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How Did Last Night’s SEC Action Impact The League’s Tourney Hopes? It Didn’t

fingers-crossedSince last Friday, we’ve said that Ole Miss and Alabama are dead in the water when it comes to reaching the safe shores of NCAA Tournament Island.  Arkansas had already sunk so far beneath the waves that it wasn’t even necessary to discuss the Razorbacks’ tourney hopes.

We based those conclusions on simple math and history.  While Joe Lunardi of ESPN is eyeballing all the teams rising and falling on this year’s “soft bubble,” we compare only the resumes of this year’s SEC hopefuls to those of past SEC squads that have and haven’t received NCAA invites the past four years.  And in four years, we haven’t been wrong in our tourney predictions yet.

As of today, we still believe Florida and Missouri are locks to make the field of 68.  Tennessee and Kentucky still have reason for hope as well, but neither can afford to stumble.  And last night’s games probably didn’t mean much at all.

Missouri’s blowout win over Arkansas only solidified the Tigers’ spot in the tourney.  They were in the field before tip-off.

Arkansas entered that game with an RPI of 80 (it’s now 82).  Since 1995, only two teams with RPI rankings over 70 have been handed at-large bids.  No teams above 80 have made the cut.  The Hogs were doomed regardless of last night’s outcome.

Ole Miss’ victory over Alabama probably didn’t mean much, either… at least not tournament-wise.  The Crimson Tide has an RPI in the 60s (now 62), an 0-4 record against RPI top 50 teams, and four losses to squads ranked outside the RPI top 100.  The bubble had burst for Bama long before last night’s game.

The Rebels improved to 22-8 overall and 11-6 in the SEC.  They still have a game remaining at LSU.  If Andy Kennedy’s team goes 23-8 and 12-6 in the conference, new AD Ross Bjork would take a beating from the national press for firing his head coach.  Yes, even if Kennedy doesn’t reach the NCAA Tournament.  And he probably won’t.

If history is a guide, last night’s victory over Alabama probably meant more for Kennedy’s job security than it did for UM’s tourney resume.  Yes, the bubble field is weak this year, but the Rebels have several important numbers working against them.  Their RPI is 57 and only eight of the past 74 at-large bids have gone to teams with RPI in the 50s.  Their strength of schedule is bad (131) and their non-conference strength of schedule is worse (291).  Of their eight losses, two have come against teams ranked outside the RPI top 200.  Add it all up and Ole Miss’ resume wouldn’t be good enough in a normal year.

So much for an important night of basketball.

Missouri was already in.  Alabama and Arkansas already needed to win the league tourney to earn an NCAA bid.  And Ole Miss already needed a heap more wins — at LSU on Saturday, and in Nashville next week — plus a lot more help in the form of bad losses from other teams on the NCAA bubble.

Heading into tonight’s slate of SEC games, the numbers still point to Florida, Missouri, probably Tennessee and maybe Kentucky getting NCAA bids.  So keep an eye on the Vols trip to Auburn tonight.  The Wildcats travel to Georgia tomorrow.  Those games definitely will matter.



How bad were the razorbacks before suitcase Mike got there that after 2 years this is the best they can muster? Serious question, they must have been horrible.


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