Tomorrow marks the biggest day in conference play during the 2019-202 SEC basketball season. We very well could see the regular season championship decided for all intents and purposes at Rupp Arena tomorrow afternoon.
Auburn takes on Kentucky as the only team with a real shot at catching the Wildcats in the race for the conference crown. Here’s the situation for the Tigers to capture a third consecutive SEC title....
Auburn sits at 11-4 in the league, while Kentucky’s 13-2. Two-game swing, with Auburn owning the tiebreaker right now. The road for Bruce Pearl’s guys is simple, but they don’t control their own destiny. Here’s what we need —
- A 3-0 finish to the year. That’s imperative. Auburn has to beat Kentucky, Texas A&M, and Tennessee. It’s possible for Auburn to still win the league with a 2-1 finish, but that means you have to beat Kentucky and hope the Cats lose out. They’ve got to play at Florida, so another loss is definitely on the table. An 0-3 finish? Unlikely.
- If we do finish 3-0 on the year, we’d end the season at 14-4. Kentucky has to finish 1-2. One of those losses needs to come to us. If Kentucky beats us tomorrow, they win the SEC and guarantee the 1-seed in Nashville (NOT LIKE THAT MATTERS)
We’re doubling up today for Auburn’s biggest basketball rival. From the @__Austinwiley50 block, to the @Therealvinoo pass and then the @Bwb_2 three, this sequence should always be remembered pic.twitter.com/HrSwtfpYlR— Jacob Hillman (@Jacob_Hillman3) February 22, 2020
Anyway, that’s pretty much it. With only three games left, the scenarios are fairly limited.
So what’s going to happen with everything behind Auburn? Well, let’s dive in.
CURRENT CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT SEEDING
If the tournament began today, here’s the seeding:
- Mississippi State
- South Carolina
- Texas A&M
- Ole Miss
Vanderbilt’s locked in to the 14-seed. They’re three games back of both Georgia and Ole Miss, and they have no tiebreaker over either. They will play Ole Miss tomorrow, but they’d have to win out to avoid the bottom seed, and that’s unlikely.
Here are the matchups everywhere else if the standings stay the same:
Day 1 - #14 Vanderbilt vs #11 Missouri
Day 1 - #12 Georgia vs #13 Ole Miss
Day 2 - #8 Tennessee vs #9 Alabama
Day 2 - #5 Mississippi State vs Vandy/Missouri Winner
Day 2 - #7 Texas A&M vs #10 Arkansas
Day 2 - #6 South Carolina vs Georgia/Ole Miss Winner
Day 3 - #1 Kentucky vs Tennessee/Alabama Winner
Day 3 - #4 LSU vs TBD
Day 3 - #2 Auburn vs A&M/Missouri Winner
Day 3 - #3 Florida vs TBD
It gets a little wild with the possibilities once you hit Nashville, so maybe the best course of action is to plot out who Auburn would like to face. Obviously, you’d like the Tigers to get the 1-seed, but then that might turn out with us facing off against a primed Alabama team in Nashville. The last time that happened, it wasn’t good for us, and we got blitzed.
However, we might also get to play Tennessee. That would be hilarious, because Rick Barnes has no idea what to do against a fully operational Bruce Pearl. I believe it’s been three (?) years since the Vols beat Auburn? Bruce just keeps getting the best of Ricky. Still, facing the Vols or Tide might be an unlikely scenario since we have to win the regular season and that’s not in our control. So, let’s assume we get the 2-seed. We’re a game up on LSU and Florida, so let’s just assume they can’t make up two games in the final three.
That means we play the winner of Missouri and Texas A&M. Eh. I don’t want to play a hot Aggie team with Buzz Williams doing some ace coaching, and I don’t want to play Missouri, even though we know they’re not going to hit 65% of their threes again (not an overestimation). Maybe we’d get the Missouri that hits like 7% of its threes. Dare to dream.
If we got through that, then it would likely be Florida again, unless South Carolina upsets them. Hey, we beat BOTH of those teams last year on the way to the SEC Championship. We made Florida super mad, and now the Gamecocks don’t have a goliath in Chris Silva. On a neutral floor, we can probably handle both of those groups again.
Did I just write all of this to say that the spot where we currently sit might not be that bad? Possibly. However, getting the top seed would likely get us a spot in the half of the bracket where we’re a combined 7-2 against the rest of the participants. Let’s shoot for that, and let’s just beat Kentucky tomorrow.
Shouldn’t be tough. We’ve gotten two straight over those guys.