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Six NCAA Bids For The SEC? Looks Like Three Or Four To Us

calculatorEach year as the NCAA Tournament draws near, we do a pretty darn good job of telling you which SEC teams will land bids and which won’t.  That’s not because we’re blessed with a sixth sense or a high basketball IQ; it’s because we’re blessed with a calculator.

Season in and season out, about 95% of NCAA Tournament field can be predicted by us, by bracketologists like Jerry Palm and Joe Lunardi, and by you.  If a team’s RPI is within the top 30 in the nation, it’s pretty much a lock to make the 68-team field.  If it’s in the 40s, 50s or 60s, that team’s chances are slim.  If it’s 70 or up there’s a high probability it’s NIT time.

So when we saw ESPN’s Lunardi predict last week that six SEC teams would make the tourney field we did a double-take.  Six?  Try four.  At least going by the math as it currently stands.

Below are the up-to-date tourney resumes for each SEC squad as we enter the conference portion of the 2013-14 schedule.  You’ll see there’s a pretty wide gap between the top schools and those bringing up the rear.  We compare each team’s record, RPI and strength of schedule ranking (from RealTimeRPI.com), and record against top 50 RPI teams.  Finally, we tally each squad’s remaining games against top 50 RPI competition to see which teams have the most chances to improve their standing with the selection committee:

 

  School   Record   RPI Rank   SOS Rank   Vs Top 50 RPI   Rem. Gms Vs Top 50 RPI
  Florida   11-2   16   48   3-2   3
  Kentucky   10-3   19   12   2-3   3
  Missouri   12-1   29   105   1-1   2
  LSU   9-3   53   67   0-2   4
  Tennessee   8-4   54   27   2-2   5
  Ole Miss   9-4   79   86   0-2   4
  Arkansas   11-2   83   212   2-1   5
  Vanderbilt   8-4   94   108   0-1   4
  S. Carolina   7-6   95   37   1-3   4
  Alabama   5-7   119   9   0-5   5
  Auburn   8-3   161   259   0-2   4
  Texas A&M   9-4   177   242   0-2   3
  Miss. State   10-3   183   336   0-0   4
  Georgia   6-6   257   264   0-2   4

 

So what do we know at this point?

 

1.  The SEC is once again a pretty bad basketball league.  In fact, a terrible weekend dropped the league from sixth in conference RPI all the way back down to eighth, where it languished for most of last season.

2.  The SEC is just 11-28 versus current top 50 RPI clubs.  That’s horrible.  Especially considering the fact that eight of the conference’s teams have played two or fewer top 50 teams.  To generalize, most SEC teams haven’t scheduled well —  Arkansas, Auburn, Texas A&M, MSU and Georgia all rank below 200 in strength of schedule — and those that have tested themselves against stiff competition have mostly flopped.

3.  Looking at the far right column you’ll find that teams can’t expect to do a lot of real resume-boosting in conference play.  At the moment there are only three SEC squads in the top 50 of the RPI.  Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama all have five games against league-mates, but most schools will only play three or four top 50 teams inside the league.  Missouri will only play Florida and Kentucky once each… that’s it… no other top 50 RPI games for the Tigers.

4.  From our perspective, the math suggests the SEC will receive three bids — maybe four — into this year’s Big Dance.  Obviously, things can change and these RPI and SOS ranks are constantly shifting.  But halfway through the season and locked into battles against one another, there probably won’t be enough shifting to land five or six teams in the tourney as Lunardi suggested last week.

5.  At the moment, Florida and Kentucky appear to be locks if they enjoy solid in-league runs.  If Mizzou can keep on winning, they should make the field as well.  After that, it gets a bit murky.

6.  If you’re in the 50s or 60s of the RPI you’re in dangerous bubble territory.  LSU and Tennessee can consider themselves warned.

7.  If you’re in the 70+ range, forget it.  You’re dead meat.  For that reason, Ole Miss and Arkansas had better put together some kind of stellar SEC campaign to garner consideration from the tourney selection panel.

8.  If LSU, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Arkansas — and let’s throw Missouri into this mix, too, due to their SOS — want to reach the tournament, they need to make sure they inflict as much damage on their bubble rivals as possible.  Tomorrow night’s game between Tennessee and LSU is not just important for each team’s record and RPI, it’s important as a head-to-head differentiator.  The winner will not only help its own cause come Selection Sunday but it will have damaged a rival school’s resume.  So the round-robin games between LSU, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Missouri are doubly important.

 

Once again, the Southeastern Conference has not done enough in the non-conference portion of the season to position itself for a happy tournament selection day.  Most of the league’s schools have a lot of work to do with few in-conference opportunities to do it.

Six bids?  From the math today that looks more like three or four to us.

 


3 comments
the_voice
the_voice

John, ESPN's RPI numbers for today (updated daily) are different than those listed in your article.:


(14) Florida, (25) Kentucky, (28) Missouri, (56) Arkansas, (62) Tennessee, (65) LSU, (88) Ole Miss, (94) South Carolina, (99) Vanderbilt, (109) Alabama, (167) Mississippi State, (170) Auburn, (197) Texas A&M, and (240) Georgia.

Their RPI numbers make a better case for four or five bids. (Of course, the SEC is embarrassingly low as a basketball conference with either set of RPI's.)

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@the_voice 


As stated in the piece I use RealTimeRPI.  I have for years used that site.  I believe it is more accurate than others in terms of who gets bids and who does not.  If you've read this site over time, you know that we're 95% correct on Selection Sunday, just like Lunardi and Palm and others.  


If others prefer ESPN's RPI or Palm's RPI or someone else's formula that's fine.  But here we'll use RealTimeRPI.  As stated clearly in the story above.  And right now... the SEC is looking at three or four bids.  


Thanks for reading,

John

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