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Tourney Hopes: A Deep Dive Into The SEC’s Current Resumes – 3/1/13

gfx - by the numbersSeventeen days from today — on St. Patrick’s Day — the SEC Tournament champion will be crowned and the NCAA Tournament field will be set and seeded.  When it comes to the league tourney, everyone’s got a shot to cut down the nets and guarantee themselves a little March Madness.

That’s the dream anyway.  Georgia lived it in 2008.  The Bulldogs entered the tourney with a 13-16 record (4-12 in the SEC).  They managed to survive a tornado at the Georgia Dome, a pair of overtime thrillers, and having to play two games in one day to win the whole darn mess and secure an NCAA tourney berth.

Perhaps someone can find a little luck this year, too.  As we said, the tourney ends on St. Patrick’s Day.

But barring miracles and luck in Nashville, the SEC is chugging toward Selection Sunday with just six teams still in the mix.  And that’s being generous.  Very generous.  Below are those six squads, their resumes, and what they still have left on their schedules.

Please remember that with 31 automatic bids being handed out, only 37 at-large bids exist.  So that RPI had better look pretty good come the third Sunday in March.

 

  Florida   Missouri   Kentucky   Tennessee   Ole Miss   Alabama
  RPI   5   36   50   53   55   63
  SOS   25   57   59   24   123   98
  Vs Div I   22-5   20-8   20-8   17-10   21-7   18-9
  Vs SEC   12-3   9-6   11-4   9-6   10-5   11-4
  Vs RPI 1-50   5-3   3-4   1-4   3-4   1-4   1-2
  Vs RPI 51-100   6-2   4-4   5-4   5-5   4-2   6-3
  Vs RPI 200+   7-0   10-0   10-0   5-0   10-1   6-1
  Vs Non-Conf (Away)   4-2   3-2   1-3   2-3   3-2   3-2
  Non-Conf SOS   6   103   54   36   272   72
  Avg RPI Win   127.7   164.4   161.3   142.3   173.9   150.2
  Avg RPI Loss   42.8   53.2   40.2   56.8   68.1   101.0
  Devastating Losses   None   None   None   None   @USC 202   @AUB 218
  This Weekend   ALA 63   LSU  92   @ARK 89   @UGA 143   @MSU 238   @UF 5
  Midweek   VU 132   ARK  89   @UGA 143   @AUB 218   ALA 63   @UM 55
  Final Weekend   @UK 50   @UT  53   UF 5   MU 36   @LSU 17-9   UGA 143
  Current Streak   Lost 1   Won 1   Won 3   Won 6   Won 2   Won 1

 

After five years of correctly predicting the SEC’s number of NCAA tourney bids, we’ve come to realize that it’s all about the math.  Yes, SEC bubble teams have to pray Cinderellas in other leagues don’t win their leagues.  And, sure, there are rare exceptions to the usual math-based rules.  But there’s a reason so many people can come close to predicting the exact field every year — the selection process is math driven.

Keep reading for some interesting facts on just how math-based-centric the process really is…

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SEC RPI Watch 2/25/13

gfx - by the numbersAs we told you earlier today, a compilation of information from 89 different bracket projections suggests that four SEC schools are currently NCAA Tournament-bound.  We say: Not so fast.  In fact, as of today, we believe there are only two SEC schools who are assured of making the tourney.

Those of you who’ve read our site for a while know that each year we track the RPI information and other important data for SEC schools throughout hoops season.  You probably also know that we’re usually dead-on in our tourney picks (as was the case just last year when we projected four teams all along, as opposed to other services who’d predicted five right up until Selection Sunday).

While the powers-that-be annually tell us that many factors go into selecting the NCAA field, the reality is that Selection Sunday almost always comes down to simple math.  There’s a reason guys like Jerry Palm are so accurate in their yearly assessments — its a science, not an art.  And when it comes to the math of selecting NCAA teams, most often the selection committee lets teams play themselves out rather than in.

