Georgia completed the unlikeliest of runs on Saturday when they defeated LSU to earn their 12th conference win of the season and nailed down the No. 3 seed in next week's SEC Tournament in the process. The result is about as favorable a situation as any SEC team could hope for.
The Bulldogs received a double-bye in the tournament meaning that they will get to sit and watch the first two days before playing their first game on Friday night in the quarterfinals. Their opponent will be either Vanderbilt, Mississippi State or Ole Miss. Georgia scored regular season victories over Ole Miss and Mississippi State but lost to the Commodores at Stegeman.
Not much was expected from Vanderbilt especially after Eric McClellan was dismissed from the team in January. However, you can't overlook a Kevin Stallings coached team. Vandy scored conference wins over Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee and put a scare in No. 1 Florida. They did however lose their last four games of the conference season including a 65-62 loss at Ole Miss on Saturday.
The Rebels feature one of the most gifted scorers in the conference in Marshall Henderson but have struggled with consistency. Georgia earned a slim 61-60 win in the only regular season matchup thanks to a late free throw from Charles Mann.
The SEC Tournament has proven time and time again that underdogs are capable of crashing the party and earning a free ticket to the NCAA Tournament. However, this year Florida appears to be standing head and shoulders above the crowd. The Gators completed the sweep on the rest of the conference going 18-0 and delivered a 84-65 message to Kentucky on Saturday. Its possible that someone could put a scare into Florida but if it is anyone other than Billy Donovan hoisting the championship trophy on Sunday its going to be a shock.
Who are other contenders? Arkansas had been playing as well as anyone before laying an egg at Alabama on Saturday. The Razorbacks had won six straight but trailed Bama by 25 points in the first half on Saturday in an 83-58 loss. Factor in that Arkansas had a chance to secure a Top 4 seed with a win and Mike Anderson has to really be questioning his team's toughness. Still their style of play and frenetic pace can't be ignored.
Tennessee struggled with consistency for most of the season but probably is as athletic as any team. The Volunteers have won four straight and took down Missouri on Saturday. Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes are a handful for any team and among the top duos in the conference.
The problem for both Arkansas and Tennessee is that they will likely meet in the quarterfinals and the reward for a victory there will be a matchup with the Gators.
You can't really talk about the SEC Tournament without talking about Kentucky. No team built up as much hype as the Wildcats during the preseason but they have failed to meet those lofty expectations. The Wildcats limp into the tournament having lost three of four including a 72-67 road defeat at South Carolina. They are still uberly talented, but right now they have problems and are showing little sign of being able to overcome them.
If Georgia can survive their quarterfinal game then they are most likely to matchup with Kentucky in the semis provided the Wildcats defeat LSU or Alabama. The Bulldogs will be heavy underdogs but there probably isn't a better time to face Kentucky than right now.
Here is a look at the complete tournament schedule:
Wednesday, March 12
Game 1: (12) Auburn vs (13) South Carolina 7 p.m. SEC TV/ESPN3
Game 2: (11) Vanderbilt vs (14) Mississippi State SEC TV/ESPN3 (25 minutes after Game 1)
Thursday, March 13
Game 3: (8) Missouri vs (9) Texas A&M 1 p.m. SEC TV/ESPN3
Game 4: Game 1 winner vs (5) Arkansas SEC TV/ESPN 3 (25 minutes after Game 3)
Game 5: (10) Alabama vs (7) LSU 7 p.m. SEC TV/ESPN3
Game 6: Game 2 winner vs (6) Ole Miss SEC TV/ESPN3 (25 minutes after Game 5)
Friday, March 14
Game 7: Game 3 winner vs (1) Florida 1 p.m. ESPNU
Game 8: Game 4 winner vs (4) Tennessee ESPNU (25 minutes after Game 7)
Game 9: Game 5 winner vs (2) Kentucky 7 p.m. SEC TV/ESPN3
Game 10: Game 6 winner vs (3) Georgia SEC TV/ESPN3 (25 minutes after Game 9)
Saturday, March 15
Game 11: Game 7 winner vs Game 8 winner 1 p.m. ABC
Game 12: Game 9 winner vs Game 10 winner ABC (25 minutes after Game 11)
Sunday, March 16
Game 13: Game 11 winner vs Game 12 winner 3:15 p.m. ESPN