This Week in SEC Hoops

All of the college hoops teams in the SEC have wrapped up half of the league slate; some have even knocked down as many as nine of their conference contests, just over half. The league races are beginning to take form. We can now tell who’s going to make it to the NCAA’s, who’s going to make a run for it, and who has no need to pack the bags for March. In this week’s edition, SCS.com takes a look at where they think the SEC will fall in place and where each team will spend March this year. Beginning in the East....

KENTUCKY WILDCATS (8-0 ; 18-3) The Wildcats have totally dominated the SEC so far. Their performance this past Tuesday as they defeated then-top ranked Florida was as good as you will ever see. Tubby Smith has his ‘Cats poised to take home the SEC title and a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
What’s Left? UK has five home games and only three road games left on the schedule. This mid-week’s game against Georgia will be a big test following their terrific week last week. Home games against Mississippi State and Tennessee won’t be easy, but the Wildcats should win those. To end the season, UK goes on the road for two of the last three at Georgia and then at Florida for the season finally. They could go undefeated until that point, however.
In the End? [14-2 / 24-5] The ‘Cats drop two road games at UGA and UF to cap off the regular season and share the conference title with Florida. Depending on their run in the SEC Tourney, UK will grab either a #1 or #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

FLORIDA GATORS (8-1 ; 19-3) With the exception of the huge let-down at Kentucky, Billy Donovan’s Gators have been superior this season. Led by a young group of players, these Gators finally climbed up to number one last week. UF bounced back nicely after that loss to push Alabama out of the national rankings in Gainesville. A strong finish can be expected.
What’s Left? The Gators have eight games left, seven of which are at the O-Dome in Gainesville. Tough road contests will be played at red-hot Tennessee, Auburn, and Georgia. The Gators home games should be fairly easy with the exception of the season-finally against Kentucky. That game will most likely be for either the out-right or co-conference championship.
In the End? [14-2 / 26-5] With one loss already, UF has room for only one or two more. The one comes at Georgia late in the season, but the Gators rebound to knock off Kentucky at home and share both the SEC East and overall SEC titles with UK.

GEORGIA BULLDOGS (5-3 ; 13-6) UGA has been up and down throughout the season. The Bulldogs have lost tough games at Vanderbilt, Florida, and Tennessee but have also knocked off the likes of Mississippi State and Pittsburgh. The SEC East title is likely out of the question for UGA since both UK and UF are showing their total domination to the entire league, but a strong finish could give the Dawgs a good seed in March.
What’s Left? The schedule only gets tougher for the Bulldogs from here on out. A road game at Kentucky awaits UGA this week followed by a road game at Alabama next week. A road game at Mississippi and home games with Kentucky and Florida wrap up the season. Splitting the remaining games with this schedule would be a huge accomplishment.
In the End? [10-6 / 18-9] The Bulldogs finish the season with three losses: all road games at Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi. Home games will be tough against Kentucky and Florida but wins here would boost the Dawgs’ seeding dramtically. However, if UGA comes up short in either or both of those two games, a fourth-place finish in the East isn’t unlikely.

Ranking the SEC (Prv)
Kentucky (2)
Florida (1)
Georgia (3)
Mississippi State (4)
Auburn (6)
Tennessee (7)
Alabama (5)
Mississippi (8)
Vanderbilt (9)
LSU (8)
South Carolina (11)
Arkansas (12)
TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (5-3 ; 13-6) Tennessee has quietly been one of the better teams in the league so far this season. The Vols are two games over .500, better than two-thirds of the conference, yet no one seems to acknowledge this team as an NCAA contender. The Volunteers’ fate will be settled in the next few weeks as the SEC race goes down to the wire. I like the Vols’ chances.
What’s Left? The main story of what UT has left is winnable road games. Those will be the contests that decide where UT goes in the postseason. These games, at Arkansas, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt, are all against teams that won’t make the NCAA Tourney. UT also has home games with Florida, Alabama, LSU, and Mississippi State. If the Vols can squeak out 2 home games and 2 road games, they’ll undoubtedly be in the NCAA Tournament, barring a huge collapse in the SEC Tournament.
In the End? [10-6 / 18-9] I’m predicting a big finish for Tennessee to end the season. The Vols will win games at Arkansas and South Carolina as well as home contests with Alabama, LSU, and Mississippi State. With ten wins in the SEC and eighteen overall (before the SEC Tourney), the Vols are would be staring an NCAA bid in the face.