So how do the current SEC tourney resumes stack up?  See below:

 

 

  School   RPI   SOS   Vs SEC   Vs D-I   Vs RPI Top 50   Vs RPI Top 100   Road W Vs Top 100   L Outside Top 100   Last 10
  Florida   4   22   12-2   22-4   5-3   11-4   3   0   8-2
  Missouri   38   52   8-6   19-8   3-4   7-8   0   0   6-4
  Kentucky   46   49   10-4   19-8   1-4   6-8   2   0   7-3
  Ole Miss   56   126   9-5   20-7   1-4   4-6   1   1   5-5
  Tennessee   57   36   8-6   16-10   2-4   7-9   1   1   7-3
  Alabama   62   84   10-4   17-9   1-2   7-5   0   4   7-3
  Arkansas   80   82   8-6   17-10   3-4   5-8   0   2   6-4
  Texas A&M   86   55   6-8   16-11   2-4   5-3   1   4   4-6
  LSU   97   133   7-7   16-9   1-4   4-6   0   3   7-3
  Georgia   123   51   7-7   13-14   0-6   4-9   2   5   6-4
  Vanderbilt   143   54   5-9   11-15   0-6   4-14   1   1   4-6
  S. Carolina   201   146   3-11   13-14   0-3   3-7   1   7   2-8
  Auburn   218   103   3-11   9-18   0-5   3-11   0   7   1-9
  Miss. State   241   112   2-12   7-19   0-5   0-14   0   5   0-10

 

So what would it take for each SEC team to make the NCAA Tournament at this point?  Read on…

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WOW Headlines – 2/18/13

Florida and Missouri appear to be the only SEC teams currently ticketed to the NCAA Tournament
The SEC has only three teams in the RPI top 50 (Florida, Missouri and Kentucky) and three teams before #200
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel will work with a quarterback guru in California this offseason
The Heisman-winning Manziel wants to pass more and run less in 2013
Kentucky coach John Calipari has backed away from comments he made over the weekend, saying now that his players are not “uncoachable”
SEC basketball action on Tuesday: LSU at Tennessee… Florida at Missouri
Follow the SEC all year long on MrSEC.com and twitter.com/mrsec

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SEC RPI Watch – 2/18/13

gfx - by the numbersOh, my.  The SEC’s NCAA tourney outlook just keeps getting worse and worse.  Aside from Florida, there’s reason for concern at every other SEC outpost.  Missouri can’t win on the road.  Kentucky looks lost without Nerlens Noel.  Ole Miss is a paltry 1-4 against top 50 RPI teams.  Alabama, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Arkansas are all fighting their own RPI rankings.

You might have seen the question in today’s headlines: Will the SEC be a one-bid league?  It’s possible.  For much of the season, Mike Slive’s league had boasted three resumes that we felt were NCAA Tournament worthy.  When Kentucky got hot, that number grew to four.  Now things look as though they could become considerably worse.

Here are the updated RPI numbers for each league team:

 

  School   RPI   SEC Record   Div. I Record   Top 50 RPI Record   Last Game
  Florida   4   11-1   21-3   5-2   83-52 W @AUB
  Missouri   38   7-5   18-7   2-3   71-73 L @ARK
  Kentucky   44   8-4   17-8   0-4   58-88 L @UT
  Ole Miss   51   8-4   19-6   1-4   84-74 W UGA
  Alabama   59   9-3   16-8   1-3   68-58 W USC
  Tennessee   69   6-6   14-10   2-4   88-58 W UK
  Texas A&M   75   5-7   15-10   3-4   56-63 L @VU
  Arkansas   77   7-5   16-9   3-3   73-71 W MU
  LSU   103   6-6   15-8   1-4   80-68 W MSU
  Georgia   120   6-6   12-13   0-6   74-84 L @UM
  Vanderbilt   140   4-8   10-14   0-5   63-56 W A&M
  S. Carolina   207   2-10   12-13   0-3   58-68 L @ALA
  Auburn   213   3-9   9-16   0-5   52-83 L UF
  Miss. State   231   2-10   7-17   0-5   68-80 L @LSU

 

Streaking

No SEC team currently has a win streak longer than three games.  On the other end of the spectrum, South Carolina has lost six games in a row while Mississippi State has dropped 10 in a row.

