If not for a lackluster performance against the Mississippi State Bulldogs yesterday, the South Carolina Gamecocks would have been in very good shape in their quest for their first outright SEC title since 1997: Kentucky ended up falling to Vanderbilt and couldn't move a game clear of Texas A&M for the top spot in the conference. A win would have put the Gamecocks in a three-way tie with two games to go and in possession of the tiebreaker by virtue of a win over the Aggies. (All three teams would have shared a 1-1 record in a "mini-conference" against each other - the SEC's first tiebreaker - but the Gamecocks would win the second tiebreaker thanks to their win over A&M).
Nevertheless, here is the scenario with two games to play.
|Texas A&M||11-5||@ Auburn, vs. Vandy|
|Kentucky||11-5||@ Florida, LSU|
|South Carolina||10-6||vs. Georgia, @ Arkansas|
|Vanderbilt||10-6||vs. Tennessee, @ A&M|
|LSU||10-6||vs. Mizzou, @ Kentucky|
First things first: the Gamecocks need to beat both Georgia and Arkansas. That will put them at 12-6. Unfortunately, they lose the tiebreaker against the Wildcats via head-to-head, so the Wildcats will need to lose to both Florida and LSU. Carolina does hold a tiebreaker against A&M via head-to-head (who holds that same tiebreaker by virtue of their win over the Cats earlier in the year), so they can live with the Aggies splitting their final two against the Tigers and Commodores if Kentucky loses out - that would give Carolina the top seed.
The good news: the Gamecocks have the tiebreaker against Vandy and LSU, so if they win out, no matter what those two teams do, they'll finish no worse then third. But, again, it's important that they win out, because one loss could open the door for the Tigers and 'Dores to leapfrog to third and fourth and drop Carolina down to fifth. Only the top four seeds get a bye through to the conference quarterfinals on March 11.
So that's the (unlikely, but) possible path to the title for the Gamecocks. It all starts with beating both the Dawgs and the Razorbacks and letting everything else work itself out. And after the craziness of the SEC basketball season, despite their own mishaps, it might still work out in South Carolina's favor.