Top Five Must-Watch Games in the SEC
Must-Watch Games in the SEC: Top 5
The SEC is one of the most consistently competitive leagues in the country. Low seeds in the SEC tournament lose to high seeds; potential number one seeded teams in the NCAA tournament lose to teams that are not even in the top 50 RPI. This year is going to be no different than the previous years. A group of about four teams distinguish themselves from the rest and then it becomes a free-for-all for the rest of the teams. Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, and Tennessee seem to be the teams to beat this year. However, teams like Auburn, Alabama, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Georgia, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State all have what it takes to make it to the NCAA tournament in March. The SEC has always been seen as a competitive league, but apart from the Kentucky Wildcats and Florida Gators, not many teams have had what it takes to make it to national championships consistently and allow the SEC to dominate NCAA Basketball like it does NCAA Football. The SEC has slowly been growing in basketball talent over the last few years as teams try to keep up with Kentucky and many of the programs have succeeded; countering the Wildcats one-and-done mentality with experience (See the Kentucky loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC final last year). The whole SEC season could be filled with crucial games where a loss takes an on the bubble team to the NIT. Here is a look at the top five must watch games – four of which are on the same date. Spoiler Alert: You’re going to need DVR for March 9th.
No. 5 Auburn @ Mississippi State March 9th
The Auburn Tigers and the Mississippi State Bulldogs are two teams that are on the verge of tournament eligibility. The winner of this game would most likely make it to the NCAA tournament as a high-seed or get into the NIT as a low seed – barring no glaring losses that might hinder their selection. Auburn is a team on the verge of becoming a contender in the SEC, while Mississippi State is rebuilding after losing a majority of its starters to the draft/graduation. Auburn will need this game more than Mississippi State, because it will aid the Tigers with a much needed morale boost for their young players going into the offseason.
No. 4 Missouri @ Florida January 19th
January 19th is Missouri’s first away SEC game against an opponent that should beat the Tigers by a fairly large margin. For both these teams it’s Final Four or bust, so expect a tournament caliber game where both teams put everything on the line. Missouri and Florida (along with Kentucky) are the SEC favorites to do the most damage in the NCAA tournament and neither wants to lose an early game in SEC play. The longer the season gets into the SEC the better each team becomes, so a win here would drastically help both teams with many more tough conference games coming up in February.
No. 3 Georgia @ Alabama March 9th
Both these teams should feel reasonably confident that they can make it to March as anywhere between a 7th and 12th seed. The winner of this game could drastically up their chances of early survival in the NCAA tournament as well as try and get some aesthetic appeal that attracts recruits that would normally go elsewhere. Both these teams lost talented players to graduation and the draft, but will not be hindered by it as much as many believe. The final game of the season could be a sign which team is on the move forward and which team is going backwards.
No. 2 Missouri @ Tennessee March 9th
Missouri and Tennessee’s last games of the regular season might be their most important; both teams (if the Tigers and Volunteers perform to expectations) should be fighting for a low seed in the NCAA tournament and both be in the top of the table for the SEC championship. This game could determine a lot more than most people realize because both teams could be fighting for a top-five seed in the tournament. Both teams have the talent to go far in the NCAA tournament and a confidence from a win on March 9th could carry over into March Madness, which Missouri needs after losing to Norfolk State in the first round last year.
No. 1 Florida @ Kentucky March 9th
John Calipari vs. Billy Donovan. The SEC’s most recent national championship teams, Florida and Kentucky are supposed to trounce all opposition on a race to the head of the SEC. However, I do not believe this to be true. The SEC has far too many teams that could pull a few surprise upsets. The final game between these two potential NCAA National Champions could decide the winner of the SEC and knock the loser as far down as fifth (see Tennessee’s jump to second in the SEC on the last day of last season). The final SEC standings were crazy last year; expect the SEC to be even crazier this year.