SEC East: Advantage Gamecocks

Four teams share first place in the SEC Eastern Division with 7-4 records and five games remaining in the regular season. It's easy to envision a variety of scenarios under which any of the four win the division outright and any of the four end up in fourth place.

However, looking over the remaining schedule it's clear that South Carolina has by far the easiest stretch run while you could argue whether Florida or Tennessee has it the toughest.

South Carolina ----- The Gamecocks play three of their final five games at home, but that's not the man reason they have a big advantage. Carolina plays the two worst teams in the SEC -- Arkansas and Georgia -- and also faces 5-6 Vanderbilt. The only teams with winning records are fellow contenders Tennessee and Kentucky both of which have to visit Columbia. The cumulative conference record of those five teams is 21-34.

Kentucky ----- I would say Kentucky has the second easiest schedule even though their upcoming opponents have one more SEC win than those Tennessee will face. First of all, Kentucky has three home games and Tennessee has just two. Secondly, while the Wildcats do have to face SEC leader LSU (10-1) it is in Rupp Arena. They also get a game with last place Georgia. Kentucky's opponents are 32-23 in the SEC.

Tennessee ----- Bruce Pearl's Vols are the only one of the four contenders that has three road games in the final five and they have to face the other three in their buildings. They also host 7-4 Mississippi St. and Alabama (3-8). Their opponents are 31-24.

Florida ----- The Gators have the toughest road to travel because they are the only one of the four Eastern contenders that has to visit Baton Rouge. Florida also gets a strong Mississippi State team on the road. The Gators do have an advantage in getting to host Tennessee and Kentucky, but their closest thing to a "break" is a Vanderbilt team that has won four of its last five games. Gator opponents have by far the best SEC record at 36-19.


Unless something strange happens only six SEC teams are contenders for the NCAA Tournament. Using the average of ESPN Inside RPI, and Jeff Sagarin, here is how they compare heading into the weekend.

31. Tennessee
37. LSU
41. Florida
47. Kentucky
51. South Carolina
81. Mississippi St.

It's interesting to note that since Tennessee has played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country, the Vols' overall strength of schedule will go down despite its difficult finishing slate. South Carolina on the other hand might be hurt by having two teams with extremely low RPI numbers in the last three weeks.

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