Mike Strange: Plenty left to resolve for Vols, others in last week before SEC tournament

Mike Strange
Georgia guard Charles Mann (4) jumps to keep the ball in bounds while defended by Tennessee forwards Kenny Hall (20) and Jarnell Stokes (5) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Athens, Ga., Saturday, March 2, 2013. Georgia won 78-68. (AP Photo/The Athens Banner-Herald, AJ Reynolds)

Georgia guard Charles Mann (4) jumps to keep the ball in bounds while defended by Tennessee forwards Kenny Hall (20) and Jarnell Stokes (5) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Athens, Ga., Saturday, March 2, 2013. Georgia won 78-68. (AP Photo/The Athens Banner-Herald, AJ Reynolds)

Cuonzo Martin on Jordan McRae

Vols talk about loss to Georgia

The final week of the SEC men’s basketball season starts tonight. Please remain seated.

There is still plenty of detail to sort out.

With a win at home over Vanderbilt on Wednesday night, Florida can clinch the outright regular-season title and No. 1 seed in the league tournament.

Beyond that, any number of dramas will be left unresolved until Saturday.

Seeding for the SEC tournament in Nashville next week is still largely a jumble with two games left to play.

As many as a dozen players have made a case for All-SEC honors, yet the player of the year is still anyone’s guess.

But the most closely watched story line extends beyond the conference parameters. No fewer than five SEC teams — including Tennessee — are clinging to the proverbial NCAA tournament bubble.

You don’t have to go far in March to bump into a bracketologist. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi is the godfather of the genre and he confounded most everyone when he moved Tennessee into the 68-team bracket following a 78-68 loss at Georgia.

According to Lunardi’s Sunday bracket, the Vols were the last team in. Kentucky and Alabama were in the “First 4 Out,” followed by Ole Miss and Arkansas in the “Next 4 Out.’’

Alabama and Ole Miss square off Tuesday night in Oxford. I’ll be watching to see if the Ole Miss train wreck continues. Once 17-2, 6-0 SEC, the Rebels have gone 4-6 in their past 10 games with unthinkable losses to South Carolina and Mississippi State.

Tennessee’s unfinished business involves a trip to Auburn on Wednesday, then Senior Day back home Saturday against Missouri. It’s a given the Vols have to win both games to remain viable.

As for the SEC standings, the Vols are tied with Arkansas for sixth place at 9-7. It’s possible (though not likely) that Tennessee moves up to the No. 4 seed, which would mean a double-bye into the quarterfinals of the expanded, 14-team SEC tournament.

The four bottom seeds play the opening night. Come on down Mississippi State, South Carolina, Auburn and an 11th seed to be determined. The hunch here is Texas A&M.

Most likely Tennessee lands somewhere in the 5-8 seed spectrum and opens in the second round on Thursday night.

What about the All-SEC team? I like Marshall Henderson of Ole Miss, Elston Turner of Texas A&M, Jordan McRae of UT and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of Georgia.

The fifth spot could go to LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant, Alabama’s Trevor Releford or Missouri’s Keion Bell. Maybe Jarnell Stokes crashes the party with a big week.

The player of the year is as open as I can remember it ever being.

There is one school of thought that it should go to the best player on the best team. Not this year. Florida is the best team but the five starters average from 12.9 to 9.1 points a game. None stands out.

That leaves the choice between the polarizing Henderson from fading Ole Miss or someone from a non-contender.

Kentucky will deliver the freshman of the year for the fourth consecutive year. But which one? The vote here is Nerlens Noel, even though his season was shortened to 11 SEC games by a knee injury.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.

SEC men's basketball schedule

Tuesday’s Games

Arkansas at Missouri, 7 (ESPN)

Alabama at Ole Miss, 9 (ESPNU)

Wednesday’s games

Tennessee at Auburn, 9 p.m. (CSS)

Miss. St. at South Carolina, 7

LSU at Texas A&M, 8

Vanderbilt at Florida, 8 (MyVLT)

Thursday’s game

Kentucky at Georgia, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

Saturday’s games

Florida at Kentucky, noon (WVLT)

Ole Miss at LSU, 1:30

South Carolina at Vanderbilt, 1:30 (MyVLT)

Texas A&M at Arkansas, 2 (ESPNU)

Georgia at Alabama, 4 (MyVLT)

Missouri at Tennessee, 4 (ESPN2)

Auburn at Miss. St., 5:30 (FSTN)

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Comments » 18

sameolvolalum writes:

Keep doing what you're doing........just make shots.

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

Do not take Auburn for granted, simply because it's a road game. Then bring everything you have against Missouri. Attack at both ends of the court. Two wins, if they come, means the Vols are 8-1 in their last nine games. Play well in the SEC tourney and then...

8inarow writes:

in response to decades_vol:

Do not take Auburn for granted, simply because it's a road game. Then bring everything you have against Missouri. Attack at both ends of the court. Two wins, if they come, means the Vols are 8-1 in their last nine games. Play well in the SEC tourney and then...

choke in the NIT....

CoverOrange writes:

We want to get all the way to 3rd otherwise will face Florida in the semi-final instead of the final. Need Kentucky and Ole Miss to lose two, Bama, Mo and Ark to go 1-1. Possible, but a heck of needle to thread.

alfrizzle097 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

We want to get all the way to 3rd otherwise will face Florida in the semi-final instead of the final. Need Kentucky and Ole Miss to lose two, Bama, Mo and Ark to go 1-1. Possible, but a heck of needle to thread.

in the new format do they reseed after each of the first two rounds or is it set up so the lowest GUARANTEED seed is guaranteed to the top seeded team in each round like the NCAA tourney?

tnvol4ever writes:

in response to 9willbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Pretty much a given that Teflon John and the Kitty Cats go 0-2 and in the NIT.

