Kentucky has had a first round bye in all but three of the SEC Tournaments in the last twenty years. One of those was Gillispie’s last year so it doesn’t even count. The other two were in Tubby’s disappointing final seasons, when he was a halfway out the door. But here we are this year, Kentucky is “back on top”, and that bye into the second round is almost out of reach and Kentucky could find itself playing on the first day of the tournament just two years into the John Calipari era.
Florida has all but locked up the #1 seed in the East with a 9-2 record. Vanderbilt’s win over Georgia last night moved them into second place at 7-4 and Georgia dropped to a third place tie with Kentucky and Tennessee at 6-5. Only five games remain on the conference schedule and that stretch will be crucial, as Florida, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt will all play each other and Tennessee will get a shot at three of the four teams competing for a bye. Even though Georgia is still in it mathematically, we’ll just go ahead and say they’re out of it because we all know that’s the case. Check out the remaining five games for each contender…
Florida: @ LSU, vs. Georgia, @ Kentucky, vs. Alabama, @ Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt: @ Auburn, vs. Tennessee, @ LSU, @ Kentucky, vs. Florida
Georgia: @ Tennessee, @ Florida, vs. South Carolina, vs. LSU, @ Alabama
Tennessee: vs. Georgia, @ Vanderbilt, vs. Mississippi State, @ South Carolina, vs. Kentucky
Kentucky: vs. South Carolina, @ Arkansas, vs. Florida, vs. Vanderbilt, @ Tennessee
Florida will likely win its next two games so the Gators would have to lose the final three to drop out of first place. So, again, they’ve all but clinched the #1 seed. Vanderbilt has two cupcakes on the schedule with Auburn and LSU, and then home games against Tennessee and Florida. With the ‘Dores one-game cushion, and… let’s say… a 3-1 record in those four games, Vandy is looking pretty good for finishing second in the SEC East.
In order for Kentucky to move up into that second spot, the Cats need to win out. Plain and simple. They could still get some help if Vandy drops a couple games but let’s not sit around and hope for that to happen. South Carolina and Arkansas are “should-win” games. Florida and Vandy at home are “must-win” games. Win those four and Kentucky could be playing for a bye against those low down, dirty snitches on “Brian Williams & Steven Pearl Night” in Knoxville.
If Kentucky does miss out on a bye, it’s not the end of the world. Two of the last four SEC Tournament Champions played on the first day. Plus, it gives us an extra day of entertainment in Atlanta.