 

MrSEC.com NCAA Tournament Projection as of 2/18/13

If the tourney began today, Florida would be in line for a #1 or #2 seed.  Missouri would receive the league’s second bid.  Ole Miss doesn’t have a great resume — 1-4 vs the RPI top 50 would hurt — but with a weak crop of bubble teams nationwide, we’d give the Rebels the benefit of the doubt and barely slide them into the bracket.  That’s it.  Three bids at most for the SEC right now.

Kentucky’s numbers — and they’re not great numbers in the first place — are essentially moot pending the team’s play without Noel.  If UK struggles down the stretch, the committee will take note of what John Calipari’s roster is capable of doing right now.  Saturday, it didn’t look like his players were capable of doing very much at all without their best teammate on the floor.

 

Midweek Schedule

LSU at Tennessee (Tuesday, 7:00pm ET) — The Volunteers will likely have to win their last six games or at least five of six just to get in the NCAA conversation.

Florida at Missouri (Tuesday, 9:00pm ET) — A road win would aid the Gators’ push to earn a #1 seed, but this is a bigger game for Mizzou.  The Tigers need another quality win to strengthen their resume.

Ole Miss at South Carolina (Wednesday, 7:00pm ET) — A must-win game for the Rebels.  A loss at Carolina would be devastating.

Vanderbilt at Kentucky (Wednesday, 8:00pm ET) — Will the Wildcats show some fight or just throw in the towel on the season?

Texas A&M at Auburn (Wednesday, 8:00pm ET) — A must-win game for the Aggies.  With slim NCAA hopes, A&M can’t afford to lose to a team with an RPI in the 200s.

Mississippi State at Alabama (Wednesday, 8:00pm ET) — Like Texas A&M and Ole Miss, Alabama can’t lose to a sub-200 RPI opponent.

Georgia at Arkansas (Thursday, 7:00pm ET) — Now is no time for the Razorbacks to lose on at home.  To keep hope alive, the Hogs have to win.

 

 

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Injury To UK’s Noel Could Hurt All SEC Teams’ Tourney Hopes

nerlens-noel-mugThe season-ending ACL tear suffered by Nerlens Noel on Tuesday has the sports world again debating whether players should be able to jump straight into the NBA from high school.  (Sorry, but just about every company has some form of hiring requirements, whether it’s a college degree or a minimum age.  The NBA can set its own rules.)

Noel’s injury also has many college basketball writers predicting doom for Kentucky’s Wildcats.  (They weren’t a great team before, but they at least had potential to make a deep tourney run.  Now that’ll be much tougher.)

But there’s one nugget that hasn’t been discussed — how Noel’s injury will hurt the SEC’s other tourney hopefuls.  Granted, there aren’t many SEC teams inside the NCAA Tournament bubble in the first place.

Florida is a lock.  Missouri will be in barring a collapse.  Ole Miss is playing its way out of the tourney by losing four of its last five in a weak SEC.  Alabama and Texas A&M are long shots at best.

Kentucky looks like a tourney team — barely — based on its current numbers: an RPI of 43, a record of 17-7.  Trouble is, if UK starts losing without Noel, the Cats’ RPI will start to fall.  And if Kentucky’s RPI falls, the RPI numbers for all the SEC’s teams will fall right along with it.  A win over a Kentucky team with an RPI of 43 is one thing.  A win over a Kentucky team with an RPI of 53 or 63 is another.

So in case the non-Wildcat fans out there needed another reason to feel bad about the big man’s injury… there you have it.  Noel’s injury could hurt your team on Selection Sunday, too.

