The final week of SEC basketball’s regular season has arrived and there have not been many moments of clarity across the SEC.
One thing is for certain: Vanderbilt is playing it’s best basketball during the most pivotal part of the season. The Commodores may be safely inside the NCAA Tournament field right now, but they will need a strong conclusion to the season to solidify their place in the big dance.
The final week of the regular season will be an extremely vital one. Here’s a look at how the conference stacks up as February concludes and the madness looms closer:
1. Texas A&M (22-7, 11-5 SEC)
Last week’s ranking: 1
Last week’s results: Beat Mississippi State 68-66, beat Missouri 84-69
Texas A&M’s four-game losing streak in early February feels like eons ago as the Aggies have gotten back on track with four consecutive victories. They shouldn’t have a hard time extending the streak to five when they travel to Auburn on Tuesday. But a matchup against a hot Vanderbilt team at Reed Arena will prove to be a tough test in a potential preview of the SEC Tournament championship game.
2. Vanderbilt (18-11, 10-6 SEC)
Last week’s ranking: 7
Last week’s results: Beat Florida 87-74, beat Kentucky 74-62
This was Vanderbilt’s best week of the entire season and one that was desperately needed. The Commodores have won three in a row and five of its last six. The Commodores could have been on a six-game winning streak if not for a loss at the buzzer to Mississippi State on Feb. 16. Vanderbilt has underachieved through most of the season, but possesses as much talent as anyone in the conference.
3. Kentucky (21-8, 11-5 SEC)
Last week’s ranking: 2
Last week’s results: Beat Alabama 78-53, lost to Vanderbilt 74-62
The Wildcats have lost two straight road games since drubbing South Carolina by 27 points on the road a few weeks ago. Things won’t get much easier as Kentucky travels to Gainesville, Fla., this week for a meeting with a desperate Florida team before hosting LSU in the regular season finale.
4. South Carolina (23-6, 10-6 SEC)
Last week’s ranking: 3
Last week’s results: Beat Tennessee 84-58, lost to Mississippi State 68-58
South Carolina has been a tricky team to figure out lately and has fell in consecutive road games against two of the conference’s weakest teams. Another thing to note: The Gamecocks are just 8-6 since starting the season 15-0.
5. LSU (17-12, 10-6 SEC)
Last week’s ranking: 6
Last week’s results: Lost to Arkansas 85-65, beat Florida 96-91
The Tigers showed a pulse at home on Saturday against a scrappy Florida team, but it might not be enough to salvage an NCAA Tournament bid. Every game is a must-win for LSU at this stage and a road win against Kentucky this week may put the team back on the right side of the bubble. That’s much easier said than done, of course.
6. Alabama (17-11, 8-8 SEC)
Last week’s ranking: 5
Last week’s results: Lost to Kentucky 78-53, beat Auburn 65-57
It’s do or die time for coach Avery Johnson and his club. The Crimson Tide aren’t out of the running for an NCAA Tournament bid just yet, but they may need to score wins over Arkansas and UGA to keep their hopes alive. Either way, Johnson has defied expectations greatly during his first season in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
7. Ole Miss (18-11, 8-8 SEC)
Last week’s ranking: 8
Last week’s results: Beat Missouri 85-76, lost to UGA 80-66
The Rebels could quietly finish the regular season with 20 wins. The problem is Ole Miss ranks 90th in RPI, which isn’t exactly indicative of an NCAA Tournament team. Guard Stefan Moody will attempt to secure the conference’s scoring title this week.
8. Florida (17-12, 8-8 SEC)
Last week’s ranking: 4
Last week’s results: Lost to Vanderbilt 87-74, lost to LSU 96-91
The Gators have hit the wall against a few of the top teams in the conference and have now lost three straight contests. The good news is Florida ranks 46th in RPI. The bad news is Florida will have to beat Kentucky at home on Tuesday to avoid a four-game skid. The Gators have a good resume, but still have some work left to secure a tournament bid.
9. Arkansas (15-14, 8-8 SEC)
Last week’s ranking: 12
Last week’s results: Beat LSU 85-65, beat Tennessee 75-65
Arkansas countered a three-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak capped off with a couple of impressive victories. The Tennessee win is genuinely impressive given how good the Volunteers have been at home.
10. Mississippi State (13-15, 6-10 SEC)
Last week’s ranking: 10
Last week’s results: Lost to Texas A&M 68-66, beat South Carolina 68-58
Mississippi State has gone 3-1 in its last four games against teams that are either on the bubble or securely inside the tournament field. The Bulldogs nearly knocked off Texas A&M on the road and are playing their best basketball down the stretch. Mississippi State could be a handful for any team in the SEC Tournament and will be even more dangerous if it can earn a bye into the second day of the tournament.
11. Georgia (15-12, 8-8 SEC)
Last week’s ranking: 9
Last week’s results: Lost to Auburn 84-81, beat Ole Miss 80-66
The Bulldogs will be in spoiler mode this week. UGA first hits the road to play South Carolina and will then have a chance to spoil Alabama’s NCAA Tournament run at home in the regular season finale.
12. Tennessee (13-16, 6-10 SEC)
Last week’s ranking: 11
Last week’s results: Lost to South Carolina 84-58, lost to Arkansas 75-65
The absence of leading scorer Kevin Punter hampered Tennessee’s offense this past week. The Volunteers will face an enormous task on the road against Vanderbilt on Tuesday before wrapping up the regular season at home against Ole Miss.
13. Auburn (11-17, 5-11 SEC)
Last week’s ranking: 14
Last week’s results: Beat UGA 84-81, lost to Alabama 65-57
Auburn rose out of the cellar thanks to its victory over UGA. The Tigers have split their last four games after losing its previous seven.
14. Missouri (10-19, 3-13 SEC)
Last week’s ranking: 13
Last week’s results: Lost to Ole Miss 85-76, lost to Texas A&M 84-69
Missouri’s miserable season will end this week due to its postseason ban. The Tigers will try to end the year on a positive note on the road against LSU before hosting Florida on Saturday in their final game of the year.