Last Friday we told you something that everyone else in the free world knew to be true: Florida and Missouri had already locked down spot in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. We also told you that thanks to a stronger schedule, Tennessee — at that point — would be the most likely SEC team to grab a third tournament bid with Kentucky following closely behind the Volunteers. We projected Ole Miss and Alabama as DOA thanks to a combination of RPI and schedule strength measures.
Over the weekend, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi adjusted his projection of this year’s tourney field and his view fell into line with ours: Florida, Missouri and Tennessee in… Kentucky and the others out.
For now, at least.
As we also noted on Friday, it’s tougher projecting the SEC’s tourney teams this year because, frankly, the league isn’t very good. Usually it’s easy for us to eyeball the SEC’s teams, compare their numbers with the typical figures associated with NCAA at-large picks, and draw a clear line between the haves and the have-nots. That’s not the case this year. There are two haves and four or five almost-haves.
All that said, let’s take a look at the SEC’s resumes — all 14 of them — as they stack up with one week of regular-season play to go. The digits in bold/italics are numbers to be concerned about, based on past NCAA Tournament selections:
|School||RPI||SOS||Vs Div I||Vs SEC||Vs RPI 1-50||Losses Vs RPI 100+||Losses Vs RPI 200+||Vs Non-Con (Away)||Non-Con SOS|
As you can see, Florida and Missouri have healthy resumes.
Tennessee has reason for concern with its RPI and those two losses outside the RPI top 100 (both to Georgia). Kentucky must be worried about its RPI, its record versus RPI top 50 teams, and it’s non-conference record away from Rupp Arena. (How the committee will view the Wildcats post-Nerlens Noel is also a concern.)
Ole Miss and Alabama have too many numerical flaws to be considered alive at this point. Lunardi might have them near the cut-off mark, but if this selection committee acts as previous committees have acted, both teams will be out unless they win the SEC tourney in Nashville next week.
No one else in the league is even close to earning a bid. Since the NCAA Tournament field expanded to 68 teams (and 37 at-large teams) two seasons ago, only three of the 74 at-large bids have gone to teams with RPI of 60+. No team with an RPI over 70 has earned a bid.
As for Tennessee and Kentucky and their RPI numbers in the 50s, just 8 of the last 74 at-large bids (10.8%) have gone to teams with RPI ranked between 50 and 59.
(One sidenote, there are about 20 different RPI formulas out there and they’re all within a spot or two of one another. Just an FYI in case you’re wondering why we list your favorite team as 65 and someone else has it at 64 or 66.)
The longest win streak in the SEC belongs to Vanderbilt. The Commodores have now won three straight games. The longest losing streaks — now that Mississippi State has snapped its 13-game slide — belong to South Carolina (three losses in a row) and Auburn (seven losses in a row).
Over the last 10 games, five SEC squads have put together league-best 7-3 runs: Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, and Tennessee. Three SEC teams have posted league-worst 1-9 streaks: Auburn, MSU, and South Carolina.
MrSEC.com NCAA Tournament Projection as of 3/4/13
Florida and Missouri are safely inside the bracket zone. Tennessee is barely in ahead of Kentucky if the SEC gets three tournament bids. The SEC Tournament is going to play a big role in at-large berths this season.
Arkansas at Missouri (Tuesday, 7:00pm ET)
Alabama at Ole Miss (Tuesday, 9:00pm ET)
Mississippi State at South Carolina (Wednesday, 7:00pm ET)
Vanderbilt at Florida (Wednesday, 8:00pm ET)
LSU at Texas A&M (Wednesday, 8:00pm ET)
Tennessee at Auburn (Wednesday, 9:00pm ET)
Kentucky at Georgia (Thursday, 7:00pm ET)