Georgia, Vanderbilt fighting for NCAA Tournament spots
A few things to watch in the Southeastern Conference this week:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: Georgia at Arkansas. Georgia (18-12, 9-8) probably hasn’t done quite enough yet to earn an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, but a victory Saturday would boost the Bulldogs’ cause. Arkansas (22-8, 11-6) appears likely to get an NCAA berth and could solidify its case by winning its regular-season finale. Georgia has endured all kinds of close losses in SEC play but has won five of its last six games. Arkansas had won five straight before losing Wednesday at No. 12 Florida . Another game to watch Saturday is Florida at Vanderbilt, a matchup the Commodores probably must win to have any hope of an at-large bid.
LOOKING AHEAD: Could the SEC get five NCAA bids? No. 9 Kentucky, Florida and South Carolina have pretty much locked up NCAA Tournament invitations. Arkansas appears in pretty good shape at this point, but the SEC would love to get at least five teams into the field. The best remaining hopes are probably Georgia and Vanderbilt (16-14, 9-8). Vanderbilt blew a 19-point lead in a 73-67 loss at Kentucky on Tuesday but has another chance to beat a ranked foe Saturday when it hosts Florida. The Commodores already won in Gainesville this season.
NUMBERS GAME: By rallying from 19 points down to beat Vanderbilt, Kentucky pulled off its biggest comeback victory since erasing a 22-point deficit on Feb. 22, 1997. That comeback also came against Vanderbilt. … Kentucky’s Malik Monk appears on the verge of becoming the first freshman to win the SEC scoring title since LSU’s Chris Jackson in 1989. Monk is averaging 21.7 points per game. South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell is second with 21 points per game. … LSU’s 92-82 triumph over Tennessee on Wednesday snapped a school-record 15-game skid. … Alabama beat Mississippi 70-55 on Wednesday by holding Ole Miss’ Deandre Burnett to two points. Burnett, who had been averaging 17.1 points, missed all seven of his field-goal attempts.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Georgia guard J.J. Frazier has carried the Bulldogs on his back the last few weeks. The 5-foot-10 senior has averaged 28.3 points over his last six games, scoring at least 28 in five of them. He made the winning free throws in an 82-80 victory at LSU last weekend. Frazier’s surge has helped Georgia withstand an injury to Yante Maten, who was leading the Bulldogs in scoring when he sprained his knee Feb. 18.
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: SEC coaches selected South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson as the league’s player of the year for the second straight season and also chose Missouri’s Robin Pingeton as coach of the year. LSU’s Raigyne Moncrief was the defensive player of the year. Joining Wilson as first-team all-conference selections were Florida’s Ronni Williams, Kentucky’s Evelyn Akhator and Makayla Epps, Mississippi State’s Victoria Vivians, Missouri’s Sophie Cunningham, South Carolina’s Alaina Coates and Tennessee’s Diamond DeShields. Florida’s Delicia Washington and Missouri’s Amber Smith were co-freshmen of the year. Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowan was sixth woman of the year.
AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this report.