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A Stats-Based Look At Which SEC Teams Will Reach The Sweet 16

With the NCAA Tournament getting underway on Thursday — sorry, but tonight’s play-in games don’t feel like the tourney to this writer — we at MrSEC.com wanted to take a by-the-numbers look at each SEC team’s chances of reaching the Sweet Sixteen.

Below you’ll see each SEC team’s four-team (or in some cases five-team) pod.  Some have five teams because the 16th seed in their pods will be determined tonight.

Let’s get to the numbers (including overall record, RPI, strength of schedule, record vs RPI Top 50, record versus RPI Top 100, and road and neutral site wins against RPI Top 50 teams):


South Region in Louisville

School
Record
RPI
SOS
Vs Top 50
Vs Top 100
R/N W Vs Top 50
1 Kentucky
32-2
2
25
9-2
18-2
4
16 Miss. Valley St.
21-12
144
310
0-5
0-7
0
16 W. Kentucky
15-18
189
140
0-4
2-8
1
             
8 Iowa State
22-10
33
39
5-7
6-8
1
9 UConn
20-13
32
3
3-8
9-11
2



East Region in Albuquerque

School
Record
RPI
SOS
Vs Top 50
Vs Top 100
R/N W Vs Top 50
5 Vanderbilt
24-10
20
6
5-5
16-8
3
12 Harvard
26-4
35
184
1-1
5-3
1
             
4 Wisconsin
24-9
23
16
6-7
11-7
4
13 Montana
25-6
74
203
1-1
3-3
0



West Region in Omaha

School
Record
RPI
SOS
Vs Top 50
Vs Top 100
R/N W Vs Top 50
7 Florida
23-10
30
24
4-6
9-9
2
10 Virginia
22-9
53
86
2-6
7-6
1
             
2 Missouri
30-4
10
69
11-3
12-3
7
15 Norfolk St.
25-9
128
308
0-2
2-3
0



Midwest Region in Greensboro

School
Record
RPI
SOS
Vs Top 50
Vs Top 100
R/N W Vs Top 50
1 N. Carolina
29-5
4
5
8-5
12-5
4
16 Lamar
23-11
108
216
0-4
0-5
0
16 Vermont
23-11
135
271
0-3
0-5
0
 
           
8 Creighton
28-5
24
102
3-1
8-3
2
9 Alabama
21-11
36
30
3-6
8-10
3



Observations by team:


Kentucky — The Wildcats’ biggest challenge might come from an up-and-down UConn club.  UK’s a favorite to win the whole tourney.  Reaching the Sweet Sixteen shouldn’t be a problem.

Vanderbilt — I don’t like the Commodores’ pod at all.  First, they’re matched with a Harvard team that had a winning record in eight games against RPI Top 100 opponents.  Back in November the Crimson bested Florida State, a team that went on to beat UNC and Duke twice each.  They won’t be scared of Vandy. 

Get past Harvard and a tough Wisconsin team will likely be waiting in the next round.  If VU’s hitting their shots, they can make a long run.  But if they’re cold — as we’ve seen in previous tourneys — they can exit early.  The committee did them no favors.

Florida — Another rough draw for an SEC squad.  Especially a team that just hasn’t been the same since losing Will Yeguete from its frontline.  Virginia had a winning record in 13 games against Top 100 opponents.  And Missouri is waiting for the Gators if they get past UVA.  Look at their numbers — 12-3 versus Top 100 foes with seven road or neutral site wins versus the RPI Top 50?  Billy Donovan’s team has its work cut out for it.

Alabama — It’s no surprise that the lowest-seeded SEC team also has the toughest path to the Sweet Sixteen.  Creighton won the ever-tough Missouri Valley Conference and went 8-3 against RPI Top 100 teams.  Survive the Blue Jays and #1 seed North Carolina is next.  In Greensboro.


So how many SEC teams will reach the Sweet Sixteen?  It’s tempting to say only Kentucky.  Clearly, they’ve got the easiest path to make a deep run.  But we’ll roll the dice that Kevin Stallings’ experienced Vandy club will knock down their shots and fend off a couple of slow-paced teams to reach the school’s first Sweet Sixteen since 2007.  (If they do make it that far, a potential regional semifinal matchup with #1 seed Syracuse just got easier with the news that the ‘Cuse will be without it’s 7-foot center and top rebounder, Fab Melo, for the tourney.)

Kentucky and Vandy will make it.  Florida and Alabama won’t.

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From Best To Worst, A Comparison Of SEC Hoops Teams In 2010-11

Looking forward to the NCAA Tournament, we wanted to provide you with a team-by-team comparison of all the current SEC hoops resumes.  Below you’ll see the league’s NCAA hopefuls as well as the NIT wannabes… all the way down to the duds of the league in 2010-11.

