Not normally thought of as basketball powerhouse, the SEC has turned some heads this year. Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt have all cracked the top-25, and Alabama has also had a decent season.
The SEC tournament is slated to kick off March 10 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, and with a slew of evenly matched teams, the title is up for grabs. The conference is split up with an East and West division which Florida and Alabama won, respectively.
With that in mind, here are some of the best rivalries in the Southeastern Conference.
The Florida – Kentucky Rivalry
Although it does not have the intense history of some other match-ups, this rivalry has been one of the fiercest in recent years. That’s largely due to the fact that the Gators are coached by former Kentucky assistant Billy Donovan, and the Wildcats have been led by everybody’s favorite bad guy: John Calipari.
Regular season history: Kentucky holds a commanding 84-30 edge in the overall series, but that figure may be misleading - Florida has closed the gap considerably over the past few years.
Postseason history: Although they have a lengthy regular season history dating back to the 1930s, the two teams have never met in the tournament.
Best games: March 6, 2005: No. 24 Florida defeats No. 5 Kentucky, 53-52. The upset win marked a huge turning point for the Gators, who had not beaten Kentucky in several years. The win would kick-start Florida, as they would go on to win the first of their two consecutive championships.
Best players: Florida has had an explosion of NBA-caliber talent over the last several years. Al Horford, Joakim Noah, and David Lee are all making waves in the pros. As for Kentucky, the Wildcats have a rich history of legendary players including the Celtics’ Rajon Rondo, the Pistons’ Tayshaun Prince and most recently, freshman phenom John Wall.
The Kentucky – Tennessee Rivalry
Most bitter rivalries are the result of geographical proximity, and such is the case with this famous border clash. The teams have met more than 200 times, and with a pair of charismatic coaches, each time they play it’s something special.
Regular season history: Few teams have played each other more often than these two longstanding adversaries, but Kentucky holds a commanding 140-65 lead in the series.
Postseason history: Although they have engaged in many historic battles over the years, the two teams have surprisingly never met in either the NIT or the NCAA Tournament.
Best games: This one goes back to January 18, 1969. The Wildcats faced a tough road test at Tennessee, but managed to squeak by with a 69-66 win to become the first team in college basketball history to win 1,000 games.
Best players: DeMarcus Cousins, Jodie Meeks, Nazr Mohammed… the list goes on for the Wildcats well-known players. For the Volunteers, however, you have to go back a few years to find legends that include Bernard King, a four time All-Star in the NBA.