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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.
SEC men's basketball schedule
Arkansas at Missouri, 7 (ESPN)
Alabama at Ole Miss, 9 (ESPNU)
Tennessee at Auburn, 9 p.m. (CSS)
Miss. St. at South Carolina, 7
LSU at Texas A&M, 8
Vanderbilt at Florida, 8 (MyVLT)
Kentucky at Georgia, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
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)