Saturday SEC Storylines: Who’s Ready For a Four-Way Tie?

Posted by Greg Mitchell on March 5th, 2016

There is no shortage of intrigue in the SEC’s final regular season Saturday with the league title up for grabs and several teams fighting for their Tournament lives. Here are the storylines to watch before the attention shifts to Nashville.

There's still a tiny bit of life left in Ben Simmons and LSU (

There’s still a tiny bit of life left in Ben Simmons and LSU (

  • And then there were four. The schedule couldn’t have worked out any better for the final weekend. The league’s top four teams (now that South Carolina bowed out by losing to Georgia) face each other with the league title still in play. Texas A&M has the cleanest path — beat Vanderbilt at home and become SEC co-champion with a wink and nudge due to the head-to-head win over Kentucky. Even if it were a shared title, it would be significant for the Aggies, as it would be their first league championship since winning the Southwest Conference way back in 1986. Of course, Texas A&M and Kentucky could be sole champions if either were to win and the other lose. And then there’s the dream (or nightmare) four-way co-champion scenario if Vanderbilt and LSU were to both win. By our rough calculations, the Tigers, ironically and somewhat miraculously, would be the top seed in the SEC Tournament with a 3-1 record against the other three teams. This is better then Kentucky (1-3), Vanderbilt (2-2) and Texas A&M (2-2). Title scenarios aside, LSU desperately needs a win if it doesn’t want to pin its NCAA hopes on a three-game winning streak in Nashville. The last time the Tigers pulled this off was in late December against Gardner-Webb, Oral Roberts, and American. They’ll need to replicate much of their last performance against Kentucky, where they rebounded 43.2 percent of their missed shots and turned it over just nine times. The injured Keith Hornsby didn’t play much of a role offensively in that win (nine points) but his tough on-ball defense will be missed against Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray.

  • In dire need of road wins. It wasn’t too long ago that Alabama and Florida looked safely in the NCAA Tournament field, or at least on the right side of the bubble. Both have stagnated lately. The Tide have lost three of their last four, including most recently a low-scoring home game to Arkansas where they couldn’t get a basket on the final few possessions. The Gators haven’t been any better, as they are riding a four-game losing streak, with three of the defeats coming to fellow bubble/higher-seeded teams (Vanderbilt, LSU, South Carolina). Both sit at 8-9 and a loss in their respective regular-season finales would snuff out any flickers of hope that may be left. It might just be optics, but an 8-10 SEC team is not making the field this season. Both finish on the road, with Florida visiting Missouri and Alabama heading to Georgia. The match ups aren’t terrible, since the Tigers should struggle with John Egbunu and Dorian Finney-Smith on the glass, and the Retin Obasohan one-man-offensive-band faces a stagnant Bulldogs’ offense. Yet neither game seems like a gimme, and Florida and Alabama need to play with a severe sense of urgency.
  • Is SEC Player of the Year locked up? Three weeks ago or so the answer was a resounding “yes,” Ben Simmoms was your SEC POY. But LSU’s fall and Kentucky’s rise seemed to unlock the award and put the ever-in-control Ulis in the driver’s seat. But what if the Wildcats don’t win the league? They’d still realistically be seen as the SEC’s best team, but that defeats part of Ulis’ allure as the player that makes the league champion go. Whether or not the final game will be consequential, it’s compelling that the two sole candidates (apologies to Murray, Stefan Moody, and Obasohan) are facing one another. Another interesting unofficial award to consider is the conference’s most improved player. Obasohan, Moses KingsleySebastian Saiz, and Yante Maten make their final cases on Saturday. The latter three return next season for what should be a quality crop of big men in the SEC.
Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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