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Auburn photo by Shanna Lockwood / Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl talks to Isaac Okoro (23), Anfernee McLemore (24) and Jaylin Williams during a recent game. Pearl's Tigers are seeded second in this week's SEC tournament.

Texas A&M and Vanderbilt were picked to finish 12th and 14th in the 2020 Southeastern Conference men's basketball race.

Entering this week's league tournament in Nashville, the Aggies and the Commodores are the SEC's hottest teams by virtue of their two-game winning streaks.

"You want to go in on a high note, and I think this is as high of a note as we've had all year," first-year Vandy coach Jerry Stackhouse said Saturday in a news conference after an 83-74 home victory over South Carolina that followed last Tuesday's 87-79 upset triumph at Alabama. "It's because we're doing the right things, and we're playing the game the right way."

The Commodores still finished last with a 3-15 conference record, but Texas A&M earned the tournament's No 7 seed in a surprisingly successful first season under Buzz Williams.

Kentucky wound up winning the league over Auburn and LSU by three games, but the Wildcats blew a 17-point lead at home in last Tuesday's loss to Tennessee and played Saturday without sophomore guard Ashton Hagans, who received time off for personal reasons.

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Florida photo by Greenberry Taylor / Kentucky's EJ Montgomery tips in a miss with 11.8 seconds remaining to propel the Wildcats to a 71-70 win at Florida on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats wound up winning the SEC's regular-season title by three games over Auburn and LSU.

Here is how the SEC tournament that starts Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena is seeded, with some facts included about each team:

 

1. KENTUCKY (25-6, 15-3): The Wildcats have 31 SEC tournament titles, with the rest of the league combining for 28, which includes the 1938 title won by former member Georgia Tech. Kentucky is 42-3 in the league's semifinal round, though one of those losses occurred last March against Tennessee.

 

2. AUBURN (25-6, 12-6): Bruce Pearl has guided the Tigers to three consecutive 25-win seasons after Auburn produced just one (1999) in the previous 111 years. Auburn is the reigning league tournament champ and is the only SEC program to win multiple conference tournaments with four wins in four days, having done it in 1985 and again last year.

 

3. LSU (21-10, 12-6): LSU has won 11 SEC regular-season titles and made four trips to the NCAA tournament's Final Four, but the Tigers are typically abysmal in the SEC tournament. They won their lone league tournament title in 1980, are 5-21 in league semifinals and haven't won an SEC tourney game since 2016.

 

4. MISSISSIPPI STATE (20-11, 11-7): The Bulldogs could be due for that occasional run to the title after winning championships in 1996, 2002 and 2009. Take away those three seasons, however, and Mississippi State is 22-56 in the SEC tournament.

 

5. FLORIDA (19-12, 11-7): The fifth seed was not where the Gators expected to be after having a preseason national ranking of No. 6, but they have plenty of recent success in this event with four championships in the past 15 years, second to Kentucky in that span. Having to play four games to win the title is not ideal, but this is where Auburn was seeded a year ago.

 

6. SOUTH CAROLINA (18-13, 10-8): The Gamecocks are nearing 30 years as an SEC member and have reached the league title game only twice, losing to Kentucky in 1998 and Florida in 2006 — two teams that went on to win that season's national championship. South Carolina hasn't reached the SEC semis since 2006.

 

7. TEXAS A&M (16-14, 10-8): The Aggies are 4-7 in their short SEC tournament history but reached the final as the top seed in 2016, losing to second-seeded Kentucky in overtime. Should the Aggies defeat Missouri on Thursday, they would face an Auburn team they topped 78-75 last Wednesday.

 

8. TENNESSEE (17-14, 9-9): The Volunteers won SEC tournament titles in 1936, 1941, 1943 and 1979, when the league renewed the event after a quarter-century hiatus. There have been no titles for Tennessee since. The Vols will have to win this year's crown as the eighth seed, something that has been accomplished once before by Auburn in 1985.

 

9. ALABAMA (16-15, 8-10): No team seeded ninth or lower has ever won the SEC tournament. The Crimson Tide have been seeded ninth or 10th in six of the last seven league events.

 

10. MISSOURI (15-16, 7-11): Remember when the addition of Mizzou was expected to enhance SEC hoops? The Tigers are just 4-6 in SEC tournament games and were ineligible in 2016, leaving a 13-team field. Missouri has yet to reach the SEC semis and last got to the quarterfinals in 2014.

 

11. ARKANSAS (19-12, 7-11): The Razorbacks can become the first team in SEC history to capture a 20th win by prevailing in Wednesday night's opening round. Arkansas joined the conference in the 1991-92 season and won the NCAA title in 1994, but the Razorbacks are just 26-27 in SEC tournament games with a lone title in 2000.

 

12. OLE MISS (15-16, 6-12): No team has advanced from Wednesday night — formerly known as Tony Barbee night for Pearl's predecessor who struggled at Auburn — to Sunday's championship game. Pearl took 13th-seeded Auburn to Saturday's semifinals in 2015, where they were blasted by undefeated Kentucky.

 

13. GEORGIA (15-16, 5-13): The Bulldogs, who are making their third consecutive Wednesday night appearance, have won two SEC tournament titles in very different ways. In 1983, Georgia pounded Ole Miss, Tennessee and Alabama by a combined 48 points to springboard a surge to the NCAA Final Four, while the 2008 Bulldogs went 4-12 in conference play before using overtime upsets of Ole Miss and Kentucky to win an unlikely title that accompanied a change in venue due to a tornado that struck the Georgia Dome.

 

14. VANDERBILT (11-20, 3-15): Although the Commodores enter with two straight impressive wins, they will have to defy history, as no 14th seed has managed to reach Friday's quarterfinals.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

 

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