Saturday, March 08, 2008

What's at stake this weekend...

Four games today, two tomorrow in the SEC to wrap up the regular season, along with several other high-profile non-conference games, including Georgetown just wrapping up the Big East Championship 55-52 over Louisville in a highly entertaining game. Duke and Carolina will go tonight in a game with #1 seed implications - the best case scenario for the Vols is for whoever wins tonight to lose in the ACC Tournament. And Championship Week is getting in gear already, with several small conference tournaments wrapping up and the mid-majors getting set to take center stage, before the big six kick things off later in the week.

What to watch for this weeked in the SEC:

Vanderbilt at Alabama - 2:00 PM - Raycom/ESPN Full Court
Along with playing for NCAA seeding and trying to get another road win to boost their already impressive undefeated season at home, Vanderbilt can still secure the #2 seed in the East and a first round bye with a win today and a Kentucky loss tomorrow. Meanwhile, Alabama is 15-15 and Mark Gottfried's job is rumored to be in jeopardy. The Tide can virtually lock up an NIT bid if they win at home today, but a loss puts them one game under .500, meaning they'd need two wins in Atlanta to get there.

LSU at Mississippi State - 4:00 PM - Raycom/ESPN Full Court
State has locked up the SEC West and is only playing to improve their NCAA seeding, while LSU - 5-3 under Butch Pierre - has won four straight and can still get the #3 seed in the West with a win and an Ole Miss loss. The Tigers are too far under .500 (13-16) to really think about the NIT, but they've got plenty of momentum right now and could make a run in Atlanta.

Ole Miss at Georgia - 4:00 PM
Anyone still considering the Rebels (20-9, 6-9 SEC) for their NCAA brackets knows they absolutely must win this game. Winning gets them the #3 seed in the West and keeps them away from Tennessee, meaning they could pick up an additional set of wins next week that they desperately need. Dennis Felton is another coach on the hot seat in Athens, Georgia is 13-15 and 4-11 in the SEC and needs a win plus the Vols to beat South Carolina to even think about getting the #5 seed, which would then come down to a coin flip. And it'd really be better to finish as the #6 seed in the East, again, so as to avoid Tennessee. But they're probably not going to win anyway.

Auburn at Arkansas - 6:00 PM - ESPN Classic
Arkansas is another team who absolutely has to win today - at 19-10, 8-7 in the conference they've locked up the #2 West seed, but that also means they won't get an easy date in Atlanta, as they'll be in Tennessee's half of the bracket and they'll most likely see either Kentucky or Vanderbilt on Friday. 20 wins and 9 wins in the SEC has been enough every single year to get a team to the dance. We'll see...meanwhile, Auburn is in Alabama's boat, 14-14 and needing to win this one to get to the NIT. Both Alabama teams are playing to stay out of the SEC West basement.

Florida at Kentucky - 12:00 PM - CBS
Two bubble teams in a game of survivor at Rupp Arena. For Atlanta, the Gators are locked into the East #4 seed, while UK can stay at #2 if Vandy loses, or by winning here. For the dance, Florida is 21-9 but only 8-7 in the SEC, and has only one marquee win all season, at home against Vanderbilt. UK is 17-11, 11-4, and a team with 12 SEC wins would be virtually impossible to keep out of the dance methinks. Fun stat: Kentucky's seniors have never beaten Florida.

South Carolina at Tennessee - 2:00 PM - Raycom/ESPN Full Court
The top teams in the country keep winning, so the Vols must do the same to stay in the #1 seed race. A win maintains the Vols' home court winning streak and would complete a second straight year of going undefeated at TBA, and will send seniors Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith and Jordan Howell off right. For Carolina, it's Dave Odom's last regular season game. We could easily see the rematch on Friday in Atlanta.

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