Kentucky Basketball: Cats path to SEC Tournament title no cakewalk in Tampa

The SEC basketball tournament ( Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
The SEC basketball tournament ( Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Southeastern Conference Basketball Tournament is underway in Tampa and the top-heavy loaded foursome including the Kentucky basketball team knows it will be no cakewalk to winning the title and automatic NCAA Tournament bid.

Kentucky enters the tournament as the No. 3 seed despite being tied with Tennessee behind No. 1 Auburn. The Cats lost the tie-breaker.

For the middle pack of teams that locked into a five-way tie to finish the league regular season they have a lot of play for hoping to up their stock or play their way in. At the bottom of the are the pretenders Georgia, Missouri, Vanderbilt, and Ole Miss hoping for several Cinderella moments since it’s their only hope to go dancing.

Those 4 played last night and in the end, Missouri and Vanderbilt were able to prolong the agony of their seasons coming to an end.

Kentucky basketball and SEC showcase their talent in SEC Tournament

No. 10 Mississippi State will battle No. 7 South Carolina for the right to stay alive and face Tennessee in the quarterfinals. These two split in the regular season both winning at home.

The Vols knocked off Mississippi State in their lone meeting and soundly beat the Gamecocks twice by 20 and 24 points.

Kentucky meanwhile most likely will face No. 6 seed Alabama in the quarterfinals. Big Blue has taken both games from the Tide 66-55 in Rupp and 90-81 in Tuscaloosa. The last time they met three times in one season was in 2016 when UK won all three games and leads the overall series 116-40.

Vandy and Bama will engage in a 3-point shooting contest as that is both teams’ main source of scoring. Each lives and dies by the three the question is which one? The Tide should be the favorite and won in Nashville in the matchup.

That would set up a Tennessee and Kentucky semifinal on Saturday.

Kentucky throttled the Vols 107-79 in the Cats most impressive game of the season at home in Rupp. But Tennessee got its payback on their home floor 76-63 on February 15. The Wildcats didn’t do a ton of great things in that game and seemed doomed from the start.

How a third tilt would play out with both teams on a neutral floor will be interesting. This series is more back and forth between the border-state rivals that I argue is Kentucky’s biggest rival. However the history between them they have only met 4 times in this century in the SEC Tournament with the Cats winning 3 of them, including the 2018 championship.

The upper half of the bracket looks like a Tiger match

Thursday kicks off with Texas A&M and Florida squaring off. Each is scrambling to get into the NCAA Tournament, but Florida is the more favorable trend and that makes them desperate and dangerous. They teeter in and out of the first four in and first four out in most bracketologist predictions.

The Aggies seeded No. 8 won their only matchup with No. 9 seed Flordia at home, and I believe they could be a serious dark horse to reach the semi-finals and even championship.

Waiting for the winner is top-seeded Auburn, who has undeniably played the weakest SEC regular-season schedule of all.

Auburn and Florida split in the regular season with the Gators pulling the stunner 63-62 on Feb. 19. Don’t count Mike White’s Gators out of this one. If it’s Texas A&M the Tigers trounced the Aggies by 17.

Missouri stayed alive to fight another day but No. 5 seed LSU will be too touch for this bunch of Tigers. The Baton Rouge boys won by 20 points just 3 games ago.

That sets up a quarterfinal between LSU and No. 4 Arkansas. The Hogs won 65-58 early in the year but LSU took them to the brink and ultimately game the game away late losing 71-70 despite cruising Arkansas on the glass.

I would not be shocked to see LSU win here just depends on how much fight Will Wade’s team has and executes. They have tendencies to lapse like against Arkansas but can easily pound and beat you as well. These two only played once in the SEC opener with Auburn taking it 70-55.

Kentucky in the championship what are the odds they win title No. 32

Kentucky is seeking its 32nd SEC Tournament title. Their first came under Adolf Rupp in 1933 when they beat Mississippi State 46-27.

John Calipari in his first season at UK won the championship over the Bulldogs as well led by John Wall. They have won five more under this guidance.

Fast forward to this season and Kentucky has lost this year to Auburn 80-71, but that was the game that TyTy Washington left with an injury. Since 2016 the Wildcats are 5-6 facing off with the Tigers.

Arkansas has won the past two games against UK after the Cats won the previous 8 after dropping two overtime games in 2014.

If LSU were to make it through they defeated UK 65-60 this year and they last met in the SEC Tournament in 2014 where UK won 85-67.

While it won’t be easy a solid three-game win in three days and cutting down the nets would bode well heading into the NCAA Tournament the following week.

Buckle up it’s tournament time!

Next. Kentucky a No. 3 seed in SEC Tournament. dark