You’ll be able to find each SEC squad’s:


* Overall record
* SEC record
* Current RPI
* Current strength of schedule
* Current computer rating (from Ken Pomeroy)
* Record over their last 10 games
* Record versus RPI Top 50 teams
* Record versus RPI Top 100 teams
* Record versus RPI Top 200 teams
* Losses Outside the Top 100


Teams are listed below according to their current RPI:

School
Overall
SEC
RPI
SOS
Comp. Rat.
Last 10
Vs Top 50
Vs Top 100
Vs Top 200
Bad Losses
Florida
24-6
13-3
10
6
18
8-2
10-2
15-3
19-6
3
Kentucky
22-8
10-6
12
13
10
6-4
8-5
9-8
17-8
1
Vanderbilt
21-9
9-7
26
14
28
6-4
5-7
10-7
15-9
2
Tennessee
18-13
8-8
36
3
55
4-6
8-6
11-10
14-12
3
Georgia
20-10
9-7
39
36
56
6-4
3-9
5-10
12-10
0
Alabama
20-10
12-4
79
125
48
7-3
3-3
4-6
9-10
3
Ole Miss
19-12
7-9
81
75
73
6-4
1-5
5-8
10-11
4
Miss. St.
17-13
9-7
112
88
119
6-4
2-4
4-9
9-11
4
Arkansas
18-12
7-9
120
111
100
4-6
3-5
5-8
7-11
3
S. Carolina
14-15
5-11
128
67
125
2-8
2-11
4-12
7-14
3
LSU
11-20
3-13
219
115
230
1-9
0-6
0-11
3-18
9
Auburn
10-19
4-12
254
146
211
4-6
1-5
2-8
4-15
11



At this point Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Tennessee are all expected to be in the NCAA Tournament.  Bracket masters Joe Lunardi, Jerry Palm and Andy Glockner place all four in their latest mock-ups.

But Tennessee is an unusual case.  They have some very good wins (Villanova, Pittsburgh, at Vanderbilt) and they would get credit for two more wins versus Top 50 RPI squads if Belmont were to move up a slot from #51.

But the Vols have struggled down the stretch losing six of their last nine games.  Against RPI Top 50 squads, UT has lost four of its last five. 

Thursday, they face Arkansas in the first round of the SEC Tournament, a team that beat UT in Fayetteville in January.  A win would definitely secure an at-large bid for Tennessee, but a loss?  The Vols are probably in the field now, but to be safe, they can’t afford to tank against the Hogs.

Georgia is in the field according to Palm, but not according to Lunardi and Glockner.  Lunardi has UGA as one of his “first four out” meaning they just miss his cut.

When you look at the other teams on the bubble from across the country — as we did here — you’ll find that the Dawgs stack up quite well.  But they still have to do work in Atlanta to lock up a bid.  First, UGA must face improving Auburn.  The Tigers’ won’t help Georgia’s RPI or strength of the schedule, they’ll just be an added victory (if, of course, Mark Fox’s team gets by them).  Beat Auburn and the Dawgs will face a potential play-in game with Alabama — another bubble team — in the second round.

UGA has a better resume than Alabama, but if they lose twice to the Tide in the final seven days of the season, will they get a bid over Bama?  While most forecasters projected six SEC teams into the Big Dance for much of the year, we’ve sat patiently at five.  Now that two gurus have dropped the SEC to four teams, we’re feeling even better about our prediction of five teams.  UGA needs to beat Auburn and Alabama to feel secure about grabbing that fifth slot.

Alabama is the true wild card in all of this.  They have finished strong, yes, but their strength of schedule (#125) is one of the worst among bubble teams.  Even their nifty SEC record (12-4) was dampened by a 2-3 record against RPI Top 50 foes.

The Crimson Tide are the only SEC bubble team with a big reason not to include them — that strength of schedule.  We spend so much time talking about why teams deserve to be in, occasionally we should reverse our thinking.  Which team’s have a reason to be left out?  If the selection committee takes that approach, then it’s hard to imagine Alabama getting a bid.

That said, could the committee ignore the fact that Bama would have beaten Georgia twice in seven days (if they defeat them in the SEC tourney’s second round)?  Tough call.

To be safe, Alabama needs to put together a strong, deep SEC tourney run.  In fact, they probably need to win at least two games and reach the league finals to earn an at-large bid.  And even then things could still get tricky.


Our projections going into the SEC tourney:

Florida is a #3 seed in the Big Dance and could possibly grab a #2 seed if it wins the SEC tourney.

Kentucky is a #4 seed, but the Wildcats’ consecutive wins over Vanderbilt, Florida and Tennessee (on the road) have them on the rise.

Vanderbilt is in and likely headed toward a #6 seed, depending on their play in Atlanta.

Tennessee is in, but they can’t afford a bad loss to Arkansas in the SEC tourney.  If they get in, they’re looking at anything from a #9 seed to a #12 seed.

