A roller coaster of a week for Kentucky basketball, as they gave up a 17-point lead in a loss at home to Tennessee, but followed it with an incredible 18-point comeback to beat Florida in Gainesville. Let’s take a look at some of the other takeaways from around the Southeastern Conference this week.
1. Kentucky’s wild week
The top two stories in the Southeastern Conference both came out games the Kentucky Wildcats were involved in. The first being the big upset victory for the Tennessee Volunteers at Rupp Arena. The Cats blew a 17-point second half lead to a Tennessee team that they are much better than. Kentucky had some players playing especially poorly and no one could stop John Fulkerson for the Vols, as he finished with 27 points on 10-15 shooting to go along with 6 rebounds.
? The Rally at Rupp
One last look at a come-from-behind victory over No. 6 Kentucky. pic.twitter.com/Nok1w1aRTe
— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) March 5, 2020
Fans immediately took to social media to give the usual complaints. “This game shows Cal can’t coach!” and “This Kentucky team stinks!” filled the comment sections of KSR posts all week. In a shocking turn of events, neither of those types comments are actually true. More bad news for Kentucky was on the way, as reports of off the court issues with starting point guard Ashton Hagans started to arise and before long, rumors of him taking the Florida game off began to swirl, and were eventually confirmed.
The first 28 minutes of the Florida game looked a lot like the second half of the Tennessee game. Kentucky looked out of sorts and was being out-performed to an 18-point deficit. Then, a switch flipped, and the Cats began to claw back into the game. Slowly, but surely, both the offense and the defense improved, culminating in the game-winning tip-in from EJ Montgomery.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 8, 2020
As a UK fan in my mid-20s, this is one of the least probable wins I can remember for a Kentucky team. In fact, ESPN gave the Cats a 1.1% win probability with just under 12 minutes to go and a 25.6% win probability with just 3:06 remaining. Check out the timeline below.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 8, 2020
2. SEC Tournament bracket has been set
While we’ve known that Kentucky would be the number one overall seed in the SEC Tournament for over a week, the rest of the seeding was still being determined going into yesterday’s games. The final day of the regular season was certainly eventful and resulted in the below final bracket for next weekend in Nashville.
As most of us know by now, Kentucky will play at 1pm ET on Friday on ESPN against the winner of 8-seeded Tennessee and 9-seeded Alabama. The Cats split with Tennessee in two match ups so far this year and had a 9-point win over Alabama back at the beginning of January. The other top seeds on the same side of the bracket as Kentucky are 4-seed Mississippi State and 5-seed Florida. An interesting match up could happen between Florida and Mississippi State after Kentucky’s first game, as both teams need a win to keep their NCAA Tourney hopes alive. On the flip side, Auburn and LSU sit on the bottom of the bracket as the 2 and 3 seeds.
3. And your SEC Player of the Year is…
The end of the SEC regular season signals the beginning of award season, with a few Kentucky players assuredly appearing on the lists. For the past two plus months, Kentucky fans have been pushing for both Nick Richards and Immanuel Quickley to win over the voters for SEC Player of the Year. Saturday’s games may have decided the winner of the SEC Player of the Year, and it could be neither of the Wildcats listed above.
There are essentially two ways that voters look at conference player of the year voting across the country. The first is to take the player with the best overall stats in conference play, regardless of team results. The second is to take the best player from the best team in the conference, even if other players may have performed at a higher level. If the second option is taken on by voters, then Immanuel Quickley would by your winner, surpassing Nick Richards over the last month or so. However, if the first option is taken, then the award will likely go to leading scorer in the SEC, Arkansas’ Mason Jones.
The ????? Razorback to claim the regular season SEC scoring title.
— Arkansas Razorbacks Basketball (@RazorbackMBB) March 8, 2020
Jones has been absolutely on fire in conference play, leading the SEC in scoring at 22 points per contest. This conference season, he’s had games scoring 30 or more seven times and has hit 40 once as well. If you include non-conference play, he’s gone for 30 or more eight times and has eclipsed 40 twice. His last four games have resulted in point totals of 37, 26, 36, and 30. With Immanuel Quickley struggling a bit over the last week, Mason Jones may have taken a permanent lead in this race.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 5, 2020
4. Bracketology updates by the hour
When the Wildcats lost in embarrassing fashion on Tuesday night to Tennessee, the thought of being a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament went out the window for Kentucky fans. However, after the big win at Florida yesterday and some losses by highly ranked teams, the possibility remains. Losses from #4 Baylor, #5 San Diego State, #8 Seton Hall, and #10 Louisville on Saturday may slide Kentucky into the last two seed line for the time being. Also worth mentioning that #9 Maryland lost earlier in the week as well.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi tweeted the below earlier today, with updates from yesterday’s games.
— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) March 8, 2020
Kentucky is listed as the last two-seed in his estimation and with a draw that I’m sure no Kentucky fan would complain about. Remember now, that the top two seeds from each region are decided by geography, rather than seed ranking. That is why you see Kentucky matched up with the last one seed, rather than the top one seed as they would be if only seed ranking was considered.
Lunardi also released a full updated bracketology this morning to match the above. Check out Kentucky’s full East Region bracket below.
As for the rest of the Southeastern Conference, just three other teams are looking to get bids in the Big Dance, which isn’t any different than the last few weeks. Auburn jumped up to a 5 seed, with Florida and LSU both staying at a projected 9 seed. Mississippi State has been moved from the “First Four Out” down to the “Next Four Out”. Here are the rest of the regional brackets from ESPN.