Two days into the SEC Tournament, it’s time to update the CVs for the four teams described as being on the NCAA tourney bubble by post prognosticators. As of 8:30pm last night, BracketMatrix.com — a site that combines nearly 90 different internet projections into one list — had four SEC teams in the field of 68. The current belief is that Florida and Missouri are clearly in, Kentucky and Tennessee are barely in, and Ole Miss and Alabama are barely out.
If you’ve been reading this site all hoops season, you know that that’s the way we’ve been calling the race for weeks — Florida and Missouri in, Kentucky and Tennessee in if the SEC gets four bids, Ole Miss and Alabama doomed by bad scheduling, bad losses, or both.
Let’s see if there’s any reason to change our thinking today…
|Div. I Record||21-10||20-11||23-8||19-11|
|Winning % Rank||64||85||40||90|
|Avg. RPI Win||157||148||171||152|
|Avg RPI Loss||56||64||93||89|
|Vs. RPI 1-50||2-4||4-4||1-4||1-4|
|Vs RPI 51-100||4-4||4-5||5-1||5-3|
|Vs RPI 101-200||6-2||4-2||6-1||7-3|
|Vs RPI 201+||9-0||8-0||11-2||6-1|
So what’s changed since our last (even more) in-depth bracket breakdown on Monday?
* Tennessee’s resume has changed the most. Yesterday’s win over Mississippi State got the Vols over the 20-win plateau and boosted their winning percentage rank from 92 to 85. However, UT’s resume overall has taken a hit by a) having to play a team as bad as MSU and b) the poor work turned in this week by teams the Volunteers had already played. Since Monday, UT’s average RPI win has fallen from 144 to 148… it’s average RPI loss has dropped from 61 to 64… it’s overall SOS has cratered from 42 to 57… its now played an additional sub-200 team in RPI (MSU). All of those numbers appear on the info sheets handed out to the tournament selection committee, by the way. Aside from grabbing a 20th win, the Vols have caught very few breaks this week.
* Kentucky has seen an RPI boost from 50 to 48 (though their RPI is a tad different in every computer model you look at it). Going up is a good thing. Texas A&M has falled outside the RPI top 100 (again that depends on the RPI you look at) and that’s caused UK to now show two sub-200 losses on its data sheet. Still, UK looks to be more of a lock today than at any point in recent weeks.
* It’s non-conference foes from early in the season have done Ole Miss a bit of a solid this week. While the number will still likely be a killer on Selection Sunday, UM’s non-conference strength of schedule has at least improved from 290 to 284. Hurrah? Overall, however, the Rebels’ average RPI win and average RPI loss have both dropped a point. Also, Texas A&M’s fall from inside the top 100 to outside the top 100 has given Ole Miss another sub-100 loss to go along with two sub-200 losses. Carrying three losses outside the RPI top 100, Mississippi really needs to do some winning in Nashville.
* There’s been very little movement on Alabama’s resume aside from an RPI drop from 62 to 63. As we’ve mentioned numerous times, fewer than one sub-60 RPI team per year has received an at-large bid since 1995. The last two years — with an expanded field — three teams outside the RPI top 60 have gotten at-large berths (out of 74 total invitations extended). The Tide still has a lot of work to do.
Earlier this week we told you the SEC needed help in a few other conference tournaments. The more NCAA locks and champions win their tournaments, the fewer at-large bids get gobbled up. Here’s what happened in those tourneys to watch:
* Memphis and Southern Miss are in the C-USA semifinals today. SEC fans should be pulling for Memphis to win the whole thing. The worst cast scenario is for UTEP or Tulsa to pull upsets the next two days and win the tournament. If that happens, Memphis will get an NCAA at-large bid and Southern Miss might.
* Valparaiso won the Horizon League tourney on Tuesday. That was a positive for the SEC’s bubble teams.
* Akron will play in the MAC semifinals today. SEC fans should be pulling for the Zips to steamroll through the rest of the tourney. If Kent State, Western Michigan, or Ohio win the tourney, Akron’s good enough to get at-large bid consideration… which could use up a much-needed bubble spot.
* There’s good news for the SEC in the Mountain West’s tourney. San Diego State, New Mexico, UNLV and Colorado State have made it to the league semifinals. Those teams were likely in the NCAA field anyway as the MWC is the top-rated conference by RPI. The chalk will win out West and that will help down South.
* On Wednesday, Patriot League regular-season champ Bucknell also won their conference tournament. Big plus as Bucknell might have nabbed an at-large bid had it lost.
* There’s bad news out of the WAC Tournament. The league’s top two seeds — Louisiana Tech and Denver — have both fallen. La. Tech is a bubble team now with a 26-6 record and an RPI of 54. SEC fans must hope that the Bulldogs’ loss to 10-21 Texas-San Antonio will tarnish their resume enough to keep them out of the Big Dance field. With an RPI of 67 and a loss to 12-21 Texas State last night, Denver’s goose already appears to be cooked.
* Earlier this week, Gonzaga won the WCC Tournament by thumping St. Mary’s by 14. Gonzaga was a lock for the NCAA’s anyway and may grab a #1 seed. SEC bubble teams need to hope St. Mary’s — 26-6 record, RPI of 30, but SOS of 96 — doesn’t steal an at-large bid.
So going into today’s action, here’s how we see the SEC stacking up:
* Kentucky is in as of this moment. They face Vanderbilt tonight at 7:30pm ET and the Commodores’ 117 RPI won’t help the Cats’ much. But even if UK is upset, we think they’ll make the NCAA field. They’ll just have to do some sweating on Sunday.
* Contrary to popular belief, we do not see today’s 3:00pm ET showdown between Alabama and Tennessee as a winner-take-all matchup (though we know the folks at ESPN will hype it as such). We believe it could be a play-out game for UT — their resume really took a hit this week as noted above — but UA, in our view, would still need to do a bit more work to earn a bid. Even with a win over the Volunteers. If UT wins, we think they’ll be solidly in the field.
* Ole Miss gets a shot at another good win by playing RPI 31 Missouri tonight at 10pm ET. UM needs wins of any kind and a quality win over Mizzou would definitely add some polish to the Rebels’ resume.
Florida and Missouri are still locks. Kentucky is getting closer to being a lock. Tennessee could sew up a tourney berth or see one slip away depending on today’s outcome. They’re not dead with a loss, but they’ll have to spend Sunday worrying. Ole Miss might slide by UT if the Rebels knock off Missouri tonight. And Alabama remains the biggest dark horse, likely needing a win over Tennessee today and another win on top of that. In fact, with an RPI in the 60s, Bama might need to win the whole tourney to safely reach the NCAA Tournament.