Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wide Angle Lens Part 2: The SEC Picture After Saturday's Action

And then there were 3. While that statement might be premature, Tennessee's last second loss to Mississippi State means they can finish with no better than 9 wins. Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, Georgia and Kentucky won today, meaning they are still very much alive in the race for the SEC East's second bye.

The Race for Second:

If Vanderbilt wins Tuesday Night . . .

They clinch 2nd place in the SEC East. Winning in Rupp is no easy task. The Wildcats have not lost a conference game in the Calipari era, and have won 34 straight at home. For what it's worth, Vanderbilt was the last time to beat Kentucky in Lexington.

With a win over Kentucky, Vanderbilt will finish the season with no less than 10 wins. Only a Georgia team that runs the table could match that total, and with Vanderbilt's sweep of the season series over Mark Fox's Dawgs, Vanderbilt would win the tie-breaker.

If Vanderbilt Loses Tuesday . . .

They can still finish 2nd, but the scenarios get more complicated. Obviously, if Vanderbilt loses to Florida and either Georgia or Kentucky win out, the Commodores will be playing on Thursday of the SEC Tournament. If, however, Vanderbilt ends the season with as many wins as Georgia or Kentucky (or both), they can still earn the bye. If Vanderbilt and Georgia end the season tied, the Commodores win. If Vanderbilt, Georgia, and Kentucky all end the regular season with the same record (either 9-7 or 10-6) the Commodores win the 3-way tie-breaker because they would finish the the regular season record of 3-1 against Georgia and Kentucky, while Kentucky would be 2-2 against Vanderbilt and Georgia, with the Dawgs finishing just 1-3 against the Wildcats and Commodores. The only way Vanderbilt can lose to Kentucky on Tuesday and win a tie-breaker that includes Kentucky is if Georgia finishes with the same record as the Commodores and the Wildcats. If, however, Kentucky and Vanderbilt finish tied for 2nd with Vanderbilt, Calipari's squad would win the tie-breaker because they would end the regular season with a record of 7-3 against the East, while Vanderbilt would be just 5-5 against the East.

Tennessee's Not Dead Yet

If Tennessee wins out and Vanderbilt loses out, no matter who else ends the season at 9-7, Vanderbilt will not finish 2nd in the SEC East. For the same reason Vanderbilt controls every tie-breaker with Georgia, Tennessee controls every tie-breaker with us.

The Remaining SEC Schedule That Matters to Vanderbilt

Georgia (8-6)
vs. LSU (3-11)
at Alabama (11-3)

Kentucky (8-6)
vs. Vanderbilt (9-5)
at Tennessee (7-7)

Tennessee (7-7)
at South Carolina (5-9)
vs. Kentucky (8-6)

The Final Wrinkle

With their losses today, both Tennessee and Alabama have put themselves firmly on the bubble. This adds an interesting wrinkle to Vanderbilt's race for 2nd. Both Tennessee and Alabama will be playing games on the final Saturday of the regular season that they probably have to win in order to score an invite to the NCAA Tournament. This makes both of these teams very dangerous not only to their opponents (Kentucky and Georgia), but also the Commodores. Strangely enough, if Vanderbilt loses to Kentucky on Tuesday, and the Commodores head into the season finale tied with Georgia and Kentucky at 9-6, we should actually be rooting for both of these teams (along with the Commodores) to win. As discussed above, Vanderbilt only wins a tie-breaker with Kentucky if Georgia also finishes the same record. Thus, the Commodores need UGA and UK to either both win or both lose. If all 3 teams lose, and Tennessee beats South Carolina on Wednesday, the Volunteers would earn the bye. If Tennessee beats South Carolina and Kentucky, Vanderbilt has to beat Florida to finish 2nd. In this scenario, it doesn't matter what Georgia does. Now, as if that's not complicated enough, if Tennessee loses to South Carolina on Wednesday, and both Kentucky and Georgia win their mid-week game, Vanderbilt would finish 2nd if either: a) Vanderbilt wins, Kentucky loses, and Georgia wins or loses, or b) Vanderbilt, Georgia and Kentucky all lose.

I think I've covered it all the scenarios, but if there's a situation you think I haven't, let me know.


Drew said...

Florida hasn't locked up the 1 seed yet. Just sayin'.

Chuck Heston said...

I think the following scenario is the most likely:

FL - beats AL, loses to VU, finishes (12-4)
VU - loses to UK, beats FL finishes (10-6)
UK - beats VU, loses to UT finishes (9-7)
GA - beats LSU, loses to AL finishes (9-7)
UT - beats SC, beats UK finishes (9-7)

Assuming VU finishes 2nd, they would likely face the winner of the USC vs. Arkansas in the Quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. Going further into the deep end, if VU wins that game, they would likely face the winner of the AL vs. GA quarterfinal, with a trip to the Finals on the line. If it shakes out that way, I like VU's chance of reaching the final.

Bobby O'Shea said...


In looking at the tie-breakers for the SEC Tournament, I am pretty sure Florida has it wrapped up. Even if Vanderbilt and Florida finish the regular season tied at 11-5 in conference (meaning Vanderbilt wins out, and Florida loses out), Florida would win the tie-breaker because they have a better division record than Vanderbilt will. Currently, Vanderbilt is 4-4 in the SEC East, with a chance to finish at 6-4. Florida, on the other hand, is 7-2, and can finish no worse than 7-3. Based on my reading of the tie-breaking procedures, Florida getting the #1 in the SEC Tournament is a done deal.

Anonymous said...

Let's just win out - I think the team learned from the UT debacle and will be more balanced not relying solely on JJ. Very good LG is back. Probably fortunate we've done as well as we have given he is just now fully back.

SEC tournament is not the important tournament.

I can't believe that Bama is not a lock.

Seth said...

Yea, the SEC tourni is kind of a joke because of the seeding. Arkansas, Miss. St. or even Ole Miss could get a first round bye when UK, UGA, or Vandy would not. We should scrap the divisional format but that’s for another day.

I’m also still not in favor of Walker getting the start over Lance, even if he gets back to 100%. I just think Walker could throw off the chemistry this team has made without him. Plus I think Walker is on his way out, but I’d still rather him than not. He’s a great defensive weapon and will be a huge asset in the NCAA tourni.

I also like our chances at Rupp on Tuesday. A young team coming off a big home win could lead to over confidence. Lance said it yesterday that his class has never won at Rupp and I think they will be hungry to get the win.

macpfled said...

Of course I want to win out, but has anybody properly acknowledged that #3 seed is potentially a very good situation for us. Our path to the finals would look something like LSU -> Arkansas/Miss St. -> Florida
To me that is about as good as it gets. Maybe better than playing a feisty West #3 (Miss St./Arkansas) coming off of a win? Momentum in these tourneys shouldn't be overlooked.

Bobby O'Shea said...

Roll Bama Roll goes over SEC Tournament Seeding Predictions

Drew said...

Bobby, I stand corrected. I think I'm still pissed off about tennis balls...

Anonymous said...

#1 - Lance is a more versatile threat and should continue to start and get lots of minutes. He is obviously now finally 100%

#2 - I'm glad that nobody named Robbie or Bobby is coaching the basketball team or it would have a record of 2-10 and not be in contention for anything post-season.