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The Bracketologists See The SEC As We Do… With 4 Teams In The Big Dance

crystal-ball-fortune-teller2Yesterday we told you that a quick check of the current RPI numbers suggests the SEC would get just four teams into the NCAA Tournament if the selection committee convened this week.  Now the true bracket gurus have spoken and they see things just as we do — Florida, Missouri, Kentucky and Ole Miss are in, everyone else is out.  If the teams were picked today.

Here’s the up-to-date projection from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi:

 

Florida, #2 seed in South (Arlington) Region vs #15 seed Western Illinois

Kentucky, #9 seed in Midwest (Indianapolis) Region vs #8 seed VCU

Missouri, #9 seed in West (Los Angeles) Region vs #8 seed UNLV

Ole Miss, #10 seed in West (Los Angeles) Region vs #7 seed Cincinnati

 

And here’s the latest projection from Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com:

 

Florida, #3 seed in East (Washington, DC) Region vs #11 seed St. Louis

Missouri, #8 seed in West (Los Angeles) Region vs #9 seed Colorado

Ole Miss, #9 seed in Midwest (Indianapolis) Region vs #8 seed Creighton

Kentucky, #10 seed in Midwest (Indianapolis) Region vs #7 seed Colorado State

 

A #3 seed for Florida?  Sorry, not buying that one.  Even if the SEC’s conference RPI is an abysmal #8.

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Why Is The SEC Thriving In Football, Struggling In Basketball? Money

bag of moneyThe Southeastern Conference is known for football.  Seven BCS titles in row.  Five different schools with BCS crowns since the system’s inception in 1998.  Big name coaches, famous stadiums, dominant recruiting.

Mention the words “college football” and the letters S-E-C will pop into most people’s minds.

But utter the words “SEC basketball” and a different three letters come to mind: B-A-D.

Spin it any way you like, Mike Slive’s league is struggling through an abysmal season.  Florida has been dominant.  Kentucky finally appears to be rounding into shape.  Missouri has been a little worse than expected; Ole Miss a little better.  After that, it’s unlikely any of the conference’s 10 remaining teams will receive at-large invitations to the NCAA Tournament.  Saddled with a #8 RPI ranking among conferences, four bids might be generous.

In an age when the NCAA Tournament has been expanding, the number of SEC tourney berths has been declining.  This is more than a down year… it’s a trend:

 

  Tournament   # of Bids (League Rank)   Tourney Record   Best Finish
  2012   4 (5th among leagues)   10-3   National Champion
  2011   5 (3rd among leagues)   7-5   Final Four
  2010   4 (5th among leagues)   6-4   Two in Elite Eight
  2009   3 (6th among leagues)   1-3   Round of 32
  2008   6 (2nd among leagues)   4-6   Sweet Sixteen
  2007   5 (4th among leagues)   11-4   National Champion
  2006   6 (2nd among leagues)   13-5   National Champion
  2005   5 (3rd among leagues)   5-5   Elite Eight
  2004   6 (tied for 1st among leagues)   7-6   Elite Eight
  2003   6 (tied for 1st among leagues)   6-6   Elite Eight

 

From afar, the SEC has continued to have success — in most years — in the NCAA Tournament regardless of its dwindling number of bids.  But in many of those seasons, the SEC was dominated by just one or two teams.  That’s a far cry from the top-to-bottom toughness produced by the very same schools on the gridiron.

Using mathematician/hoops guru Ken Pomeroy’s computer rankings as a guide, here’s a look at the SEC teams that finished in his top 20 over the past decade:

 

2012:  #1 Kentucky, #12 Florida, #16 Vanderbilt

2011:  #6 Kentucky, #16 Florida

2010:  #3 Kentucky

2009:  None

2008:  #14 Tennessee

2007:  #2 Florida, #14 Kentucky

2006:  #1 Florida, #10 LSU, #15 South Carolina, #17 Arkansas, #20 Kentucky

2005:  #6 Florida, #10 Kentucky, #18 Alabama

2004:  #9 Kentucky, #17 Mississippi State

2003:  #2 Kentucky, #12 Mississippi State, #14 Florida, #17 LSU, #18 Georgia

 

As you can see, the number of top 20-caliber teams from the SEC has fallen drastically.  There were 17 SEC teams in the final top 20 of Pomeroy’s rankings from 2003 to 2007.  From 2008 to 2012, there have been just seven teams in his final top 20 rankings.

