Examining the SEC Bubble: Volume I

Posted by David Changas on February 8th, 2018

With just over a month remaining in college basketball’s regular season, the SEC is collectively better positioned for postseason play than it has been in a very long time. But as of today, only two teams – Auburn and Tennessee – should feel completely comfortable about making the upcoming Field of 68. On the other end of the spectrum, barring any unforeseeable late-season surges, we feel safe in saying that four SEC teams – Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and LSU – will miss out on this year’s Big Dance. That leaves eight teams in the messy middle, so let’s take our first look at the otherwise crowded bubble and offer some predictions on the fortunes of those squads.

Kassius Robertson has been a huge part of Missouri’s turnaround. (Kansas City Star)

  • Kentucky. Despite the considerable angst in Lexington about these Wildcats — now 6-5 in SEC play with trips to Texas A&M and Auburn upcoming — they appear to be safe, for now. They have 10 top-100 RPI wins without any bad losses, and there will be several more opportunities for quality wins down the stretch. Chances of making the field: 90%.
  • Florida. The up-and-down Gators are a surprise on this list, and not in a good way. At 15-8 overall, they’ve now lost three in a row in SEC play and face a very difficult closing stretch. While they currently have seven top-50 RPI wins, four Tier-2 losses mean Mike White’s team needs to take advantage of its chances over the last two weeks. Chances of making the field: 85%.
  • Texas A&M. After what was the best performance of any SEC team in non-conference play, it is hard to understand how the Aggies have landed on this list. An 0-5 start in conference play will certainly do that, however, and even though they have won five of their last six SEC games and hold five Tier-1 wins, the Aggies have more work ahead. Chances of making the field: 80%.

  • Missouri. The Tigers have helped their case over the past week in racking up three wins, including two against Tier-1 opponents. A loss to sub-150 Illinois in December is the lone embarrassment on the resume, and though they are in good shape with eight games remaining, they need to avoid slipping up against some of the conference’s lesser teams. Chances of making the field: 75%.
  • Arkansas. The Razorbacks have been uneven throughout SEC play this year, gaining wins over Tennessee and Missouri but losing twice to LSU. They are 8-8 against the RPI top 100 and appear to be in relatively good shape, though a closing five-game stretch against teams that are likely to make the NCAA Tournament — that window could make or break them. Chances of making the field: 60%.
  • Alabama. Avery Johnson’s team owns six wins over current RPI top-50 teams, but also has losses to Minnesota and Vanderbilt. The Crimson Tide are currently in good shape, though, but they must get a couple more quality wins over their last eight games. The first golden opportunity will come on Saturday when Tennessee visits Tuscaloosa. Chances of making the field: 60%.
  • Mississippi State. The 18-6 Bulldogs have no bad losses on their resume, but a putrid non-conference schedule – their only top-100 KenPom opponent was Cincinnati, which beat them by 15 points – will make their claim for a bid a very tough one. They’ll have to be really good down the stretch, though, as the selection committee certainly won’t take very kindly to Ben Howland’s decision to try to pad the record with easy wins. Chances of making the field: 25%.
  • Georgia. Mark Fox’s Bulldogs have four top-50 RPI wins in addition to inexcusable losses to San Diego State and Massachusetts. The inability to secure enough quality wins in SEC play will almost certainly doom them, and, in the process, doom Fox’s tenure in Georgia. Chances of making the field: 20%.
David Changas (166 Posts)

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *