Four teams, one spot. Maybe.
The SEC currently ranks as the #7 conference in overall RPI. Only two of its teams rank inside the top 47 teams in the nation. Five teams rank below 100 in the RPI. Overall, it’s not a great outlook for a league that was hoping to receive a few more NCAA Tournament bids this year.
Last week we broke down the at-large bid numbers for the past three NCAA tourneys (since the field expanded to 68 and the number of at-large bids rose to 37). Those findings again:
* 82 of 111 at-large bids (73.8%) have gone to teams ranked between 1-39 in RPI on Selection Sunday. Florida and Kentucky, therefore, are sitting pretty despite the latter’s recent struggles.
* Just 15 of 111 at-large bids (13.5%) have gone to teams ranked between 40-49 in the RPI. That’s where Missouri and Tennessee sit today.
* Only 11 of 111 at-large bids (9.9%) have gone to teams ranked between 50-59 in the RPI. Arkansas is currently in that range, but just barely.
* Just three of 111 at-large bids (2.7%) have gone to teams ranked 60 or worse in the RPI. That leaves LSU with slim hopes.
No other SEC squads rank higher than 84th. So barring some final week wins and long SEC Tournament runs, the Georgias and Mississippis of the world can start focusing on the NIT.
Below are the current NCAA resumes for the four SEC teams still vying, hoping and praying for NCAA at-large berths. We’ve used much of the same data that’s found on the actual team sheets provided to selection committee members. And while the committee no longer considers the final 10 or 12 games as a category for comparison (in order to make teams schedule tougher early in the season), we still list each team’s record over its last 10. While it might not be a category listed on the NCAA’s team sheets, committee members will likely know who’s hot and who’s not.
See for yourself who looks bid-worthy:
| Overall Record
| SEC Record
| Avg RPI Wins
| Avg RPI Losses
| Non-Conf Record
| Non-Conf Avg RPI
| True Road Record
| Vs RPI 1-50
| Vs RPI 100+
| Best Win
|| Virginia (#10)
|| UCLA (#22)
|| Kentucky (#19) twice
|| Kentucky (#19)
| Record Last 10
| Remaining Games
|| at AU, MU
|| A&M, at UT
|| UM, at ALA
|| at VU, UGA
SEC squads will be competing with teams outside the SEC for tourney bids — obviously — but after conducting these types of exercises for 5+ years, it’s safe to say that none of the four teams listed above have sewn up anything yet.
Tennessee and Missouri stand the best chance of getting in based on their RPI. Those two will meet in the season finale Saturday in Knoxville. That contest will be huge. And neither team can afford a stumble in their midweek games, either.
Arkansas is one of the hottest teams in what’s been a wildly inconsistent SEC this season. Winning twice versus Kentucky is a boost, but South Carolina’s takedown of the Cats took a little luster of those wins.
LSU’s hopes are dim. Had they managed to win an overtime game at Kentucky a few days back their dossier would look a bit better.
This race for a third bid — and maybe a fourth if everything breaks the SEC’s way — will simply come down to who finishes best. It’s unlikely that any of these teams will be able to lock up a bid prior to the SEC Tournament. Who plays whom in Atlanta and who advances farthest will play a major role in determining who goes dancing.
Bet On Tennessee: The Vols have the 16th best strength of schedule in the country. They’ve faced three top 10 RPI teams in Florida, Wichita State and Virginia.
Bet Against Tennessee: UT knocked off ACC champion Virginia back in December, but the Volunteers are just 2-6 against top 50 RPI teams overall. They played a tough schedule, but they didn’t win enough of those tough games.
Bet On Missouri: It’s hard to make a case for the Tigers aside from their RPI. Compared to the other SEC bubble teams, there’s little that stands out.
Bet Against Missouri: They’re 8-8 in what’s viewed as a bad SEC. Making matters worse, they’ve only played four top 50 RPI teams overall.
Bet On Arkansas: They’re peaking at the right time, they’re no longer a guaranteed dud on the road and they’re an impressive (for SEC standards) 4-5 against top 50 RPI foes.
Bet Against Arkansas: Streaking at the end of the season is no longer a major selection factor. A weak non-conference slate (average RPI just 180) could come back to bite them as well.
Bet On LSU: Uh, the Tigers’ schedule was comparable/a bit tougher than Missouri’s?
Bet Against LSU: The Bayou Bengals just don’t have enough positives on their team sheet to earn an at-large bid. LSU needs to finish very hot this week and in next week’s SEC Tournament.