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Day One From New Orleans: MSU Hurts NCAA Chances, Arkansas Blows NIT Chance

Day One of the final 12-team tournament in SEC history is in the books.  Three higher seeds prevailed.  One squad on the NCAA bubble hurt its chances.  And one team hoping for an NIT bid likely saw its season end instead.  (Unless it wants to buy its way into an even smaller tourney just for the sake of practice.)

First the wrap, then what it means.

Game One — LSU 70, Arkansas 54

The Tigers improved to 18-13 and might just have won an NIT play-in game against an 18-14 Razorback squad that completely unraveled at season’s end.  Arkansas closed the year by losing five of six, seven of nine, and eight of its last 11 games.  LSU, on the other hand, snapped a three-game losing streak.  Best bet (after talking with selection committee member and former SEC coach Don DeVoe this weekend): the Tigers will get serious consideration from the NIT.  (So will MSU, Ole Miss and Tennessee… depending on who makes the NCAAs and who doesn’t.)

Today at 1:00pm ET, #8 LSU will face #1 Kentucky.

Game Two — Alabama 63, South Carolina 57

For Bama, it was an unimpressive effort.  For Carolina, its attempt was valiant.  The Gamecocks trailed by as many as 14 in the first half before racing back to tie the game with just under seven minutes remaining.  Alas, in the end, it was USC’s 11th loss in its final 12 games.  The Tide — already in the NCAA Tournament in our view — moves on to the second round.  As for Carolina, well, despite a long silence from Columbia, there are now increased rumblings that Darrin Horn may indeed be let go.  (Horn questioned the officiating after the game stating: “Alabama is apparently the best defensive team in the country at playing really hard and really physical and not fouling, because we only got to the line six times and they shot 29.”)

Today at 3:30pm ET, #5 Alabama will face #4 Florida

Game Three — Ole Miss 68, Auburn 54

The Tigers arrived in New Orleans in a positive mood.  Then word broke before their game that suspended point guard Varez Ward was being investigated by the Federales for potentially shaving points in at least two Auburn games this season.  Talk about taking the wind out of the ol’ sails.  Meanwhile, Mississippi got a career-high 22 points from Nick Williams who hit four 3-pointers.  The Rebels survived and advanced.  The Tigers will now hear their program’s name discussed in connection with illegal activities.  Advantage: Ole Miss.

Tonight at 7:30pm ET, #7 Ole Miss will face #2 Tennessee

Game Four — Georgia 71, Mississippi State 61

Usually, Rick Stansbury gets the most out of his team at the SEC tourney.  Usually.  Yesterday his squad lost for the 6th time in eight games, put a big dent in its NCAA hopes, and caused a few more anti-Stansbury folks to take up their torches and pitchforks.  We’ll have more on State in a minute, but kudos to Georgia who swept their rival Bulldogs for the year.  On the season, UGA did have six wins over Top 100 RPI teams — more than fellow SEC squads LSU, Arkansas, Auburn, and Carolina and just one less than Ole Miss and Tennessee.  Right now, they’d have to be considered a bit dangerous.

Tonight at 10:00pm ET, #11 Georgia will face #3 Vanderbilt

Bubble Ramifications — You Better Read ‘Em

Ole Miss and Tennessee should be smiling.  Each needed to face the other for resume-building purposes and they’ll get their head-to-head battle tonight.  Also, their chief SEC bubble-rival, MSU, went down in flames in the first round to #11 seed Georgia.

Here at we spend a lot of time looking at numbers.  And we pay attention to those numbers that people who’ve been through the selection process say matter.

There’s no hocus-pocus or precognition necessary to spot an NCAA Tournament team.  You need only look at the digits and see who fits the profile.

On Monday — right here — and again yesterday — right here — we told you that Mississippi State’s #67 RPI and #67 strength of schedule didn’t fit the typical profile of an at-large bid recipient.  Boy, did we get taken to task by angry, emailing State fans for that.  Especially when we pointed out that all the national bracketologists actually had the Bulldogs in their mock brackets heading into the SEC tourney.

But we’re not doing what the bracket-predictors do.  They try to update the entire tourney field on a daily basis based on results from across the country.

We simply look at all the SEC’s resumes and then tell you which ones fit the NCAA selection committee’s usual criteria for doling out at-large bids.  Mississippi State’s didn’t on Monday and it doesn’t now.

Perhaps that’s why CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm and Yahoo! Sports’ Mike Heguenin now have the Bulldogs back out of their tourney brackets.  ESPN’s Joe Lunardi dropped the MSU into the “Last Four In” category.

If the Dogs are out after losing an SEC Tournament game, doesn’t it stand to reason that they actually had to win a tourney game to make the field?  Of course it does.  And that’s why we never said they were in the field in the first place.

On Monday, the SEC had four teams with your typical NCAA Tournament dossier: Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida and Alabama.  Today, that still holds true.

State’s RPI has dropped to #71 and no team with an RPI lower than 67 has gotten an at-large bid in at least five years.  Here’s hoping for State’s sake, its fans’ sake, and especially Stansbury’s sake that the Dogs break the mold and do grab an invite.

But we don’t think they’re going to.  In fact, we think the winner of tonight’s Ole Miss-Tennessee game has a better chance of grabbing an NCAA bid.  (Lunardi currently has UT as his first team out.)

The Rebels have the better RPI (53 to 77) and better overall record (19-12 to 17-13).  The Vols have the better SEC record (10-6 to 9-8), a better record versus RPI Top 50 and Top 100 teams, and a better strength of schedule.  But the Volunteers lug around four losses to sub-100 RPI squads while the Rebs have only one of those.  UT won the only meeting between the two teams this year (in Knoxville).

The winner tonight might just eliminate the other from the NCAA bubble.  But even if they do, they’ll probably need to win at least one more game — and both should hope they meet Vandy (higher RPI) rather than Georgia in the conference semifinals.

State must now pray that either UM or UT goes down ugly tonight while the other gets bodyslammed by Vandy or RPI-gouged by Georgia on Saturday.  The Bulldogs simply haven’t done enough during the regular season to feel secure about landing an at-large bid.  They could still get in, mind you, but their profile would make them an exception to what’s become the rule.

Remember, we went through all this last year as well.  Each year at we begin our tourney resume-watch in January.  Last year, we said Alabama had too much ground to make up to reach the tournament.  From January right on through March — as other bracketologists slid the Tide in and out of their mock fields — we kept saying their body of work didn’t fit the profile.  In the end, it didn’t.

We’re sticking to our guns this year, too.  MSU, UM and UT all had work to do entering New Orleans.  State failed to do any.  Mississippi and Tennessee still have a chance.

For now — not looking at the rest of the nation, just the SEC’s profiles — the league still looks to be a four-bid league to us.



Suuuuueeeeyyyyy Pig...Huuueeeyy! How you like your coach now???? Think his kids have "bought in" to the system? How many do you think plan to transfer???


@MrSEC so u think horn is gone after 2 of the worst season a coach can have?


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