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So, What Happens?

Just as important as our season finish is the finish of our conference and division foes.

Byes in the SEC tournament, in case you have forgotten, go to the top two teams in either division. Four teams are tied atop the SEC East. LSU has all but locked up the SEC West. And Mississippi State (7-4), Auburn (6-5), and Ole Miss (5-6) are in contention for the second bye in the West.

Ole Miss, with games hosting Georgia and Alabama and State and visiting Auburn and Arkansas, ought to be satisfied with three wins down the stretch, elated with four, and opiated, should we begin thinking about all five. So, a satisfactory conclusion to the season that avoids complete implosion will likely leave the Rebels at 17-13 overall, 8-8 in the conference, the third or fourth seed in the West, and hot going into the NIT - it ain't the big dance, but it beats being the leg-and-teeth-braced ginger gorging himself on chex mix, mints, and punch because he couldn't even get a pity date.

What we're really playing for is four-out-of-five, including the game at Auburn and finale hosting State, which would be a healthy effort on our part towards getting an unlikely first-round bye in the SEC Tournament. How? State finishes with three road games (Alabama, Tennessee, and Ole Miss) and two homers (Auburn and Florida). If State goes winless on the road and our hypothetical four final wins include Auburn and State, the Rebels will be in, at worst, a tie for second place, holding the tiebreaker over the Plainsmen and the Pups. In that, unlikely circumstance, our first game in the tournament would be against the West 6 (Alabama or Arkansas) or the East 3 (heaven only knows).

Of the four East teams tied atop the standings, we've beaten one closely at home (Kentucky), beaten one convincingly at home (Tennessee), and lost to two comfortably on the road (Florida by 10; South Carolina by 9). That's all a little short of inspiring. And even if we finish with our crowd-pleasing four wins, we'll still only have a 7-3 record over the past ten games, sitting at a rather pedestrian 18-12, 9-7 record in a rather pedestrian conference.

In short, if we are hot, and I mean hot, we need to make the championship game of the tournament to reach 20 wins and the bubble. Realistically, if you homers out there want to talk about the tournament, we're more or less in the same boat no matter what happens over the next five games. We need an automatic bid. Winning a couple of games at the end of the regular season just avoids making the SEC look real silly (see: Georgia 2008 ... or, for that matter, Ole Miss in 1981).

So, what happens? I think we'll end up as the third seed in the West, beat Georgia in the first round, lose to Kentucky or Florida in the second, be happy to make the NIT, and do with this season what Andy should have done with that cab in Cincy - wait on the next one.