March 10th, 2014 12:00 PM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
Tags: Gators, Mizzou Tigers, RPI, SEC, Selection Sunday
With a perfect 18-0 conference mark and the nation’s #2 RPI, Florida should be locked in as a #1 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. And despite recent struggles, Kentucky — #20 in the RPI — is also a gimme when it comes to this year’s at-large bids.
As for the rest of the league? There’s still work to do.
Tennessee has worked its way to the top of the SEC’s at-large hopefuls, but the Vols still probably need one more win in Atlanta to feel confident. Missouri’s chances have taken a hit (after a blowout loss at Tennessee) as have Arkansas’ hopes (after a blowout loss at Alabama). Everyone else will likely need an SEC Tournament title if they’re to reach the NCAAs.
Ah, but would an upset winner in the Georgia Dome give the SEC a fourth team in the dance or would that Cinderella simply steal the spot of a bubble team like Tennessee? With the SEC’s conference RPI still around seventh, we’re guessing an unexpected champ like Georgia (2008) or Ole Miss (2013) would replace Tennessee (or Missouri or Arkansas) as the league’s third team in the tourney.
As we’ve shown you previously, only 15 of the 111 at-large bids handed out since the field expanded to 68 teams have gone to teams with an RPI rank between 40 and 49. Only 11 of 111 have gone to teams ranked between 50 and 59. And only three have gone to teams with RPI ranks over 60. So below we’ll look at only those SEC squads with RPI rankings in the 40s, 50s and low-60s. That’s only three teams, folks — the Vols, the Mizzou Tigers, and the Razorbacks.
|Avg RPI Wins||140.2||144.0||158.1|
|Avg RPI Losses||62.9||64.8||61.2|
|N-Conf Avg RPI||131.8||153.3||180.1|
|Vs RPI 1-50||2-5||2-3||4-5|
|Vs RPI 51-100||5-3||5-5||4-3|
|Vs RPI 101-200||8-3||9-2||6-2|
|Vs RPI 201+||4-0||5-0||7-0|
As you can see, Tennessee has a clear advantage over its league rivals when it comes to the numbers that appear on the selection committee’s team sheets. About the only place where the Vols lag behind is in non-conference record, but the Tigers and Hogs played easier non-conference slates.
Pre-Atlanta, we believe any at-large bid going to the Southeastern Conference would go to Tennessee.
If the league were to get a fourth at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, we — unlike most bracketologists out there — believe Mizzou would be in line for that berth before Arkansas. The Tigers beat the Razorbacks in both of their head-to-head matchups and they currently hold advantages in RPI, strength of schedule, and non-conference strength of schedule. The Tigers are 7-8 versus top 100 foes while Arkansas is 8-8 (albeit with two more wins versus top 50 squads).
At the moment, we don’t see the SEC landing four at-large bids. And we don’t picture Tennessee as a lock for the tourney, either. So who needs to do what in Atlanta?
On Thursday, both Missouri and Arkansas will be in action. The #8 seed Tigers will open the day with a 1pm ET battle with #9 seed Texas A&M. The Aggies are RPI 141. A loss would snuff out Mizzou’s hopes once and for all. To merit discussion on Selection Sunday, Frank Haith’s team will need to get past A&M and into Saturday’s semifinals versus top-seeded Florida. Upset the Gators and Missouri’s chances would skyrocket. Lose to the Gators in a good game and it could still aid the Tigers’ overall numbers.
At about 3:30pm ET on Thursday, #5 seed Arkansas will face the winner of Wednesday night’s Auburn (RPI 176) versus South Carolina (RPI 157) game. The Hogs won’t be helped by playing a squad with such a shoddy RPI. A win is a must. With a win, the Razorbacks would get a head-to-head shot at #4 seed — and bubble rival — Tennessee on Friday afternoon. UT gets one of four double-byes in this year’s tourney. A matchup between the Vols and Hogs could serve as a de facto NCAA Tournament play-in game.
Tennessee, then Missouri, then Arkansas.
Based on the numbers used by the selection committee as well as the history of at-large bids handed out over the past three seasons, that’s how we rank the SEC’s few remaining NCAA Tournament hopefuls. But there’s still work to be done this week before any of those teams breathe a sigh of relief.
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