Georgia and Alabama need to take care of business at the Georgia Dome to secure bids.  More than likely, they’ll wind up playing in the second round for the SEC’s final berth.  And that’s if UGA gets by Auburn.


UPDATE – Misters Glockner, Lunardi and Palm will update their brackets all week.  This report was based upon their Monday night brackets.

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A Look At The SEC’s Tourney Resumes – 2/15/11

It’s less than a month until the NCAA’s Selection Sunday and teams across the SEC are jockeying for postseason position.  Florida, Kentucky and Vanderbilt are playing for higher seeds.  Tennessee is trying to keep a bid from slipping away.  And Georgia and Alabama are battling to earn at-large berths.

Currently, most of the big-name bracketologists project six SEC teams into the NCAA tourney field.  If we were talking about the period of time from 1999 to 2004, then we’d agree with them.  For those six consecutive seasons, the Southeastern Conference landed six squads in the Big Dance.  But that hasn’t been the case recently.

The league landed five bids in 2005, six in ’06, five in ’07, six in ’08, just three in ’09 and four last season.  As a league, the SEC ranks just 5th or 6th in conference RPI this season, depending on the service you use.  Add it up and we still believe the league is looking at five bids, not six. 

That said, what we don’t know is this: How the committee will fill the three new slots it’s created for this year’s tourney (big names or mid-majors?) and how many upsets will take place in league tournaments across the country… upsets that gobble up at-large bids from bubble teams.

Below, we’ll look at the league’s tournament resumes as of today.  Included are each squad’s overall record, conference record, current RPI rank, current strength of schedule rank, record in their last 10 games, and their record against Top 50 RPI teams, Top 100 RPI teams and Top 200 RPI teams.

Those last two stats are very important according to computer guru Jerry Palm.  According to Palm, no team has won an at-large bid without at least three RPI Top 100 wins.  And only two teams in the last 17 years have made the March Madness field without posting a .500 record versus Top 200 teams.

We’ll post these numbers in order of each team’s current RPI rating:


RPI
School
Overall Record
SEC Record
SOS
Last 10
Vs Top 50
Vs Top 100
Vs Top 200
12
Florida
20-5
9-2
6
8-2
8-1
11-2
17-5
14
Kentucky
17-7
5-5
10
5-5
5-5
6-7
12-7
15
Vanderbilt
18-6
6-4
13
7-3
4-4
9-4
17-6
25
Tennessee
15-10
5-5
3
5-5
6-4
10-7
11-10
41
Georgia
17-7
6-4
40
5-5
2-7
4-7
10-7
61
Ole Miss
16-9
4-6
42
4-6
2-5
3-8
9-9
87
Alabama
16-8
8-2
120
8-2
2-2
3-4
8-8
110
Arkansas
15-9
5-6
101
4-6
2-5
4-6
6-8
119
S. Carolina
13-10
4-6
82
4-6
2-7
3-8
6-9
143
Miss. State
13-11
5-5
103
5-5
1-3
2-7
5-10
218
LSU
10-15
2-8
133
2-8
0-4
0-8
2-14
271
Auburn
8-15
2-8
172
2-8
1-4
1-6
4-12



From this table, we’ll give you our own current SEC Hot List… our 1 to 12 rankings of the best teams in the league:


1.  Florida — If the tourney started today, the Gators might be a quiet contender for a #2 seed.  Look at their records against Top 50 and Top 100 foes.  To date, UF has been the absolute class of the conference.

2.  Vanderbilt — The Commodores have a slight edge over Kentucky for the league’s second-best seed.

3.  Kentucky — The Wildcats just barely hold the lead over Tennessee for the SEC’s third slot in the NCAA tourney.

4.  Tennessee — The Vols’ are just 8-10 since a 7-0 start to the season (which included big wins over Villanova and Pittsburgh).  UT needs to stop the bleeding to hang on to their at-large bid. 

5.  Georgia — The Bulldogs inch past Alabama for — in our view — the league’s fifth and final NCAA bid.  UGA can’t afford to stumble down the stretch, however.

6.  Alabama – The eye test says Alabama is better than Georgia right now.  This team’s defense makes it a tough foe for anyone.  But RPI and strength of schedule still must be considered and UGA is better in both areas.  For now.

7.  Ole Miss — Andy Kennedy’s team is haunted by a slow start in conference play.  But the NIT will take them… again.

8.  Arkansas — The Razorbacks (like Ole Miss) are an average basketball team.  Barring a collapse, the NIT awaits.

9.  South Carolina — If they can avoid a late-season swoon, they can earn an NIT bid.

10.  Mississippi State — MSU would have jumped ahead of Carolina on this list if not for a horrific loss to Auburn over the weekend.

11.  Auburn — We’ll go with Auburn.  The Tigers knocked off MSU recently and they also have at least one quality win (over Florida State).

12.  LSU — Zero wins against RPI Top 100 foes and an 8-game losing streak.  That’s how you steal the basement from Auburn.

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