SEC basketball: Seven teams could finish 9-9 and tie for fourth

Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

S-E-C!

It's not been a great season for the SEC. The Florida Gators are No. 1 in the country, sure, and the Kentucky Wildcats are in the top 20 with a starting lineup consisting of five freshmen. But other than those two teams, the league's output has been vanilla. Less than three weeks until Selection Sunday, it's entirely possible Florida and Kentucky are the league's only two tournament teams.

Much of that has to do with the meddling middle of the conference cannibalizing itself into mediocrity, which has somehow taken said mediocrity to weirdly fascinating heights. With a week and a half to play, it's entirely possible half of the league's 14 teams finish in a seven-way tie for fourth in the conference at 9-9.

The Tennesse Volunteers, Arkansas Razorbacks, LSU Tigers, Ole Miss Rebels and Texas A&M Aggies are all 7-7 through 14 games; the Missouri Tigers and Vanderbilt Commodores are 7-8 after each lost Tuesday.

The following is a reasonable scenario constructed with a few tenets of This Year In SEC Basketball that the seven-way tie could see itself through the end of the regular season. Those tenets:

  • Almost always pick the home team. Home teams have won 70 percent of games in SEC play this year, the highest of any conference in Division I.
  • Teams probably won't beat Florida or Kentucky. Florida is 14-0, and Kentucky is 11-3. The Wildcats' only home loss was to Florida.
  • Teams probably won't lose to Mississippi State or South Carolina, which are both 3-11 but have not played as many close games as 4-10 Auburn or 5-9 Alabama.

Here's one way, the most plausible I could formulate, the seven-way tie could happen.

Team Game 15 Game 16 Game 17 Game 18
Tennessee Win at Mississippi State (Wednesday) Lose vs. Vanderbilt (Saturday) Lose at Auburn (March 5) Win vs. Missouri (March 8)
Arkansas Lose at Kentucky (Thursday) Win vs. Georgia (Saturday) Win vs. Ole Miss (March 5) Lose at Alabama (March 8)
LSU Win vs. Texas A&M (Wednesday) Lose at Florida (Saturday) Lose at Vanderbilt (March 6) Win vs. Georgia (March 8)
Ole Miss Win vs. Alabama (Wednesday) Lose at Texas A&M (Saturday) Lose at Arkansas (March 5) Win vs. Vanderbilt (March 8)
Texas A&M Lose at LSU (Wednesday) Win vs. Ole Miss (Saturday) Lose at Missouri (March 5) Win vs. Auburn (March 8)
Missouri Lost at Georgia, 71-56 (Tuesday) Win vs. Mississippi State (Saturday) Win vs. Texas A&M (March 5) Lose at Tennessee (March 8)
Vanderbilt Lost vs. Florida, 57-54 (Tuesday) Win at Tennessee (Saturday) Win vs. LSU (March 6) Lose at Ole Miss (March 8)

Of the 18 games remaining that will feature one or both of these teams, eight are against one another. The prediction above has the home team winning seven of those games, and Vanderbilt topping Tennessee one game after nearly upsetting Florida in Nashville. If the above projection were to come true exactly as written, Missouri would earn the No. 4 seed in the SEC tournament (and Arkansas would be No. 10) after applying the necessary set of tiebreakers.

The chance is remote, but it deserves to be observed. Observing SEC basketball hasn't been much fun this year, but it can be over the last four games.

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