Bracketology: SEC-Big 12 Challenge games had big impact on bracket

The Big 12-SEC Challenge has largely flown under the radar in its first two years of existence. Unlike the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, the games have been spread out over weeks instead of a couple of days. It didn’t even feel like an event.

Bracketology

Jerry Palm’s projected bracket

That changed this year when the event was moved to one day in January. That day was Saturday, when all ten Big 12 teams faced ten of the 14 SEC teams on with each league hosting half of the games. The challenge got a full day of TV capped off by a clas of blue bloods with Kentucky at Kansas.

There were some games with bracket implications, which was also true in previous years too, but most people aren’t giving that too much thought in November and December. In late January, the bracket impact gets a lot more attention.

The Kentucky-Kansas game, as fun as it was to watch, didn’t really have serious implications. The winner just picks up a quality win, and the loser doesn’t really suffer much. Especially since the game was so close with Kansas defeating Kentucky 90-84 in overtime.

There were other games that definitely had an impact though, especially for the SEC teams, which don’t have as many opportunities for high quality wins in conference play as the Big 12 teams do.

  • Florida 88, West Virginia 71: The Gators picked up their best win of the year by far when they beat the Mountaineers in Gainesville. Florida was on the precipice of falling off the bracket entirely, and without a win over West Virginia , it may have done just that. The Gators have played a good schedule, with games against Texas A&M, Miami, Michigan State, Purdue and Florida State, but they didn’t beat any of them. With only a home and home against Kentucky left in terms of games that could improve its tournament resume, the win over West Virginia is especially big for Florida.
  • Oklahoma 77, LSU 75: The Tigers also had a chance to make a statement when LSU played host to No. 1 Oklahoma, but the Tigers blew a big second half lead. Everyone wants to see LSU star Ben Simmons play in the NCAA tournament, but he’s not getting enough help from his teammates so far. If not for a win over Kentucky at home, LSU wouldn’t even have an NIT quality tournament resume at this point. Letting that game slip away could be costly if the Tigers can play their way closer to the bracket.
  • Texas A&M 72, Iowa State 62: The Aggies beat the Cyclones for Texas A&M’s best win of the year so far. In a bracket where there is very little separation among teams at the top, a head-to-head result can be important. The Aggies did move past Iowa State in Monday’s bracket projection because of it. Texas A&M is now 4-0 against its old league, with wins over Baylor, Texas and Kansas State also.

Georgia and Vanderbilt missed chances to pick up big road wins that would have resurrected their flagging tournament hopes, but it was tough to win on the road in this event. Only two teams were able to manage road wins, Oklahoma State over Auburn and the aforementioned Oklahoma win at LSU.

Kansas' Wayne Selden led the Jayhawks to a win over Kentucky on Saturday. (USATSI)
Kansas’ Wayne Selden led the Jayhawks to a win over Kentucky on Saturday. (USATSI)

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