Worse, of the 24 top 20 slots filled by SEC squads in the last decade, 14 were filled by two schools: Florida and Kentucky.  Compare that to the SEC’s football success where in the last five years Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas and Texas A&M have all had top 10-type seasons.

(In case you’re wondering Pomeroy’s current hoops rankings have Florida #1 and Kentucky #18.  No other SEC schools rank in his top 20.  Same song, different verse.)

So why do 14 schools that recruit the same areas in both sports have such drastically different results when it comes to football and basketball?

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WOW Headlines – 2/11/13

The SEC has four basketball teams in the top 40 of the RPI rankings… Florida #4, Missouri #33, Ole Miss #45, and Kentucky #49
Kentucky and Georgia are currently riding five-game winning streaks
Mississippi State has lost eight consecutive games
In SEC hoops action Sunday, Tennessee defeated South Carolina 66-61 for its first road win of the year
Vol point guard Trae Golden returned from a hamstring injury to play in yesterday’s game
South Carolina coach Frank Martin on his team’s offense: “It’s embarrassing.”
Mississippi State G Jalen Steele has been suspended indefinitely due to a violation of team rules
Follow the SEC all year long at MrSEC.com and twitter.com/mrsec

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SEC RPI Watch – 2/11/13

gfx - by the numbersAt this point, the SEC has pretty much nailed down the #8 spot in the conference RPI rankings.  And that’s not a good thing.

Judging only the team-by-team RPI ratings, four SEC schools appear to be in decent shape in terms of making the NCAA Tournament.  A fifth squad is on the bubble, but the league’s overall #8 ranking will likely make it tough for any SEC team ranked below 50th on the RPI chart to earn an at-large bid from the selection committee.

Below are the updated numbers…

 

  School   RPI   SEC Record   Div. I Record   Last Game
  Florida   4   9-1   19-3   83-58 W MSU
  Missouri   33   6-4   17-6   98-79 W UM
  Ole Miss   45   7-3   18-5   79-98 L @MU
  Kentucky   49   8-2   17-6   72-61 W AUB
  Alabama   64   7-3   14-8   60-57 W LSU
  Texas A&M   76   4-6   14-9   46-52 L @UGA
  Tennessee   85   4-6   12-10   66-61 W @USC
  Arkansas   100   5-5   14-9   49-67 L @VU
  Georgia   111   6-4   12-11   52-46 W A&M
  LSU   112   4-6   13-8   57-60 L @ALA
  Vanderbilt   146   3-7   9-13   67-49 W ARK
  Auburn   205   3-7   9-14   62-72 L @UK
  S. Carolina   209   2-8   12-11   61-66 L UT
  Miss. State   224   2-8   7-15   58-83 L @ UF

 

Streaking

Kentucky and Georgia have both won five games in a row.  For UK, such a run was expected (inevitable).  For UGA, it’s a bit more of a surprise as Mark Fox has held his squad together and now led them back to the upper half of the SEC standings board.

On the other end of things are South Carolina and Mississippi State.  The Gamecocks have lost four in a row while Rick Ray’s thin roster of Bulldogs has endured eight straight defeats.

 

MrSEC.com NCAA Tourament Projection as of 2/11/13

If the tournament began today, Florida would be in with either a #1 or #2 seed.  The Gators are the only SEC team with a winning record versus the RPI top 50 (5-2).  Missouri would be in as well.  Ole Miss and Kentucky — with RPI ranks of #45 and #49 respectively — would likely get at-large bids.

Alabama is currently on the bubble with the nation’s 64th best RPI, but with the SEC down, that number probably wouldn’t provide the Tide with a bid.

