SEC teams jostle for postseason position

It’s that time of year. For the next couple of weeks, college basketball

will be abuzz with speculation about which teams will fill out the

field of 64 in the NCAA tournament, and who will be relegated to NIT or

“stay home” status. 

For the SEC, the full-court press will not

take place on the hardwood, but in the media, as a full-scale lobbying

blitz will ensue to get as many teams as possible selected. 

Kentucky should be the runaway No.1 seed, but down-ticket the choices aren’t so obvious. 

Vanderbilt

should still be a shoo-in, despite an early-season blunder to Cleveland

State, and some sporadic play throughout the season, and Florida is

looking pretty good, especially after demolishing Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Beyond that, the waters get murky, as subjective criteria (like how

well your fan-base travels) get weighed against other schools with

similar records and rankings. 

Mississippi State, once thought

to be a contender to go deep in the tournament, is now on the bubble,

despite being a top-25 team as recently as last weekend.  The Bulldogs

lost ugly at home to a 12-13 Georgia team that is going nowhere, and

then blew a 17-point lead to fall to LSU 69-67. Their record of 19-7

suggests tournament worthiness, but being 6-5 in the SEC will give the

selection committee a reason to pause.  They have Auburn, Kentucky,

Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas left. Anything less than a 4-1 run

in that stretch could present some problems. 

The game to watch

will be Mississippi State and Alabama, since that might become a rubber

match for both teams. The Tide is 16-9 (5-6 in conference) but Anthony

Grant suspended two of his best players in mid-February. Without Tony

Mitchell and JayMychal Green, Alabama looked anemic in losing to LSU on

the road and to Florida at home.  Committee members will take the

suspensions into account, but the Tide needs to beat Tennessee, Arkansas

and Mississippi State to prove themselves tournament worthy. 

Arkansas

and Ole Miss are, most likely, done. The Razorbacks are 0-8 on the

road, losing a not-close contest to Tennessee in what was a must-win

situation.  It was always a long-shot for the Hogs, as Coach Mike

Anderson put a freshman-heavy team on the floor almost every night and

hoped for the best.

Ole Miss’s chances were always more hope

than realism. But even those dreams went up in flames last week when the

Rebels were pummeled at home by Vandy 102-76. That loss heightened

rumors that the coaching carousel in Oxford might continue. Houston Nutt

was shown the door after football season ended, and many experts have

speculated that Andy Kennedy needed a tournament appearance to remain

with the Rebels.

Whether it was the embarrassment of the score

or season-long frustrations, the loss to Vandy led to more troubles as

Rebel teammates Jelan Kendrick and Reginald Buckner got into a girlie

shoving match outside the locker room and had to be separated by

coaches.  Kendrick reportedly went on a profanity-laced rant about

Buckner’s lack of defensive effort. 

 “I’ve been doing this for

16 years and when you’re in practice there’s competition and guys are

going to get emotional at times,” Kennedy said. “Obviously there’s a

line that can’t be crossed.” 

Discipline will be meted out accordingly. But for the Rebels (and, perhaps, Kennedy) it will likely be too little too late.