: 79-36)

Saturday, Mar. 9
Ole Miss at LSU. If the Rebels still have a chance to reach the NCAA tournament, they must pick up this road win. LSU has played well at home under first-year coach Johnny Jones, while the Rebels have struggled on the road this season. After losing to both South Carolina and Mississippi State in a span of two weeks, it’s just hard to trust Ole Miss on the road. Prediction: LSU 72, Ole Miss 67.

South Carolina at Vanderbilt. The Commodores have steadily improved throughout the course of the season, and Kevin Stallings’ team should be dangerous next year. The Gamecocks have been tougher under first-year coach Frank Martin, although they’re still a year or two away from being a serious competitor in the SEC. If Vandy wins and Texas A&M loses, the Commodores will avoid playing on the first day of the SEC Tournament. Prediction: Vanderbilt 65, South Carolina 58.

Texas A&M at Arkansas. If the Hogs could win on the road, they would easily be a tournament team. Instead, the Razorbacks followed up their impressive win over Kentucky with a 30-point loss at Missouri. Such inconsistency lands a team in the NIT. The Aggies won the first meeting in College Station, but the Hogs are nearly unbeatable at home. Prediction: Arkansas 77, Texas A&M 70.

Georgia at Alabama. This is a must-win game for the Crimson Tide. Alabama defeated Georgia in Athens earlier this season, but the Bulldogs have played well away from home. The Tide needs this victory heading into the SEC Tournament. Prediction: Alabama 60, Georgia 54.

Missouri at Tennessee. Despite losing to Georgia last week, the Volunteers still have a chance to make the NCAA tournament. A win over Missouri would go a long way with the selection committee. A loss would not necessarily hurt the Vols, but this is a great opportunity for a resume-boosting victory. Missouri is already a tournament lock, so the Tigers are only playing for a better seed at this point. Prediction: Te-nnessee 67, Missouri 65.

Auburn at Mississippi State. The Tigers and the Bulldogs are set to square off in The Battle for Last Place in the SEC. The winner of this prestigious  contest faces South Carolina in the first round of the SEC tournament. The loser likely plays Texas A&M. The stakes have never been higher. Prediction: Mississippi State 56, Auburn 53.

Game of the Week

Florida at Kentucky. The Gators are chasing down an opportunity for a No. 1 seed, while the Wildcats are simply just looking for an invitation to the Dance. The ‘Cats have some work to do before they can feel good about their at-large chances, but a win over Florida would look great on their tournament resume. Prediction: Florida 73, Kentucky 64.

Tournament Outlook
Who’s In

Florida. If the Gators can beat Kentucky and win the SEC tournament, they have a very good chance at getting a No. 1 seed.

Missouri. The Tigers moved into the “in” category after defeating both LSU and Arkansas last week. Missouri now is playing for a better seed.

Who’s Out

Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Georgia. As we noted in last week’s column, winning the SEC tournament is the only way these teams can reach the NCAA tournament.

On the Bubble

Alabama. The Crimson Tide lost two important games to Florida and Ole Miss, so they still have work to do if they want a shot at an at-large bid. A win this week over Georgia is a must, and Alabama might have to make the SEC tournament championship game to even be considered for a NCAA bid.

Ole Miss. Their in-state rival from Starkville may have ended the Rebels’ at-large chances. Ole Miss shockingly lost to Mississippi State, and the Rebels now might be on the outside looking in for the Big Dance. A loss to LSU must be avoided, and Andy Kennedy’s team might need a win or two in the SEC tournament.

Kentucky. This has not been an easy season for the defending national champions, but Coach John Ca-lipari’s team is in decent shape for an at-large bid. A win over Florida would move the Wildcats into the “in” category, although a loss would not be devastating. Kentucky might need one win in the SEC tournament just to be safe.

Tennessee. After losing to Georgia last weekend, the Volunteers’ at-large chances seemingly took a giant step backward. Thanks to several losses by other bubble teams, however, Tennessee is still in the mix. The Vols needs to beat Missouri at home on Saturday and likely need a win in the SEC Tournament. If the Vols can win their next two games, they should find themselves in the field of 68 on Selection Sunday.

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