 

Midweek Schedule

Kentucky at Florida (Tuesday, 7pm ET) — It’s a shame this head-to-head battle for the SEC lead won’t feature injured Gator Will Yeguete.

Alabama at Georgia (Tuesday, 9pm ET)

Ole Miss at Texas A&M (Wednesday, 7pm ET)

Missouri at Mississippi State (Wednesday, 8pm ET)

Tennessee at Vanderbilt (Wednesday, 8pm ET)

Arkansas at Auburn (Wednesday, 9pm ET)

LSU at South Carolina (Thursday, 7pm ET)

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Weekend SEC Hoops Action: Why These Games Matter

basketballHere’s a quick breakdown of this weekend’s SEC basketball schedule.  More importantly, we’ll also look at what’s riding on each contest…

 

SATURDAY

Ole Miss (18-4, 7-2, RPI 47) at Missouri (16-6, 5-4, RPI 35), 1:00pm ET – Ole Miss would be in the NCAA tourney if it began today.  Realistically, Mizzou probably needs this game more.  The Tigers struggle on the road and they’re 1-4 vs RPI top 50 teams.  This is a chance for a solid win at home.

 

Arkansas (14-8, 5-4, RPI 83) at Vanderbilt (8-13, 2-7, RPI 157), 1:30pm ET – The Hogs have an outside shot of playing themselves back onto the NCAA bubble.  The occasional road win would be nice, but that’s not exactly a highlight of Mike Anderson’s resume.  Vandy is down and their postseason hopes are nil right now, so if the Razorbacks are going to steal a game on the road, this is the one to steal.

 

Auburn (9-13, 3-6, RPI 203) at Kentucky (16-6, 7-2, RPI 44), 4:00pm ET – Auburn’s fate appears to be sealed, but Kentucky is heating up.  UK has won eight of its last 10 and four in a row.  With the talent on the Wildcats’ roster, a long winning streak is certainly possible.  A loss in Rupp to Auburn would be devastating for the Cats’ RPI score and confidence.

 

Mississippi State (7-14, 2-7, RPI 232) at Florida (18-3, 8-1, RPI 4), 5:00pm ET – Poor Ricky Ray will have to take his undermanned team to Gainesville were a group of smarting Gators will look to bounce back from a midweek loss at Arkansas.  If there’s a ray of hope — a “Rick Ray of hope” if you will — for the Bulldogs, it’s the fact that Will Yeguete will be out.  UF will have to learn to win without its second-leading rebounder and school starts tomorrow.

 

Texas A&M (14-8, 4-5, RPI 73) at Georgia (11-11, 5-4, RPI 118), 5:00pm ET – Last night’s win over Missouri was a season-saver for the Aggies.  Their RPI suggests there’s still a slim chance of reaching NCAA bubble status.  But they’ll have to knock off — on the road — a Georgia team that’s won four games in a row.  UGA is playing for the NIT now, it appears, but Mark Fox’s team has shown some toughness in overcoming an ugly 1-4 SEC start.

 

LSU (13-7, 4-5, RPI 107) at Alabama (13-8, 6-3, RPI 69), 8:00pm ET – Alabama has beaten LSU eight times in a row.  Considering LSU’s RPI score, the Tide had better make sure tomorrow’s game is #9.  Alabama is barely in the NCAA Tournament bubble zone as it is.  A home loss to LSU could be a killer.  Johnny Jones’ Bayou Bengals have won three in a row to climb within a game of .500 in league play.  Steal a win at Bama and LSU could start thinking NIT.

 

SUNDAY

Tennessee (11-10, 3-6, RPI 105) at South Carolina (12-10, 2-7, RPI 196), 1:00pm ET – Blech.  Carolina’s lost three in a row; Tennessee’s dropped back-to-back games including a home loss to Georgia.  The Cocks are shorthanded due to roster woes.  The Vols are shorthanded due to key injuries.  Neither team has much hope of anything other than an NIT bid and even those hopes are fading.

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