VANDERBILT COMMODORES (3-6 ; 10-10) Vanderbilt is another team out of the SEC East that has had its own ups and downs. The Commodores kicked off the conference schedule in fine fashion, defeating Alabama in Nashville. Since then, the Commodores have also beaten Georgia and Mississippi while also losing a couple winnable games. The ‘Dores looked promising at the beginning of January but are now looking towards a possible NIT bid.
What’s Left? The Commodores are staring down two tough road trips this week to LSU and Georgia. Florida then comes to Nashville before the ‘Dores head to Carolina and Kentucky. The season wraps up with a home game against Tennessee. The only good shots for a ‘W’ come vs Arkansas, at South Carolina, and vs Tennessee.
In the End? [5-11 / 12-15] The Commodores struggle to end the regular season by winning only two more games before the SEC Tournament. Those come at home against Arkansas and then a surprising win over Tennessee to end the regular season in Nashville. Vandy awaits a possible NIT bid.

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (8-0 ; 18-3) The Gamecocks have struggled since SEC play began. Prior to the conference schedule, USC was two games above the .500 mark but have since dropped to 3 below .500 and are only 2-7 in the conference. The SEC season started off well with a home victory over Mississippi, but the Gamecocks have since won only one of their last six league games.
What’s Left? USC has a home game with in-state rival Clemson this week before finishing up the SEC slate. Winnable home games against Arkansas and Tennessee follow. Trips to Georgia, Florida, and Alabama will be nearly impossible tests for the Gamecocks, as will a home game with the Bulldogs. With five of their final eight games at their new home, South Carolina could make a run at the NIT, but at this point, it looks very doubtful.
In the End? [4-12 / 10-17] South Carolina sputters home to the end of the SEC slate capturing wins over Arkansas and Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks finish the season with a .250 mark in the conference and are left out of the NIT after making it to the finals in that tournament last season.

Over in the SEC West...

AUBURN TIGERS (6-3 ; 17-5) The Tigers have probably been the second most surprising team so far on the season, just behind Tennessee. AU has taken advantage of the amount of playing time it allowed freshmen last year to jump out three games over the .500 mark in SEC play. The Tigers still remain one game up on Mississippi State after they escaped with a two-point win over LSU at home last weekend.
What’s Left? Auburn finishes the SEC season with a murderous streak of games. The Tigers travel to Alabama this week before hosting Mississippi State. That will be followed with consecutive trips to Mississippi and LSU where the Tigers could win and stretch their lead or fall back into the pack. Prior to a road game at MSU to close out the season, AU hosts Florida and Arkansas consecutively as they try to capture the SEC West title.
In the End? [8-8 / 19-10] I would have never thought I would say this, but 19-10 overall may be a disappointment for the Tigers. They should still easily get into the NCAA Tournament barring a major collapse in the SEC Tourney, but with the lead they’ve had at times this season in the West, coming up short would be a heart-breaker to the Tigers.

MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS (5-4 / 15-5) The Bulldogs started the season off brilliantly as they captured wins over non-conference opponents Oklahoma and Xavier, both ranked in the top 15. However, as SEC play began, the Dawgs lost their first three games on the conference slate, including single-digit losses to Florida, Alabama, and Georgia. However, the Bulldogs have bounced back with three consecutive wins over Mississippi, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas to slip in just one game behind Auburn in the West standings.
What’s Left? After playing their toughest stretch to start the SEC season, the schedule has lightened up a little for MSU. The Dawgs host Mississippi this week before traveling to Auburn and Kentucky back-to-back. Winning one of those road games would be huge for State. The final four games are split two and two home and away, with contests against Arkansas and Tennessee on the road and games with Alabama and Auburn in Starkville.
In the End? [9-7 / 19-8] Mississippi State finishes the season winning three of their last four games. They knock off UM this week before losing to Auburn and Kentucky on the road. That four game stretch previously mentioned begins with wins over Alabama and Arkansas followed by a road loss to Tennessee. A home win over Auburn wraps up the season and SEC West for State.

