NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UK Athletics) – The Kentucky men’s basketball team will play Mississippi State on Thursday in the Southeastern Conference Tournament after finishing the season 8-9 in league play.
Game time is set for noon ET (11 a.m. CT) at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
UK locked up the No. 8 seed on Saturday with an impressive 92-64 victory vs. South Carolina and Mississippi State’s loss to Auburn. The Bulldogs will be the No. 9 seed.
The winner of the UK-MSU matchup will get top-seeded Alabama on Friday at noon ET. That game would air on ESPN.
The final SEC Tournament bracket will be released Sunday following the conclusion of the Florida-Tennessee game.
Kentucky earned a bye in the tournament but will begin its SEC Tournament run prior to the quarterfinals for the first time since the tournament expanded in 2013. Despite its SEC Tournament dominance, Kentucky has not won four games in the league tourney to win the event since 1952.
The Wildcats will need to do exactly that after finishing the season 9-15 overall. UK finished strong by winning four of its last six games, including victories at then No. 19/20 Tennessee and the 28-point win Saturday vs. South Carolina, Kentucky’s largest margin of victory in league play in more than two seasons and its second-biggest win of 2020-21.
Kentucky is seeking its seventh SEC Tournament championship under John Calipari and 32nd overall. UK will need three wins to advance to its ninth SEC Tournament title game in the last 12 seasons, which includes the cancellation of last season’s tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tournament could be wide open after a highly competitive and tightly bunched regular season among the league’s teams. After placing 15 teams in the NCAA Tournament in the previous two eligible seasons, second-most in the nation, the league has a handful of teams vying for at-large berths heading into the conference finale. Eleven SEC schools ranked in the top 100 and six in the top 50 in the NCAA Evaluation Took March 5 rankings.
UK’s opening SEC Tournament game will be televised by SEC Network with Karl Ravech and Jimmy Dykes on the call. If Kentucky wins Thursday, every game going forward for the Wildcats would be on ESPN. Both the semifinals and championship game will be televised on ESPN at 1 p.m. ET with Ravech, Dykes and Marty Smith.
Kentucky leads the league with 31 SEC Tournament titles, more than the rest of the league combined (28). The Wildcats are 134-26 all-time in the SECTournament. The 2019 loss in the semifinals – the last time a tournament was played – ended a run of four straight SEC Tournament championships and 13 straight wins in the conference tournament.
Calipari’s teams at UMass, Memphis and Kentucky have been to 19 conference championship games in his 28-year career, winning a remarkable 15 of them. Calipari is 57-12 (.826) all-time in conference tournaments, including 23-4 (.852) at UK. Calipari ranks fourth in SEC Tournament wins.
The Wildcats are 8-2 all-time vs. the Bulldogs in the SEC Tournament. Kentucky edged Mississippi State in Starkville, Mississippi, earlier this season in a double-overtime thriller to start league play. The Wildcats won 78-73 behind Dontaie Allen’s career-high 23 points and seven 3-pointers. UK has won 15 straight games in the series and Mississippi State is the only team yet to beat the Wildcats in the Calipari era. The last time Kentucky played Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament was the thrilling 75-74 overtime victory in the championship game in 2010, Calipari’s first season at UK.
If Kentucky is fortunate enough to play Alabama, it would be the fifth time in the last six seasons (the lone absence being last year’s canceled tournament) the Wildcats have faced the Crimson Tide in the SEC Tournament. UK has won all four of the previous matchups and is 17-2 vs. Alabama in the league tournament and 6-1 in the quarterfinals. Alabama, which finished the season 21-6 overall and 16-2 in league play, swept the two-game regular-season series this year.
The tournament returns to Bridgestone Arena in Nashville for the sixth time in the last seven seasons (that includes last year with two games played in the opening rounds). UK has won the SEC Tournament when it is played in Nashville four times under Calipari.
SEC TOURNAMENT FAN INFORMATION
Fans attending the 2021 SEC Tournament are encouraged to become familiar with policies related to fan entry and security for the event, including the arena’s face covering and no-bag policies. Bridgestone Arena will have a seating capacity of 20% (3,400) due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Due to the current circumstances related to COVID-19 requiring reduced capacity for sporting events, the SEC will not be able to make tickets available for public purchase. Consistent with attendance limitations, the teams competing in the 2021 Men’s Basketball Tournament will be provided a very limited number of tickets for sale to their fan base.
The 2021 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament is a mobile-tickets-only event. All fans will need a mobile ticket to enter the stadium. Using the web browser on phones, all mobile tickets issued by the participating teams or the conference can be accessed thru the SEC mobile sign in at www.secsports.com/tickets. All tickets bought through Ticketmaster can be accessed through www.ticketmaster.com or the Ticketmaster app.
Fans are encouraged to save their ticket to their mobile wallet prior to arriving for easier access into the venue. Screenshots or recordings of tickets are not valid for entry. Fans coming to the game with friends or family, should transfer to them their tickets before the day of the game so they may enjoy ease of movement around the arena.
FACE COVERING POLICY
While on Bridgestone Arena property, guests over the age of 2 are required to wear a cloth face covering or mask (that covers both the nose and mouth) at all times, including, but not limited to, when guests are inside the building or on the plaza. Gaiters, bandanas and coverings with exhalation valves or vents are prohibited, and the use of a face shield does not eliminate the requirement to wear a face covering underneath. A face covering or mask may be lowered when actively eating or drinking at a guest’s designated seating location.
Any guest unable to wear a face covering due to a medical condition must provide at least 24 hours advance notice to the Arena via the method outlined below.
- Any guest that wishes to seek a medical exemption must contact the Arena by firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject line “Face Covering Medical Exemption Request.”
- Please include the guest’s name, the game/event the person will be attending, and seat location in the email. A designated representative will respond after receipt of such inquiry with further instructions.
- Any guest requiring an accommodation that fails to notify the Arena via the method outlined above and attempts to enter the Arena without a face covering will be denied entry to the Arena.
- Any guest that is unable to wear a face covering due to a medical condition will be required to wear a face shield at all times while on Bridgestone Arena property except if necessary when actively eating or drinking in your designated seating location.
The health of our student-athletes, campus communities, fans and general public is an ongoing priority of the SEC and its member institutions. Fans attending the 2021 SEC Tournament are asked to adhere to the following public health guidelines:
- Face coverings are required for every person in the arena (guests and staff) and must be worn at all times, except while actively eating and drinking in your seat.
- Wash hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water or use hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer is readily available for your use throughout Bridgestone Arena. Fans are allowed to bring in a small, clear hand sanitizer bottle.
- Guests are required to follow all social distancing markers displayed throughout Bridgestone Arena. These markers will help everyone line up for security screenings, restrooms, and concessions.
Fans are asked to stay home if they are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
• Fever (equal to or above 100.4)
• Muscle pain
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Sore throat
• New loss of taste or smell
NO BAG POLICY
Bridgestone Arena has a no bag policy for all events. Items that are typically carried in diaper or baby bags must be carried in a clear bag.
Fans may still bring items such as binoculars and cameras (no detachable lenses), provided they are not in cases, as well as smart phones into the arena.
Working personnel, including media, will continue to enter the arena through designated gates where they will be subject to screening and bag inspections already in effect for the tournament.