Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Plot Thickens: Here Comes the Gators?

Florida's impressive 75-62 win tonight over Tennessee was both expected, and incredibly problematic for Vanderbilt. Right now, the Gators are 9-4 with games at Georgia, vs. Vanderbilt, and at Kentucky to end their SEC Campaign. Compare that to Vanderbilt, currently 9-3, who have a game against Georgia in Memorial, travel to Arkansas and Florida, and wrap up the their year at home with South Carolina. With 1 fewer loss, the Commodores are still in the driver's seat to finish second in the SEC East and earn a first round bye in the SEC Tournament. Still, there is a distinct possibility that the Gators and Vanderbilt will end the season tied. Here are some scenarios to keep in mind.

What if: Vanderbilt wins out

Vanderbilt will finish 2nd in the SEC East, be one of the hottest teams in the country, and be all but guaranteed a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament (and in a conversation for a #2 seed if they win a game or two in the tournament). This would mean the Commodores finish 13-3 in conference, and 7-3 on the road. Needless to say, I don't think Commodore fans can count on this happening.

What if: Florida wins out

Then the Gators finish 12-4, are definitely an NCAA tournament team (perhaps as high as a 6 or 7 seed), and beat Georgia and Kentucky on the road, to say nothing of the Commodores in Gainesville. This outcome seems more likely than Vanderbilt winning out even if Florida travels to Lexington to end the season. Still, when the Gators lace'em up for that one, they'll have the benefit of knowing just how much they have to play for.

What if: Vanderbilt finished 3-1

If one of those 3 wins is against Florida, then Vanderbilt is in good shape to take second in the east. Another important thing to keep in mind is if Vanderbilt finishes 3-1, they will end the season with a record of no worse than 7-3 in the SEC East. That would be 1 game better than the Gators, currently 3-4 in the division, can do, even if they win out. If Vanderbilt finishes the season 3-1, they'll be 12-4 and finish second in the SEC East.

Editor's Note: Apparently, I can't add. 'Bilt is absolutely right that Vanderbilt already has 3 SEC East losses, which means they could finish 6-4 in the East, and tied with the Gators if they win out. This means that Vanderbilt going 3-1 might still not be enough to lock up a second seed in the SEC East. Of Course, if Vanderbilt's 3 wins come against SEC East opponents, than they will finish 7-3 in the East and automatically finish second. If they drop one of their final SEC East games, Vanderbilt would still finish second based on their sweep of the Volunteers. A collapse by Tennessee, and a last-ditch effort by Georgia (including the Bulldogs beating Vanderbilt on Thursday and losing to Florida Saturday) could give the edge to the Gators. I apologize for the original error.

What if: Vanderbilt Finishes .500

This would mean Vanderbilt goes 2-2, probably beating Georgia and South Carolina at home, while dropping two road games in two of the tougher venues in the league (Bud Walton Arena and the O Dome). 2-2 would make them 11-5 overall. Under my "win the home games" scenario, Vanderbilt would finish 6-4 in the SEC East, while Florida would be 5-5. If Vanderbilt goes .500 and Florida drops 1 of their 2 road games, the Commodores will finish second in the east (Tennessee, with tonight's loss, can't catch us if we go 11-5 in conference). Under this scenario, Vanderbilt can only have the same divisional record as the Gators if they win out. If that occurs, the Gators will finish 12-4 in conference and leap-frog the Commodores for 2nd in the East. It's possible, however, that Vanderbilt could beat Arkansas and one of their 3 SEC East opponents to get to 11-5. Under this scenario, the Commodores would end the year 5-5 in the East, a divisional record Florida will match if they go 2-1). However, if the Gators go 2-1, and Vanderbilt goes 2-2, the question becomes where'd the wins come from? If UF knocks off UK, then Kentucky is the tie-breaker, and Florida would finish second. If both teams are 0-2 against the Wildcats, and Vanderbilt and Florida split the season series, UT tie-break becomes of paramount importance. If that occurs, Vanderbilt would finish second and get the bye. With all that said, So, while Vanderbilt is still in a strong position with a .500 record, the door would be open for Florida.

