And here we are, at the very last SEC game of the season. Kentucky going for 34-0 (and the conference tournament title as a throw-in). Arkansas trying to play spoiler. Let's get it on!
Kentucky (78) - Arkansas (63)
And that's that. To their credit, the Hogs didn't embarrass themselves, but that patented last-10-minutes UK run put a 34th straight game out of reach. Michael Qualls led Arky with 18 points, despite not starting and playing only 8 minutes in the first half for unknown reasons. Willie Cauley-Stein's 15/10 double-double led the way for the Wildcats, who, depending on who you believe, either consciously turned down the opportunity to cut down Bridgestone Arena's nets or just forgot all about it. Either way, this team has bigger things in mind.
A Sea of Blue likes this. They like this very much.
This may have been the very best that Kentucky has played this season. They were pretty much great at everything.
Arkansas Fight just shrugs it off. Whether you can beat Kentucky is entirely dependent on whether they let you.
Anyway, any team only has as much of a chance against this Kentucky team as they feel like giving them. They showed up today, going 7-12 from three and about 50% from inside the arc. Cauley-Stein had 15 points on 5-6 shooting and the Harrison twins combined for 26 points. Arkansas shot a respectable 44.4% and really an incredible 65.2% in the second half.
Kentucky now heads to the NCAA tournament as a runaway #1 overall seed, now only 6 wins away from 40-0. Arkansas will also head to the tournament, albeit as a not quite as impressive seed.
All in all, 8 SEC teams made it to the postseason this year (probably. The CBI hasn't released its field yet, but both Florida and Tennessee have declined bids and it appears South Carolina has done so as well.) Five to the NCAA:
- Kentucky: #1 in the Midwest region, will play winner of Hampton/Manhattan Thursday
- Arkansas: #5 in the West, will play Wofford Thursday
- LSU: #9 in the East, will play NC State Thursday
(By the way, all three of these games are in the same time slot. #SECBasketballFever gets one last shot in.)
- Georgia: #10 in the East, will play Michigan State Friday
- Ole Miss: #11 in the West, will play BYU in Dayton Tuesday
And 3 to the NIT:
- Texas A&M got a #2 seed and will host Montana Tuesday.
- Vanderbilt rode a late season surge to a #5 seed, and will go on the road to meet St. Mary's in Moraga, CA Wednesday.
- Alabama got a #6 seed and will host Illinois (despite being the lower seed?) Tuesday.
However, Anthony Grant won't be around for that, as he was the first SEC coaching casualty this year. This brings Grant's 6 year run as coach of the Tide to an end, during which his teams were never really awful, but never lived up to the promise he had shown at VCU.
And that will wrap things up for this season! Thanks for reading, it's been a pleasure.