Currently, the league has just two teams in the RPI top 50. The league itself is once again ranked as the seventh best conference in America. Add it up and the SEC is looking at yet another three-bid tourney. From a 14-team league that is embarrassing.
Take a quick gander at the current RPI rankings (and strength of schedule ranks) for each SEC squad:
Barring some major winning streaks by the teams at the bottom of the SEC barrel, the league has only two locks for the tourney — Florida and Kentucky. Five more teams rank in the 50s and 60s in the RPI and only a handful of schools from that range each year nab at-large bids.
For Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Ole Miss and LSU, their games against each other will be enormous in terms of their bubble hopes. And the last thing any of those squads need are losses to the seven worst teams in the league. With RPI rankings of 96 and below, those teams are all but dead in terms of at-large bids.
Which brings us to Texas A&M and Georgia. The Aggies and Bulldogs have gotten off to 3-1 starts in SEC play. While that’s great news for those teams and their fans, it’s terrible news for the SEC as a whole.
Billy Kennedy’s team has already knocked off Arkansas at home and Tennessee on the road. This after losing to Missouri State (RPI 76), SMU (RPI 41), Oklahoma (RPI 16) and North Texas (RPI 155) in the non-conference portion of its schedule.
Mark Fox’s Georgia squad has already won at Missouri and beaten Arkansas at home. But the Dawgs’ non-conference schedule included losses to Georgia Tech (RPI 145), Davidson (RPI 175), Temple (RPI 166), Nebraska (RPI 68), Colorado (RPI 19), and George Washington (RPI 22).
When the teams that failed to build strong resumes outside the conference knock off the few teams with decent resumes inside the conference, it hurts those stronger teams’ RPI scores and the SEC’s reputation as a whole. Example: Georgia has three losses to teams outside the RPI top 150, yet the Bulldogs have won at Missouri and topped Arkansas.
It’s a long season. RPI ratings will rise and fall. And none of those seven teams way outside the NCAA Tournament bubble currently are going to roll over and play dead.
But for a league struggling to improve its reputation and to land more than three teams in the NCAA Tournament, it’s a worst-case scenario for teams with bad RPIs to beat the few SEC teams with good ones.