Key Opponent: Georgia

Both Vandebilt and Florida square-off against the Bulldogs this week. Vanderbilt gets the 'Dawgs, who convincingly beat the Commodores 72-58 in Athens in what was definitely the most disappointing game they played since Western Kentucky ate our lunch in mid-December. Vanderbilt wants revenge for that loss, and to avenge the heartbreaking defeat to Kentucky last Saturday. Contrast Vanderbilt's result to the previous meeting the Gators had with Georgia, who they soundly beat in Gainesville 87-71. Georgia is a tough team to beat at home, where they've gone 4-2 in conference (compared to 0-6 on the road). If Vanderbilt beats Georgia Thursday, and the Dawgs turn around Saturday and knock-off the Gators, a #2 seed in the SEC Tournament is all but guaranteed.

What about Tennessee?

What about them? While the Volunteers are probably "in" the NCAA tournament, they are no longer a serious factor in the SEC East race. At 8-5 in the SEC, the Volunteers are now 4-5 in the SEC East, with only one more East opponent (Kentucky) that they can beat. Parenthetically, if the Volunteers knock off the Wildcats on Saturday in Thompson-Boiling Arena they might have to be taken more seriously. The Volunteers have 2 home games and a road game in Starkvile, so it's not outside the realm of possibility that they could finish tied with Vanderbilt. Regardless, even if UT ran the table, if Vanderbilt goes .500, then the only thing keeping the Commodores from resting on the first day of the SEC Tournament is the Gators winning out.


'Bilt said...

VU already has 3 losses in the east (2x to UK, @ GA). They could in theory lose two more.

Chuck Heston said...

Bobby -

Good job predicting that TN would falter earlier in the season. I believe shortly after the player suspension, you wrote that TN would finish no better than .500 in conf. I didn't think there was any shot of that happening, but at 8-5 there's a chance it could. TN is looking at finishing 4th even if they win 1/2 of their remaining games. I won't count them out just yet, given that they still have JP and Wayne, and that they face a beatable KY team. I don't think you'll hear from TN until the SEC Tournament, if then.

Stanimal said...

'Bilt is right. The 2-2 scenario is not a good one for us. That would mean we lose to at least one SEC East opponent, and thus would be 11-5 with a 6-4 SEC East record.

The CRUCIAL game for the Gators is against Kentucky. Right now, Florida has 4 SEC East losses (@Vandy, Kentucky, @Tenn, @SCAR). Florida can do no better than 6-4 in the East (right now, they are at 3-4 after the win over Tennessee). If Kentucky falters at Rupp, even if we go 2-2 down the stretch, winning both home games against UGA and SCAR, we still would lock up second in the East. Florida would have a 5-5 East record, compared to our 6-4 East record. If Florida wins that Kentucky game to put them at 6-4, they win because they would be 1-1 against the No.1 team in the division, whereas we would be 0-2.

Point is, we have two things to cheer for: 1) That we just take care of business down the stretch, and 2) that Kentucky beats the ever living snot out of Florida at Rupp at the end of the season.

Stanimal said...

And of course, in theory, we could lose two more SEC East games. But if Florida loses to Kentucky, barring a 1-3 finish by the Dores, Vandy locks in the SEC Tournament first-round bye. (Vandy would be 1-1 with Florida, 5-5 against East with Florida, both 0-2 against UK, then we win tiebreaker as 2-0 against Tennessee, with them being 1-1).

Stanimal said...

And I meant Florida falters at Rupp earlier, no Kentucky falters at Rupp (which would be baaaaaaaaaaaad news).

Vandy-Montana said...

Seems to me the key is winning @ Florida. Seems simple to me...

Stanimal said...

Clearly the easiest way to "lock" us in.

Anonymous said...

I should have read this before I did the same thing on my blog. Whoops.

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.