The clear separation at the top of the league was on display this week: if you weren't Kentucky or Vanderbilt, you probably had a rough week. The lone exception was Mississippi State, who got the season sweep over Ole Miss and beat Auburn in overtime, but they stay behind Florida based on the Gators' head-to-head win. Otherwise, times were tough: Tennessee and Florida went 0-2, and Arkansas, Ole Miss, and South Carolina lost critical games in their quest to get inside the bubble. As a result, the gap between the top two teams and the rest of the field widens, but the top eight teams stay in the same order overall:
1. Kentucky Wildcats (24-1, 9-1)
2. Vanderbilt Commodores (19-5, 8-2)
3. Tennessee Volunteers (18-6, 6-4)
4. Florida Gators (17-8, 6-4)
5. Mississippi St. Bulldogs (18-7, 6-4)
6. Arkansas Razorbacks (13-12, 6-4)
7. Mississippi Rebels (17-7, 5-5)
8. South Carolina Gamecocks (14-10, 5-5)
9. Auburn Tigers (12-13, 3-7)
10. Alabama Crimson Tide (14-11, 4-7)
11. Georgia Bulldogs (11-12, 3-7)
12. LSU Tigers (9-16, 0-11)
Thoughts and analysis after the jump...
- Is Kentucky the best team we've seen all year? I'm still inclined to think that despite UK's immense talent and their continued ability to learn on the fly, if they were matched up in the tournament tomorrow, I'd pick both Kansas and Purdue to beat them. Teams like those two - and there aren't many of them - can give UK a run for their money in terms of talent, but don't make as many mistakes and are probably more complete teams. And sooner or later in March, the Cats are going to run into a team like that who capitalizes on their mistakes.
- How many teams does the SEC get in? I think you can officially scratch Arkansas now, and South Carolina just can't get away from .500 in league play. It's unfortunate for the Gamecocks, who've had an unlucky year and are still capable of beating anyone with Devan Downey, but I think at this point they've lost any room for error - it'll take winning out or winning the tournament to get them in, and so far you just haven't seen the consistency from anyone other than Downey to get it done. Mississippi State is getting no love from bracketologists, but with the sweep over Ole Miss they should definitely move ahead of them on the bubble. And it feels like Florida hasn't won an important home game in forever - I think the Gators will eventually get in, but not by much. This feels like a four bid league right now.
- Auburn has gone into coach-saver mode, beating Georgia and Alabama and taking Arkansas and Mississippi State to overtime in their last four. Will it be enough for Jeff Lebo? After a trip to Gainesville this week, they've got only West teams left on the schedule, so we'll see...