Top SEC Games
Georgia at Kentucky
Clemson at South Carolina
Auburn at Alabama
Florida at Tennessee
Vanderbilt at Georgia
Mississippi at Mississippi State
Hoops TV Schedule
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (3-6 ; 13-7) Alabama was expected to be a challenger for the SEC overall title this year and was even ranked #1 in the country previously. However, the tide has turned on the Tide, and Bama is now working just to make the NCAA Tournament. A home loss to Kentucky was extremely tough for UA to swallow, but there’s still time to get things back on track.
What’s Left? The schedule the rest of the way has saved no favors for Alabama. This week, the Tide hosts two tough opponents in Tuscaloosa, Auburn and Georgia. That is followed by road trips to two extremely tough places, Tennessee and Mississippi State. The season concludes with back-to-back home games with Mississippi and South Carolina and finally a road game at LSU. Alabama needs to win its home games and steal at least one on the road to make the field of 64.
In the End? [8-8 / 18-9] Alabama gets just enough done in the SEC to reach the .500 mark as they win all four home games, two of which are against top 25 teams. Going into the final game of the season, the Tide knows it must win at LSU or force the committee into a decision of whether or not to take an under-.500 SEC team. UA gets the job done but must still look good in the SEC Tourney.

MISSISSIPPI REBELS (3-6 ; 12-8) The Rebels started off the SEC season slow but appeared to have recovered by winning consecutive games against LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas. Since then, however, it has been all down-hill for the Rebels. Following a last-second loss to Mississippi State, the Rebels have hit a four-game slide that has left them at 3-6 in the league. UM is in danger of missing out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time in several seasons.
What’s Left? The Rebels are in the middle of one of the toughest stretches any team in the league will play. They have back-to-back road games at Florida and in-state rival Mississippi State coming up, followed by consecutive home games with Auburn and Georgia. Those are followed by a road game at Alabama before the Rebels return home to a game with LSU. The regular season wraps up on the road for UM as they travel to Arkansas for the season finale.
In the End? [7-9 / 16-11] The Rebels somehow get a little something going even though they lose their next two to UF and MSU. UM returns home to knock off both Georgia and Auburn before losing at Alabama. Mississippi ends the season with two wins over LSU and Arkansas, but it isn’t enough to give the Rebs a .500 SEC record as they finish 7-9 and prepare for the NIT.

ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (2-6 ; 7-12) Following the departure of coach Nolan Richardson and the arrival of Stan Heath, no one expected the Hogs to make much noise in the SEC, and Arkansas has not over-exceded the expectations of those people. The Razorbacks have had occasional success at home in SEC play with wins over both LSU and Alabama in Fayetteville. As for this season, the Razorbacks are only playing for the future as they have bascially no chance of making the postseason.
What’s Left? UA has two winnable games coming up: Tennessee at home and at South Carolina. Those are followed by a tough stretch with games at home against Kentucky, at LSU, at Vanderbilt, vs Mississippi State, and at Auburn. That stretch leaves only one game left on the Arkansas schedule, a home game with Mississippi to close out the season.
In the End? [2-14 / 7-20] Likely a little harsh considering the Hogs have had recent mild success, but I don’t see another win on UA’s schedule. They are unlikely to win on the road, and the home games remaining aren’t easy. Tennessee is on a roll, Kentucky is good, Mississippi State is gaining momentum, and Mississippi will be needing a win badly.

LSU TIGERS (2-7 ; 13-8) Many people thought this would be the year LSU would finally break out again and make a trip to the NCAA Tournament while contesting for the SEC West title. It look liked that may come true in the pre-conference schedule when the Tigers knocked off then-top ranked Arizona in Baton Rouge. However, SEC play soon began, and things haven’t been the same since. John Brady’s club has won only two games in conference play, both at home against Mississippi State and South Carolina. The remaining schedule doesn’t provide much hope either.
What’s Left? A home game with Vanderbilt is a must-win for the Tigers if they’re to make any kind of run at all. That is followed by a nearly-impossible contest at Kentucky. Then come consecutive home games with Arkansas and Auburn, also must-wins for the Tigers to make a run at the postseason. Road games at Tennessee and Mississippi follow, and a home contest with Alabama closes out the Tigers’ regular season schedule.
In the End? [5-11 / 16-12] The Tigers capture home wins over Vandy, Arkansas, and Auburn but falter against Alabama and lose the rest of their road contests. The NIT awaits the Tigers after their SEC Tournament appearance.

In conclusion, here’s what SCS.com thinks will happen to each of the league’s twelve teams:...

