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Paths To Glory: The SEC’s Tourney Draws

crystal-ball-fortune-teller2Just gotta pencil an SEC team into the Elite Eight of your office bracket?  Take a chance on Florida’s defense.

Looking for a potential Sweet Sixteen surprise?  Write in Ole Miss and hope that Marshall Henderson gets hot… or unnerves UM’s foes.

Think an SEC team will go out early?  Missouri’s been pretty shaky away from home.

Below is our thumbnail, by-the-numbers look at the SEC’s teams’ hopes for advancement in the NCAA Tournament.  Now, all it takes is one cold-shooting night or a well-timed foul call to make or break a bracket’s worth of predictions.  Knowing that, we won’t be placing any bets in Vegas based on the opinions you’ll find below.  But this is how we at MrSEC.com see things as of today.

And we’re just not wowed by the SEC’s chances.

 

Florida

Seed: 3

Region: South

First Games: Austin, TX

 

  Game   School   Record   RPI   SOS   Vs Top 50   Away/Neutral
  FLORIDA   26-7   7   21   5-4   11-7
  1st   14 Northwestern St.   19-8   78   194   0-1   10-7
  Potential 2nd   6 UCLA   25-9   26   20   5-4   10-6
  Potential 2nd   11 Minnesota   20-12   34   4   5-8   5-10
  Highest Potential 3rd   2 Georgetown   25-6   11   16   9-4   9-5

 

Projection:  Florida’s defense (#2 nationally in efficiency) should smother Northwestern State in the Gators’ opener.  But then will come a test.  UCLA and Minnesota both have SOS numbers that suggest they’ve been battle-tested.  But the Bruins are the more dangerous club, not Tubby Smith’s Gophers.  A UF/UCLA tilt would be fun to see.  The Gators ousted UCLA from the NCAAs in 2011 (2nd round), 2007 (Final Four), and 2006 (Finals).  In January, we’d have picked UF to reach this Final Four as well.  But the SEC looks weak in hindsight and Florida’s struggles late in the season have made them appear vulnerable.  With the potential of games against UCLA and Georgetown back-to-back, we now think the Gators will likely bow out before Atlanta.

We’d love to be wrong about that one, because we see no other SEC team capable of making a Final Four run.

 

Missouri

Seed: 9

Region: West

First Games:  Lexington, KY

 

  Game   School   Record   RPI   SOS   Vs Top 50   Away/Neutral
  MISSOURI   23-10   36   48   4-5   6-10
  1st   8 Colorado St.   23-8   18   35   3-7   9-7
  Potential 2nd   1 Louisville   29-5   3   6   10-4   14-4
  Potential 2nd   16 N. Carolina A&T   18-16   213   323   0-2   14-16
  Potential 2nd   16 Liberty   12-20   287   308   0-2   7-13
  Highest Potential 3rd   4 St. Louis   27-6   16   38   7-2   10-4

 

Projection:  Sorry, Tiger fans, but Mizzou was just 8-6 in its last 14 games in a weak SEC.  Repeatedly they led on the road only to collapse in the dying minutes of a game.  Their first-game loss to 15-seed Norfolk State in last year’s tourney doesn’t inspire much confidence, either.  Now mix in a solid Colorado State team, the tourney’s overall top seed in Louisville (a team that beat MU by 23 in November), and underrated St. Louis as potential roadblocks and it’s hard to see the Tigers lasting long.

For those believers in serious stats and math, Louisville ranks 1st in national defensive efficiency and St. Louis 7th (according to hoops whiz Ken Pomeroy).  Phil Pressey will have to work some magic to get Mizzou into the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight.

 

Ole Miss

Seed: 12

Region: Midwest

First Games:  Kansas City, MO

 

  Game   School   Record   RPI   SOS   Vs Top 50   Away/Neutral
  OLE MISS   26-8   48   120   3-3   10-7
  1st   5 Wisconsin   23-11   32   12   8-8   8-8
  Potential 2nd   4 Kansas St.   26-7   20   40   6-7   10-6
  Potential 2nd   13 Boise St.   19-10   44   53   4-7   7-9
  Potential 2nd   13 La Salle   21-9   46   77   2-4   8-7
  Highest Potential 3rd   1 Gonzaga   30-2   6   75   6-2   16-1

 

Projection:  The Rebels’ first-game matchup with Wisconsin will provide a serious contrast in styles.  Wisconsin is a defense-first squad (3rd nationally in defensive efficiency) with a so-so offense.  Ole Miss’ offense is better than its D.  Can Marshall Henderson carry the Rebs past the Badgers with his shooting hand or his mouth and swagger?  If so, the going won’t get much easier in UM’s second game where Kansas State, Boise State or fellow bubble-beater La Salle will be waiting.  Get past that point and top-seeded Gonzaga — who we feel is a tad overrated — will be waiting in the Sweet Sixteen round.

Ole Miss appears to be the wild card among the SEC’s invitees.  They could easily vanish after a single game as their seeding would suggest or — just maybe — they could make a deep run on emotion (as they did in Nashville last week).  We wouldn’t bet on them, but Andy Kennedy’s Rebels will be fun to watch.

 

 


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