Kentucky basketball: Wildcats kickoff March Madness with mad SEC tournament

Kentucky fans
Kentucky fans /

When you are Kentucky basketball, the winningest all-time NCAA program, every team wants to take you down. Well as March Madness has descended upon us the teams lined up to face the cats through the Southeastern Conference Tournament are all mighty and hungry.

After the Wildcats 71-63 win over Florida in the regular-season finale on Saturday, UK finished tied with Tennessee for second place in the SEC. However, they split with the Vols but lost to Conference champ Auburn while Tennessee took down the Tigers.

That gave Tennessee the No. 2 seed and dropped Kentucky to the No. 3 seed. Arkansas will be the No. 4 seed as the teams converge on Tampa this week for the tournament and hopes of improving each’s seeding for the NCAA tournament.

Kentucky basketball is the No. 3 seed as the SEC Tournament gets set in Tampa

And that wasn’t the only tie-breaker that needed to be undone. Just after the top four seeds, there was a five-way tie. In the end, LSU got the No. 5 seed followed by No. 6 Alabama, No. 7 South Carolina, and then-No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 10 Florida.

Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Ole Miss, and Georgia round out the seeding.

Here are the final SEC standings.

Auburn                 15-3     27-4

Kentucky              14-4     25-6

Tennessee           14-4     23-7

Arkansas              13-5     24-7

LSU                          9-9     21-10

Texas A&M            9-9     20-11

Alabama                 9-9    19-12

Florida                    9-9     19-12

S. Carolina             9-9     18-11

Mississippi St.      8-10   17-14

Vanderbilt            7-11    15-15

Missouri                5-13    11-20

Ole Miss                4-14    13-18

Georgia                  1-17      6-25

Normally Kentucky coach doesn’t John Calipari doesn’t put a lot of weight on the SEC Tournament preferring to focus on the bigger tournament that follows. However, the Wildcats are sitting on the No. 2 line in most bracketologists’ picks, and running the table in the SEC tournament may move them up.

The hottest teams right now are Tennessee and Texas A&M, winners of four straight. Auburn and Kentucky have each won two straight. The Cats suffered a brutal 76-63 thumping by the Vols six games ago as well as a 75-73 loss to Arkansas last week.

Each of the top 4 seeds gets a bye and UK will stand by and watch knowing full well that barring a monumental upset they will be facing off with Alabama for the third time this season in the quarterfinals late on Friday. UK won both other matchups 66-55 and 90-81 with Kellan Grady leading the way in that win.

The Tide will face the winner of Georgia and Missouri.

Into the semi-finals and most likely UK would tangle with Tennesee and then the finals either again against Arkansas or Auburn.

Here is the complete schedule, times and network.

First-round (Wednesday)

Game 1: No. 12 Missouri vs. No. 13 Ole Miss, 6 pm, SEC Network

Game 2: No. 11 Vanderbilt vs. No. 14 Georgia, 8:30 pm, SEC Network

Second round (Thursday)

Game 3: No. 8 Florida vs. No. 9 Texas A&M, noon, SEC Network

Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. No. 5 LSU, 2:30 pm, SEC Network

Game 5: No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 10 Mississippi State, 6 pm, SEC Network

Game 6: Game 2 winner vs. No. 6 Alabama, 8:30 pm, SEC Network

Quarterfinals (Friday)

Game 7: Game 3 winner vs. No. 1 Auburn, noon, ESPN

Game 8: Game 4 winner vs. No. 4 Arkansas, 2:30 pm, ESPN

Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. No. 2 Tennessee, 6 pm, SEC Network

Game 10: Game 6 winner vs. No. 3 Kentucky, 8:30 pm, SEC Network

Semifinals (Saturday)

Game 11: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 1 pm, ESPN

Game 12: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 3:30 pm, ESPN

Final (Sunday)

Game 13: Semifinal winners, 1 pm, ESPN