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The SEC A 2-Bid League? Latest Resumes Show 7 Fighting For Bid #3

Suffolk_Downs_horse_racingAs we roll into February this week the Southeastern Conference remains in NCAA Tournament hot water.  The league’s dominant teams — Florida and Kentucky are a combined 11-1 in conference play — are good to go for their expected tourney invitations.  But who else can work their way in?

Barring an SEC Tournament victory and the league’s automatic bid, it appears as though there are seven teams with some amount of life left.  None are in good shape.  None of those less-than-magnificent seven are even top 50 teams in the all-important RPI.  And with just 30+ at-large bids to be handed out, squads in the RPI 50s and 60s have slim hopes of dancing in March.  Teams in the 70s and 80s are out altogether.  Three of the aforementioned seven are in that range.

Obviously, there’s a lot of work to be done.

According to’s up-to-date figures, Florida (5) and Kentucky (12) are locks.  Georgia (119), Texas A&M (131), Mississippi State (135), South Carolina (144) and Auburn (193) are already doomed barring fantastic finishes over the season’s final 12 games.

That leaves the following seven teams — and their resumes — on or just off the NCAA tourney bubble:


  Category   Tennessee   Missouri   Ole Miss   LSU   Arkansas   Vanderbilt   Alabama
  RPI Rank   52   56   58   62   75   84   86
  SOS Rank   10   110   89   70   85   47   2
  Overall Record   11-7   15-4   14-5   12-6   13-6   10-8   8-10
  SEC Record   3-3   3-3   5-1   3-3   2-4   2-4   3-3
  Top 50 W   2   1   0   0   3   0   0
  Top 100 True Road W   0   1   1   0   0   0   0
  L Outside Top 100   2   1   1   1   2   1   3
  Top 50 Games Remaining   1   2   3   3   1   1   2


See any sure things in that bunch?

Tennessee’s combination of RPI and strength of schedule make them the most likely team to gain a third bid into March Madness, but they’re far from a sure thing.  To date they’ve been a .500 team in league play and that will have to stop.  UT has just one game remaining with a top 50 RPI team (Florida at home), but five more contests against teams outside the top 100.  Just playing league games is going to put a dent in the Vols’ SOS rank.  And if they lose to one or two of the league’s flops it could mean expulsion from the NCAA bubble.

Missouri’s SOS isn’t good, but their RPI keeps them in the hunt for a bid.  They still have a home game with Kentucky and a road trip to Florida coming up in the next week and a half.  More importantly, they have two games remaining with Tennessee.  If those teams take care of business elsewhere, the SEC’s third NCAA invitation could come down to how those teams play against one another.

Ole Miss fans can maintain some hope as they have two dates with Kentucky and a game with Florida still remaining.  We don’t expect the Rebels to win at Rupp Arena, but at least the possibility remains of Mississippi toppling UK and UF back-to-back at the Tad Pad (assuming there’s not another rain out in that gym).  A Wednesday nighter at Tennessee this week could be big as well as all the SEC bubble teams jostle one another for NCAA positioning.

LSU is really out of the picture right now.  Their RPI is on the fringe of bubble status, they have zero top 50 RPI wins and zero good road wins (a category that was huge in last year’s tourney selection process).  A road game with Florida and two games versus Kentucky are left to be played, but the odds aren’t good for the Tigers.

Arkansas, Vandy and Alabama appear to have way too much work to do.  They’re on life-support with few opportunities to take down top 50 RPI clubs remaining.  Alabama went out and played some giants (and lost) which is commendable.  But the Tide also lost to Drexel (130), South Florida (166) and Georgia (119)

So might the SEC land just two teams in the NCAA Tournament?  It’s possible, but we suspect a third team will sneak onto the bracket.  The league’s RPI ranks it as the seventh best conference nationally.  It’s still a “power” conference in terms of program size and history.  However, if a surprise team wins the SEC Tournament it’s entirely possible — maybe likely — that that team swipes a bid from the best of the remaining SEC bubble teams.

For now?  Only two SEC squads have resumes that scream, “We’re in!”  Five teams are already pushing daisies.  And that leaves the seven squads above to scratch, claw, and battle their way into the tourney.



Need better non-conf opponents and a better record against good non-conf opponents.  That leads into a more competitive conference season as well.

I'll be honest:  my school--A&M--is struggling with a doubly difficult situation.  It's not a traditional basketball school and the football team has been VERY successful and leeched away the support that had been built up especially by Billy Gillispie and Mark Turgeon.  And Billy Kennedy's struggle with Parkinson's in his first year at A&M became a "meme" that seems to have affected recruiting going forward.

The 3-0 start had MrSec advocating A&M regress back to the mean it was previously on, which we have succeeded in accomplishing.  But this kind of article actually misses an opportunity to make an important point:  if the non-conf schedule and resulting RPI is weak, then getting more conference invites is a matter of some teams dominating the rest.

That doesn't mean the conference plays better basketball.  It MIGHT mean the dominating schools dip deeper into the talent pool or that they're better coached (or both).  But the conference RPI in the non-conf season pretty much doesn't lie.  And the ADs need to put their heads together on what the strategy is as a conference for addressing this.  I know the conference office has been emphasizing non-conf strength of schedule.  And maybe that WILL help get more invites.  But if the basketball is boring, then the fans won't show up at the game (with certain, notable, exceptions) in a football-frenzied conference.

Since the SEC has to play pretty much the same game as the entire NCAA, strategic changes must address talent outreach, retention, player development, and coaching.  I'm honestly not sure it's solvable in the part of the country where it's actually pleasant to be outside during the winter...


One or two of these teams will get hot and earn their way into the tournament. Trying to guess which one(s) that might be is nearly impossible. All of them have a "if only . . ." factor to them.


Clearly, football rules the conference landscape, but what does such a weak basketball offering do to the overall health of the league?  Could this hurt the value of the SEC network once Thanksgiving rolls around if this keeps up?  I have to think just about any Kentucky and Florida game makes it to ESPN and the leftover content isn't of much value outside the two fanbases.  

Would this have consequences that a fan would fee or do you think success in all-powerful football outweigh anything that happens in basketball?

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

Just to be clear, we in no way thought an SEC school should actually throw games. A couple of folks read that literally, when I thought iour point was clear: For the league's tourney hopes, it would be better if the teams that struggled outside the SEC didn't thrive inside it.

Good luck to A&M the rest of the way,



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