SEC Tournament Takeaways: Second Round

Posted by David Changas on March 11th, 2016

Thursday was the first full day of action at the SEC Tournament, and even though the league’s top four teams have byes into Friday’s quarterfinal round, there were still plenty of important happenings that could impact which of the league’s teams are invited to the NCAA Tournament.

Tennessee pulled off a stunning upset of Vanderbilt Thursday (John Bazemore/AP)

Tennessee pulled off a stunning upset of Vanderbilt Thursday. (John Bazemore/AP)

Florida Stays Alive. In Thursday’s opener, the Gators took down Arkansas in a win that kept the Gators’ faintly flickering NCAA Tournament hopes alive. It wasn’t pretty — the two teams combined to commit 50 fouls (thanks, Pat Adams) — but Florida played just well enough to get the job done. Center John Egbunu, who was expected to miss the game with an injured right hand, gutted out an eight-point, nine-rebound performance in 24 minutes, while also helping hold Arkansas center Moses Kingsley to just 10 points. Florida moves on to play #1 seed Texas A&M on Friday, in what will be quite surely be another must-win for the Gators’ still-faint Tournament hopes.

Vanderbilt’s NCAA Hopes Damaged. Vanderbilt came into its game against Tennessee as a 12-point favorite and its regular season sweep of the Vols hinted that this was a touch matchup for Rick Barnes’ team. After all, big men Damian Jones and Luke Kornet had dominated Tennessee inside in both of the prior meetings. Things were different on Thursday, though, as Vanderbilt failed to consistently feed those mismatches in the post. The Commodores instead fired up 25 threes (making nine) and generally didn’t seem all that interested in battling as if its postseason life was on the line. A valiant second half comeback nearly saved Kevin Stallings’ team, but Wade Baldwin‘s game-tying layup at the buzzer was released fractions of a second after the horn sounded. Now the Commodores will have a few nervous days ahead, as a loss to a team that entered the SEC Tournament with six conference wins puts Vanderbilt squarely back on to the bubble.

Moody Lights it up in Loss. The first game of the night session went to Alabama in a battle between two teams whose only route to the Big Dance is to win this tournament. Despite the Crimson Tide’s win, it was Ole Miss’ Stefan Moody who was the story in his final SEC game. The SEC’s leading scorer (23.1 PPG) poured in 39 points while making 8-of-17 attempts from beyond the arc. Moody’s all-conference counterpart, Alabama’s Retin Obasohan, went scoreless in the first half before scoring 17 after the break. Avery Johnson‘s squad will now face Kentucky on Friday night in what Big Blue Nation will turn into a de facto road game for the Tide.

Battle of the Bulldogs. In Thursday’s nightcap, Georgia held off Mississippi State behind 28 points from guard J.J. Frazier and 20 from forward Yante Maten. Mark Fox’s team now moves on to a very winnable quarterfinal game against South Carolina on Friday night where it will try to defeat the Gamecocks for a third time this season. Could a win there and then another over (presumably) Kentucky on Saturday be enough to get Georgia into the Big Dance? Based on the quality of its resume — and the stark lack of signature victories — probably not. But in Frazier, Maten, Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines, the Bulldogs have four starters who could play for anyone. Georgia won’t go home quietly this week.

David Changas (166 Posts)

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