It was a good week for SEC basketball. Not only did the league split the Big 12 challenge, with South Carolina (2nd) and Alabama (5th) not involved, but a fifth bid for the NCAA tournament now looks somewhat possible. The same group of Kentucky, South Carolina, Florida and Arkansas are still in the field but the Tennessee Volunteers are knocking on the door.
All RPI and Strength of Schedule (SOS) ratings taken from ESPN. Seed projections my own.
Kentucky: 18-4 (8-1)
RPI: 6 ... SOS: 9 ... Projected seed: 2
It was a tough week in Lexington. The Cats were at home for both of their contests but they lost to Kansas and needed overtime to come back and beat Georgia. It will take some help for Kentucky to get back to a one seed. They fell to 8th in the AP Poll after their loss to Kansas. With an 0-3 record against the AP top 11, (UCLA, @Louisville, Kansas), the Cats will likely have to win-out to get a one seed. They still have tough games remaining, starting with a trip to Florida this weekend. They still have road trips to Alabama and Georgia on the schedule as well as home games against Tennessee and Florida later on. If they fall to Florida tomorrow, the Cats could find themselves in third place of the SEC.
South Carolina: 18-4 (8-1)
RPI: 19 ... SOS: 46 ... Projected seed: 5
The Gamecocks picked up two road wins this week but it was against the bottom two teams of the league. The wins at Missouri and LSU did little to help USC but they could have done some damage if they lost. They move up into a five this week but there is certainly more room for growth. Another 2-0 week this time will see two solid wins over bubble teams in Georgia and Alabama. That would give Carolina a platform to push on for a four seed or even higher.
Florida: 17-5 (7-2)
RPI: 13 ... SOS: 19 ... Projected seed: 6
Florida moves into a six seed this week with a similar week to South Carolina. They pounded Oklahoma in the Big 12 challenge before hammering Missouri at home. Though it has been against teams with records under .500, the Gators have won by 35, 32 and 39 in their last three games. It’s a big week for Florida. They host Kentucky before travelling to Georgia. A 2-0 week will shoot them up to a four seed with their solid numbers, plus a signature win over Kentucky. It would also firmly put them in the SEC title race.
Arkansas: 17-5 (6-3)
RPI: 25 ... SOS: 55 ... Projected seed: 10
The Hogs had an up and down week. After a 28 point loss on the road to a fellow bubble team in Oklahoma State, they beat Alabama at home by 19 to move into fourth place in the SEC via tiebreak. They are one of the last teams to avoid the First Four at the moment. Their next three are at Missouri, Vanderbilt and at LSU. They need to win those three before they travel to South Carolina looking for a signature win to boost their standing.
Tennessee: 13-9 (5-4)
RPI: 34 ... SOS: 3
Tennessee currently holds a four game win streak after another 2-0 week. They knocked off Kansas State in the Big 12 challenge for their second straight quality win before winning at Auburn. The streak has put the Vols firmly on the bubble. Their SOS is one of the best in the nation. Seven of their nine defeats are against the current RPI top 25. They also have Three RPI top 50 wins, knocking off Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Kansas State. Had they not lost to Chattanooga at home earlier in the year, they’d probably be in the First Four. Chattanooga is not a very bad loss (RPI 88) but it was at home against a team that will only be in the tournament via automatic qualification. This week, they play at Mississippi State before hosting Ole Miss. They have little room for error but if they can finish fifth in the standings and avoid a bad loss, they should find themselves in the tournament come selection Sunday.
Alabama: 13-8 (6-3)
RPI: 55 ... SOS: 53
Alabama’s tourney hopes took a big blow this week. Already on thin ice, the Tide were blown out in Arkansas. Trailing by six at the half, the Tide were soundly beaten in the final 15 minutes and lost by 19. They started last week by completing a series sweep of Mississippi State. With only three RPI top 100 wins (Vandy, @UGA, Arkansas State) the Crimson Tide need a quality win to boost their resume. Their next three games give them one final shot to get on the right side of the bubble. They can avenge an earlier loss at Auburn by knocking off the Tigers at home tomorrow before they travel to South Carolina on Tuesday. They then host Kentucky next weekend. Winning two of those three will keep their hopes alive. If they fail to beat USC or Kentucky, they can start planning for the NIT.
Georgia: 13-9 (4-5)
RPI: 50 ... SOS: 28
The Bulldogs picked up a win against Texas in the Big 12 challenge to avoid a three game skid. They then blew a glorious chance to climb up the ladder. Holding a lead in Lexington in the final minute, they allowed Malik Monk to get a good look to send the game into overtime. In the extra five minutes they ran out of gas, falling by nine. Had they won, they would be in the same position as Tennessee. But they sit under .500 in SEC play with a loss to Texas A&M and a 20-point home loss to Alabama so they are firmly in the NIT. After losing four of six, It’s make or break time for the Bulldogs. In their next six games they play at South Carolina, Florida, at Tennessee, Mississippi State, Kentucky and at Alabama. They could put themselves back onto the bubble by winning four of those six but they could also be on the NIT bubble if they lose four of the six.
Ole Miss: 13-9 (4-5)
RPI: 62 ... SOS: 27
It was a good week in Oxford. After taking Baylor down to the wire in the Big 12 challenge, they routed in-state rival Mississippi State by 27. That was good enough to move them into the number one spot on the NIT bubble. If the tournament started today, they would probably get one of the final bids. To solidify their spot in the NIT, they need to move up the standings. In a four-way tie for seventh, they need to pick up more SEC wins. They have two tough trips this week, playing at Vanderbilt and at Tennessee. They need a split to stay in the field but they will still have plenty of chances to play their way back in.
Mississippi State: 13-8 (4-5)
RPI: 115 ... SOS: 156
After dropping four of five, Mississippi State finds themselves on the NIT bubble. With poor ratings, they need 18 to 20 wins to make the NIT. They also need to separate themselves from Ole Miss, Auburn and Vanderbilt. This week they lost at Alabama and then lost by 27 at Ole Miss. They still sit in top eight in the SEC standings but if they lose to Tennessee and at Auburn this week, they will have little hope left of postseason play.
Auburn: 14-8 (3-6)
RPI: 76 ... SOS: 97
The Tigers picked up a nice win over TCU in the Big 12 challenge but they dropped another game in SEC play, losing to Tennessee at home. Sitting in 11th, they need to move up the standings in the SEC to make the NIT. They travel to Alabama looking for the season sweep before hosting Mississippi State.
Vanderbilt: 11-11 (4-5)
RPI: 48 ... SOS: 4
A 2-0 week for the Commodores has them back at .500. They knocked off Iowa State in the Big 12 challenge before picking up a road win at Texas A&M. They may be the best team on the NIT bubble but they need to get and stay above .500 to make the field. They host Ole Miss before travelling to Arkansas this week.
Texas A&M: 11-10 (3-6)
RPI: 87 ... SOS: 24
The Aggies’ hopes of postseason play are hanging on by a thread. They almost upset West Virginia in the Big 12 challenge but then lost at home to Vandy by 14. They travel to LSU before hosting Missouri this week. If they lose either game, they likely will be eliminated from postseason play.
Nothing has changed at the bottom as LSU and Missouri both had another win-less week.