NCAA Tournament (and Seed #): Kentucky (1), Florida (2), Georgia (4), Mississippi State (4), Tennessee (7), Alabama (9), Auburn (10)
NIT: LSU, Mississippi
At home: Arkansas, South Carolina, Vanderbilt

SEC Team of the Week....

For at least the second time since SEC play began, the SEC Team of the Week award goes to the Kentucky Wildcats. In what was supposed to be one of the best, if not the best, game so far in the country this season, the Wildcats absolutely destroyed the Florida Gators. UK won by fifteen points, but it probably could have been fifty. Then on Saturday, the ‘Cats went into Oxford and did the exact same to Mississippi. Honorable mention goes to the Tennessee Vols who knocked off both UMass and Georgia at home this week.

Around the nation....

ACC hoops action tips off this week on Wednesday when Virginia travels to North Carolina for a big game between the Cavs and Heels. The Cavaliers picked up a huge win last week over Maryland on the road when they came from behind by double-digits to pull out the victory. Also on Wednesday, Georgia Tech travels to NC State in a big ACC battle. The Jackets knocked off Maryland in Atlanta last week. In a non-conference battle Wednesday night, Clemson takes on South Carolina in Columbia. The two in-state rivals both need a big win at this point in the season. On Thursday, one of the biggest games of the season in the conference so far takes place when Duke travels to Wake Forest. The Deacons are coming off a tough loss to Marquette on the road last Sunday. There is a full day of action on Saturday, beginning with North Carolina’s trip to Clemson. Then later, NC State will battle Temple in an out-of-conference matchup of two teams with tons of potential. Finally on Saturday, Duke will visit Virginia in their second tough road game of the week. The Blue Devils will surely know where they stand both nationally and in the conference after this week of action. The weekend wraps up on Sunday when Wake Forest visits Maryland. The Deacons take on their seocnd highly ranked opponent of the week as they try to capture the ACC crown.

Top National Games
Oklahoma at Texas
Syracuse at Connecticut
Virginia at North Carolina
Duke at Wake Forest
Duke at Virginia
Illinois at Purdue
Oklahoma at Texas Tech
Louisville at Marquette
Notre Dame at Syracuse
SCS.com's Hoops Predictions

After a huge week in the conference last week, the Big East hoops action gets underway again this Monday evening. Syracuse travels to Connecticut as part of ESPN’s “Big Monday” showcase Monday evening. Syracuse knocked off West Virginia last weekend, while UConn eased past Providence. On Tuesday, St. John’s makes a trip to Villanova for a big conference showdown. On Saturday, Notre Dame visits Syracuse in one of the biggest games that will take place in the Big East this season. The Irish knocked off highly-ranked Pittsburgh in South Bend last weekend and are looking to roll on. Also on Saturday, UConn visits Villanova and Miami will travel to Boston College.

After a week with several upsets and very exciting finishes, the Big Ten basketball schedule rolls on begins with Iowa’s trip to Minnesota on Wednesday. The Gophers got a big win over Purdue last week and hope to keep their momentum going. Also on Wednesday, Michigan will visit Indiana. The Hoosiers let one slip away against Michigan State last weekend and look to avoid another let-down at home. Indiana will then visit Wisconsin on Saturday. The Hoosiers must now try to find a way to make up for that home loss to MSU. Ohio State will travel to Ann Arbor to battle Michigan on Saturday. Both teams are in search of a big win to gain some momentum they each had earlier in the year. Finally on Saturday, Illinois visits Purdue in an important Big Ten matchup.

The Big XII heats up again Monday night on ESPN when Oklahoma travels to Texas. The second half of ESPN’s “Big Monday” presentation matches up two of the nations top teams and maybe the two best teams in the Big XII. On Tuesday, the Baylor Bears host Kansas and will try to pull the upset of the red-hot Jayhawks. Finally on Saturday, Texas Tech hosts Okahoma’s second game in the Lone Star State of the week. The Red Raiders need to build up some momentum for the stretch run and a win over OU would be just what the doctor ordered.

Conference USA has not only a huge conference battle next Saturday but also a huge matchup on the national scale. Marquette, who has lost only one game in the conference thus far, will host Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals, who have yet to lose in CUSA this season. Out West, UCLA will visit Arizona in the PAC 10’s only real big matchup of the coming week.

Updated February 10, 2003