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to 8inarow:

choke in the NIT....

You must really have no life if you spend this much time on an opponents board being stupid like this. I feel sorry for you. I guess your mommy's basement must feel pretty comfortable to you.

jhncpps1 writes:

in response to alfrizzle097:

in the new format do they reseed after each of the first two rounds or is it set up so the lowest GUARANTEED seed is guaranteed to the top seeded team in each round like the NCAA tourney?

Its like the NCAA tournament. Here's the bracket

http://www.secdigitalnetwork.com/Link...

laraccoon writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

You must really have no life if you spend this much time on an opponents board being stupid like this. I feel sorry for you. I guess your mommy's basement must feel pretty comfortable to you.

that moron is pitaful , changes screen names to say the same thing , and the most pathetic part of it is he is probably an adult . oh well i guess we can only hope it doesn't have kids .

UKblue02 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

We want to get all the way to 3rd otherwise will face Florida in the semi-final instead of the final. Need Kentucky and Ole Miss to lose two, Bama, Mo and Ark to go 1-1. Possible, but a heck of needle to thread.

It's very possible we lose the next two games, couldn't rule it out..

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

You must really have no life if you spend this much time on an opponents board being stupid like this. I feel sorry for you. I guess your mommy's basement must feel pretty comfortable to you.

to make it even worse little zz(8isaDbag) is also using one of his other names 9isaJerk

CoverOrange writes:

in response to alfrizzle097:

in the new format do they reseed after each of the first two rounds or is it set up so the lowest GUARANTEED seed is guaranteed to the top seeded team in each round like the NCAA tourney?

No, frame is set up from day one and doesn't change.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Spent a lot of time looking at the tourney bracket and it's really complicated..A 4 seed would have us playing Gators ..A five or six seed puts us against Ole Miss or Bama in the second round..This is going to be one great tourney.Ive been to 3 and found that KY and MSU fans the best to hang out with..I grew up in Nashville but at this point my biggest travel plans are a ride to BK for the dollar menu

johnlg00 writes:

in response to UKblue02:

It's very possible we lose the next two games, couldn't rule it out..

When I first saw your post, I just thought you might be sandbagging, but, dang, there IS a chance you could lose two! I guess the best piece of good news for the Cats is that you get the Gators at home after they have already clinched the #1 tournament seed, assuming of course that THEY don't go 0-2 on the week. This is the most exciting time of the year for all college basketball fans. So much yet to be decided for so many teams! I love it!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

Spent a lot of time looking at the tourney bracket and it's really complicated..A 4 seed would have us playing Gators ..A five or six seed puts us against Ole Miss or Bama in the second round..This is going to be one great tourney.Ive been to 3 and found that KY and MSU fans the best to hang out with..I grew up in Nashville but at this point my biggest travel plans are a ride to BK for the dollar menu

Given the Vols dismal history in the SEC tourney, it would almost be a GOOD thing if they have to play on Thursday. If I'm not mistaken, they will play one of the lesser teams before facing one of the top seeds. It is often an advantage to have a tournament game under one's belt before playing a team that hasn't played one yet. The team would have already had a look at the goals, the shooting background, etc., before facing a team less familiar with those things, making an upset more likely. If the Vols win out in the regular season and then win two in the tournament and then lose, that gives them 21 wins and eight of their last ten. That should be enough to get them in the NCAAs, and then it is a whole new ball game for everybody!

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Given the Vols dismal history in the SEC tourney, it would almost be a GOOD thing if they have to play on Thursday. If I'm not mistaken, they will play one of the lesser teams before facing one of the top seeds. It is often an advantage to have a tournament game under one's belt before playing a team that hasn't played one yet. The team would have already had a look at the goals, the shooting background, etc., before facing a team less familiar with those things, making an upset more likely. If the Vols win out in the regular season and then win two in the tournament and then lose, that gives them 21 wins and eight of their last ten. That should be enough to get them in the NCAAs, and then it is a whole new ball game for everybody!

With so many good teams who already have 21 wins sitting on the bubble; I don't like our chances but beating Mizzo makes us more attractive..I agree playing on Thursday is a good thing

johnlg00 writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

With so many good teams who already have 21 wins sitting on the bubble; I don't like our chances but beating Mizzo makes us more attractive..I agree playing on Thursday is a good thing

No question the Vols don't have ANYTHING in the bag yet. No doubt there are a fair number of teams in 20+ win bracket. There is no "magic number" that will guarantee the Vols a bid. However, some of those "peer" teams are in leagues that traditionally get only one bid. Some of those will have figuratively stumbled to that total rather than rising to it like the Vols will have, if it happens. No reason for a fan not to stay positive until the announcements are made and no reason for the team to think about anything other than winning all they can.

UKblue02 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

When I first saw your post, I just thought you might be sandbagging, but, dang, there IS a chance you could lose two! I guess the best piece of good news for the Cats is that you get the Gators at home after they have already clinched the #1 tournament seed, assuming of course that THEY don't go 0-2 on the week. This is the most exciting time of the year for all college basketball fans. So much yet to be decided for so many teams! I love it!

I have been known to sandbag, but that is not an option this year..LOL I'm with you on the exciting part, best time of the year. I believe the big dance is ripe for a overachieving team to win this year..let the games begin..

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