Sad Wednesday is over, and we were “treated” to a pair of games which, if not exactly quality, were at least competitive.
No. 13 Ole Miss bullied the No. 12 South Carolina Gamecocks, dominating the glass for most of the game. A close contest was broken open by a spotty stretch of play where USC had six turnovers in seven minutes, and the poor-shooting Rebs knocked in 40% of their three-balls on the night. That would prove to be the difference.
Next up? Rematch vs. Tennessee. Tennessee won a previous game against the Rebels, but like everything away from Thompson Bolling, it was not easy for the Vols — 63-59 in Oxford, and UT had to make a serious late charge to get there.
In the other Sad Wednesday tilt, the No. 14 LSU Tigers put their superior athleticism on display, and harassed the No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs into miscue after miscue. UGA came into this game reeling and on a 5-game losing streak. At 16-16, the Dawgs were desperate for a win to keep their prospects of postseason play alive....They did not get it: too many mistakes, too little effort on the glass in a game that was a sloppy whistle-fest.
Next up? Versus the incandescently-hot Vanderbilt Commodores. You would say that Vandy caught a break here, drawing the Tigers. But weirdly, in the last 10 games — when VU has beaten UT, Kentucky, Auburn, and the like — the Tigers were the only team besides Alabama to knock off the Commodores.
That sets up today:
Thursday, March 9
- Game 3: MSU / Florida, Noon (SEC Network)
- Game 4: Tennessee / USC or Ole Miss, 2 p.m. (SEC Network)
- Game 5: Auburn / Arkansas, 6 p.m. (SEC Network)
- Game 6: Vanderbilt / UGA or LSU, 8 p.m. (SEC Network)
Mizzou, Alabama, Texas A&M, and Kentucky have the double-byes and will not play until Friday’s Quarterfinals.
Today has three huge games that you simply cannot ignore in the larger postseason picture. Among the day’s storylines:
Florida. What to make of this team? It’s been tossed around pretty consistently as a bubble/play-in sort of group all year. Should they be though? They’ve gotten a lot of currency out of a home win vs. UT. But since then, they’ve lost 5 of 6 to postseason-type clubs — many uncompetitively — including getting swept by bubblemates Vandy in the last month.
At 9-9 in the SEC, 16-15 overall (60 NET), I just don’t think they can do anything short of winning out to make the Dance. They simply don’t win quality games: Gata is 3-14 vs. Q1/2, including a pitiful 1-2 Q2 record. That screams NIT more than NCAA. But, who knows, a win over MSU, an upset of Alabama and a mortal UT/Mizzou winner may just get them some consideration.
- Florida’s opponent in the early matchup is the MSU Bulldogs. It’s hard to know what to make of this team. They don’t have an offense that scares you — worst shooting team in the SEC — but they score enough feeding off of their defense. They’re not good out of Starkville, but have notched W’s at Arkansas and Marquette. And along the way, they have quietly assembled a lower-seed sort of resume (NET 46, 7-10 vs. Q1/Q2).
The Bulldogs are one of many teams playing today facing a must-win. Sending UF home probably punches their card, especially since last night’s upset by DePaul in the Big East Tournament that just may open the door for a bubble team. No way is Seton Hall getting in now (though I always thought they were a marginal bubbler to begin with).
Who ya’ got?
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CLANGA is playing for their lives; they’ll get this one and likely lock-up an NCAA berth
Florida is happy to thrash around in the mud; that’s when Gators are at their best. UF’s march off the bubble begins here.
- Can Vanderbilt play their way into the Dance? Their NET is atrocious (82), because it is not an efficient team and was especially awful early in the year, taking several lopsided beatings.
Since that Alabama defenestration, the ‘Dores have been reborn in fire. Vandy has won an ungodly 8 of 9 games, including: sweeping Florida, and beating Mississippi State, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Auburn. In that span, VU has won 3 of 4 road games, including a tough one in Rupp. They have the No. 51 overall RPI, the No. 24 SOS, are 19-13, with a 9-10 Q1/Q2 record, and are 11-7 in SEC play. If that’s not an NCAA resume, I’m not sure what is.
Vandy actually finished T-4th in the conference, but owing to tiebreakers are the 6th seed. They simply cannot take a first round exit. But I think another win gets them some consideration for L4I / Play-in, and another win vs. Kentucky punches their dance card. No one in the country has done a better job in the second half than Jerry Stackhouse. No one.
Going forward, Vanderbilt will always be my paradigmatic case study for why the old system was in so many ways better than the NET, and why the Selection Committee used to emphasize how a team finished down the stretch — sometimes it takes a while to put it all together. This is a team no one wants to play right now. And to the extent possible in a venue that the Wildcats tend to dominate, Vandy will have a home court crowd.
Has Vandy done enough to at least earn a play-in game in the NCAA tourney?
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Yes, provided they don’t take a bad loss Thursday.
Yes in any case.
No, you can’t ignore that bad NET
Not yet, if they can notch one more major win over Kentucky, etc. then they’re in.
Too close to call.
- How will Tennessee respond to the loss of Zakai Zeigler? Vescovi is probably their best scoring option, but the star PG made the Vols defense run. He did so much on both ends of the floor, and his 7.6 assists per game led the SEC on a team that led the league in assists. But since he exited the Arkansas contest, the Vols are -1 in MOV, -6 in TOM, took a loss to Auburn in which the front court defense was exposed, and one of the most sure-handed teams in the SEC is now averaging 10.5 TO PG instead of the 6.89 per-game under Zeigler. That’s not a good formula for a deep run. Can the Vols lean on a spotty offense suddenly made a lot more mortal? Can a defense-first team dominate as they did without Zeigler, who led the SEC in steals-per-game at the point? Can UT finally manage a game out of Knoxville that’s not played in the low 60s? We shall see. Their first opponent has some athletes that can sneak up on you...indeed, Ole Miss almost did already earlier in the season. Will the Rebels carry over their hot shooting from Sad Wednesday?
Who ya’ got?
This poll is closed
Ole Miss’s athleticism is a problem for UT. They can win if they knock down shots.
The Vawls overcome Zeigler’s loss and season-long poor road play to get it done.
Auburn - Arkansas. This is the main event, viewing-wise. If you told someone at the beginning of the year that Arkansas and Auburn were going to finish behind Mizzou and Vandy, with the likes of Mississippi State, no one would have believed you. This is going to be a grudge-fest of the first order. Pearl’s teams ratchet up the defensive intensity in March, so despite the talent disadvantage, they can win this game (gross). And while Arkansas has the horses in the stable, and their intensity is off the charts, it doesn’t always translate to points down the stretch or closing out games.
And the whinging, my god the whinging. Pearl and Muss are just despicable. But this game won’t be. This game is gonna be lit.
I wish I could say that both are playing to keep out of the NIT, but despite both teams dropping a lot of games down the stretch, the NET is in love with them (Arkansas 18, Auburn 32). Though it would be awesome to see the loser kicked out of the Dance.
Arkansas — Auburn?
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One of these teams will win, which means America loses.
One of these teams will lose, which means America wins.
Come talk smack with us! There’s a long day of hoops ahead.