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MSU, Bama And UT All Help Their Resumes

Four SEC teams with NCAA hopes on the line — some slim — took part in three games last night.  Three won, one lost, and the two also-rans did what also-rans do… they lost.


Mississippi State 69, South Carolina 67


Winning in the last seconds of overtime against a terrible South Carolina team won’t help MSU’s tourney resume very much, but it does snap a five-game losing streak for the Dogs.  And it beats the heck out of losing to a terrible South Carolina team.

State’s Brian Bryant dropped in a buzzer-beating lay-up from an inbounds pass to secure the OT win in Columbia.  Bryant led the Bulldogs with 16 points and Arnett Moultrie — who earlier this week said “probably not” when asked if his team could turn things around — added yet another double-double to his impressive resume.

Bruce Ellington scored 17 for the Gamecocks who are now 2-13 in the SEC play and are guaranteed a last-place finish.  Darrin Horn’s hourglass is about to run out of sand, folks.


Alabama 55, Auburn 49


It wasn’t impressive, but it’ll do.  Alabama had to nail six of eight free throws down the stretch to fend off their rivals, but the win is the squad’s fourth in a row. 

The tournament selection committee spends most of its time looking at math and numbers — that’s how ESPN’s Joe Lunardi so accurately projects the bracket each year — but if they credit Bama coach Anthony Grant for standing tall on the discipline front at midseason, it’s hard to imagine Bama not getting an invite.

While many Tide fans and a few in the media wondered if Grant was throwing away Bama’s season when he suspended four key players, it’s now clear that his team has come out the other side with more mental toughness.  We said it at the time and we say it again now: Kudos to Grant.

JaMychal Green led Alabama with 15 points.  Auburn — which didn’t score over the game’s final six minutes — was led by Kenny Gabriel’s 10 points.  The Tide saw the return of Trevor Lacey from an ankle injury.  The Tigers were without suspended point guard Varez Ward for the second consecutive game.


Tennessee 74, LSU 69


The most impressive effort of the night was turned in by Tennessee.  The Vols raced back from 15 down in the second half… to win on the road… on Senior Night in Baton Rouge… against a team fighting or its own postseason life.

Trae Golden scored nine of his 15 points in overtime as the Vols pulled out their third win in a row, their third road of the season, and their seventh victory in their last eight contests.  Those Vol fans who called for Cuonzo Martin’s ouster just a month into his tenure are looking pretty foolish at the moment.

Freshman Jarnell Stokes led UT with 18 points.  Justin Hamilton set the pace for the Tigers with 17.

While UT’s tourney resume is improving, the math doesn’t quite add up just yet.  Entering the night, the Vols’ RPI was 93.  Winning at LSU (RPI 70) should help, but it won’t zip UT into the 60s.  And no team with an RPI lower than 67 has gained an at-large bid in the past five seasons.  And remember, Alabama got snubbed with a 12-4, second-place finish in the SEC just last season due to a low RPI and several bad early-season losses.

Tennessee’s win does set up a great final weekend battle for the #2 seed in the SEC Tournament, however.  If Florida beats Kentucky at home on Sunday, the Gators will get the second seed.  If Florida loses and Vanderbilt wins at Tennessee Saturday, the Commodores will take the #2 slot.  And if Florida loses and UT tops Vandy, the Vols will earn the #2 seed.

Alabama can also finish with 10 league wins, but the Tide can’t grab the second seed due to tie-breakers.

 




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