By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Auburn Week 10 Review
The Tigers clinched their first SEC regular season championship since 1999 after they defeated South Carolina, 79-70, at Auburn Arena. While they technically share the regular season title with Tennessee since both teams finished 13-5 in the league, the Tigers hold the tiebreaker over the Volunteers. Bruce Pearl’s team battled through turmoil since before the season even started, and he has done a remarkable job guiding this group to a conference title. Auburn (25-6) has a double bye for the SEC Tournament this week in St. Louis at the Scottrade Center. The wi-nner will play the winner of Alabama/Texas A&M at 12 p.m. on Friday (March 9).
Alabama Week 10 Review
It was a disappointing end to the regular season for the Crimson Tide, as they finished the year on a five-game losing streak. Alabama nearly pulled off the win at Texas A&M but the Aggies held on for a 68-66 win. The Tide will have a chance at revenge as they take on the Aggies in the second round of the SEC Tournament, and it is likely a must-win game for Alabama if it wants to reach the NCAA Tournament. Alabama (17-14, 8-10) is still projected to make the Big Dance, but the Tide can’t afford a loss on Thursday (March 8).
1. Auburn (25-6, 13-5)
2. Tennessee (23-7, 13-5)
3. Florida (20-11, 11-7)
4. Kentucky (21-10, 10-8)
5. Arkansas (21-10, 11-7)
6. Texas A&M (20-11, 9-9)
7. Missouri (20-11, 10-8)
8. Mississippi State (21-10, 9-9)
9. Alabama (17-14, 8-10)
10. South Carolina (15-15, 7-11)
11. Georgia (16-14, 7-11)
12. LSU (17-13, 8-10)
13. Vanderbilt (12-19, 6-12)
14. Ole Miss (12-19, 5-13)
SEC Tournament preview and predictions
Week 10: 13-6 s; season: 51-35
This is the deepest and most competitive the SEC has been in the history of the league, which should lead to a highly entertaining and unpredictable conference tournament. As of now, there are eight teams from the SEC projected to make the NCAA Tournament, and they’re all capable of winning the championship this week in St. Louis.
The teams projected to make the Field of 68 include Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, Missouri, Texas A&M and Alabama. The first seven on that list are locks, and Alabama likely needs just one win to clinch a bid. Georgia, Mississippi State and LSU are all on the bubble, and each team must win at least two and possibly three games to have a chance of making the NCAA Tournament.
Every team except Ole Miss and Vanderbilt has at least a puncher’s chance at winning the conference tournament. It would be unprecedented for a team to win five games in five days, but South Carolina and Georgia have proven they’re capable of beating anyone in the SEC.
Auburn, Tennessee, Florida and Kentucky all received double byes, so they only have to win three games to win the title. The Tigers won the regular season title, but their first game will come against either Texas A&M or Alabama, and both teams beat Auburn this season. If Auburn advances to the semifinals, the Tigers likely will face either Kentucky or Missouri.
Tennessee plays the winner of LSU and Mississippi State, and the Vols beat both teams by over 20 points in the regular season. While Tennessee and Auburn have the best record in the league, it’s far from a lock that they advance far in the conference tournament.
Kentucky has won the last three SEC Tournaments and regular season titles, and John Calipari’s team is playing its best ball of the season. The ‘Cats are still young and inconsistent, and it might be a lot to ask such a young team to play its best for three straight days against quality opponents.
Before this season, Kentucky and Florida combined to win the regular season championship in eight straight years. Neither team can be counted out this year as both have the talent to win the tournament despite not winning the regular season title.
Kentucky also has the most conference tournament championships in SEC history with 30. Alabama is second with six titles, followed by Florida and Tennessee in a tie for third with four titles each. Mississippi State has three, while Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Georgia all have two championships. Arkansas, Auburn and LSU each have one. South Carolina and newcomers Missouri and Texas A&M have not won the SEC Tournament.
SEC championship game prediction: Kentucky over Florida