SEC Tournament Taking Shape As Regular Season Enters Final Days

If the Southeastern Conference men’s basketball tournament started today, No. 3 Auburn (24-3, 12-2 SEC), No. 6 Kentucky (22-5, 11-3), No. 18 Arkansas (22-6, 11-4) and No. 17 Tennessee (20-7, 11-4) would be the top four seeds and get double byes.

The tournament opens on Wednesday, March 9 in 21,500-seat Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida at 6 p.m. eastern on the SEC Network with the No. 12 seed vs. No. 13, which at the moment are Ole Miss (13-14, 4-10) and Missouri (10-18, 4-11). No. 14 seed Georgia (6-22, 1-14) would play No. 11 seed Vanderbilt (14-13, 6-9) at 8 p.m.

Arkansas, which won its fourth game out of of its last five on Tuesday night by 82-74 at Florida, would be the No. 3 seed over Tennessee, which beat Missouri 80-61 on Tuesday, now because of the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Razorbacks won 58-48 at home over Tennessee on Saturday. Those two close the regular season on Saturday, March 5 at Tennessee in a time and television network to be determined.

If Arkansas and Tennessee finish tied in the SEC with a split of their two head-to-head games, the next tiebreaker would be winning percentage against the highest-seeded SEC common opponent. Tennessee has a win over Kentucky and hosts Auburn and Bruce Pearl, who formerly coached Tennessee, Saturday at a time and network to be determined.

Arkansas has an overtime win over Auburn and hosts Kentucky at 2 p.m. Saturday on CBS.

“We certainly have great defensive toughness,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said Tuesday after the Razorbacks’ first win at Florida since 1995 that snapped an 0-14 losing streak at the O’Connell Center. “It’s as tough as any team I’ve been around. We’re really a confidet team on the road. I think that everybody can see that.”

Arkansas was 1-5 from Dec. 11 through Jan. 8 with a loss to Hofstra and an 0-3 start in the SEC against non-contenders Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M before winning nine in a row and 12 of 13.

“We’ve improved and kind of flipped the switch,” Musselman said.

JD Notae led Arkansas with 22 points and added six rebounds and three assists in the win at Florida (17-11, 7-8). Jaylin Williams added 15 with 10 rebounds for the Razorbacks, who got 19 points, six rebounds and four assists from Davonte Davis. Colin Castleton scored 29 points with six rebounds for the Gators.

No. 24 Alabama (18-10, 8-7) moved to fifth place in the SEC by itself with a 74-72 win at Vanderbilt Tuesday. Jahvon Quinerly scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half as the Tide overcame a nine-point, first half lead by the Commodores. JD Davison added 10 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals for Alabama. Scotty Pippen led Vanderbilt with 26, including 14 of 18 free throws.

In the other game Tuesday, Texas A&M won at Georgia, 91-77, as the Bulldogs lost their eighth in a row.

SEC SCHEDULE WEDNESDAY (All times eastern)

Mississippi State (16-11, 7-7) at South Carolina (16-10, 7-7), 6:30 p.m., SEC Network

Ole Miss (13-14, 4-10) at No. 3 Auburn (24-3, 12-2), 8:30 p.m., SEC Network

LSU (19-8, 7-7) at No. 6 Kentucky (22-5, 11-3), 9 p.m., ESPN

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau has been on the LSU beat since 1998 with multiple outlets in Louisiana, prior to that he had covered both Auburn and Alabama. He won first place for his game feature on LSU's upset at Florida last season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He was also named Beat Writer of Year, by Louisiana Sports Writers Association in July; placed in three Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) categories – Beat Writer, Explanatory, Game Coverage – last spring. Guilbeau was also the FWAA first-place winner for columns in 2017 and was also the top overall winner in 2016 FWAA placing first for his game story, second in columns, and receiving honorable mention for features.

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