SEC East: Advantage Gamecocks

Three of the top four teams remain tied for first place in the SEC Eastern Division with four games remaining in the regular season. Tennessee dropped a game behind after the Vols lost to Kentucky in Rupp Arena.

Last week, we evaluated the schedules for the contenders and we'll continue to update it again in a week. Looking over the remaining schedule it's clear that South Carolina has by far the easiest stretch run while Florida clearly has the toughest. All four contenders will play one home game and one game on the road in each if the final two weeks.

South Carolina ----- The Gamecocks play their road games against two teams with losing SEC records in Vanderbilt and Georgia. The two SEC contenders on the schedule Kentucky and Tennessee have to visit Columbia. The cumulative conference record of those four teams is 21-27.

Kentucky ----- The Wildcats also face two Eastern contenders down the stretch, but they play Carolina and Florida on the road. The Wildcats also get both ends of the spectrum at home with SEC leader LSU and last place Georgia visiting Rupp Arena. Kentucky's opponents are 28-20.

Florida ----- The Gators have the toughest stretch as the only team that has to face four opponents with winning records. Florida has to travel out West to face LSU and Mississippi State while hosting both Tennessee and Kentucky. Gator opponents have by far the best SEC record at 33-15.

Tennessee ----- Bruce Pearl's Vols find themselves in fourth place and are the only team in the group that needs help to finish with a share of the SEC East title. The Vols host Mississippi State and Alabama while playing South Carolina and Florida away from Knoxville. Even if they win all four games the Vols cannot get a piece of the crown without someone knocking off Kentucky. Their opponents are 27-21.

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Mississippi State's loss probably takes the Bulldogs out of realistic NCAA at-large consideration with a mid-80s RPI. Here is an updated average of the ratings from Kenpom.com and Jeff Sagarin:

35. Kentucky
37. LSU
39. Florida
43. Tennessee
54. South Carolina
84. Mississippi St.

It's interesting to note that South Carolina went down three spots despite its victory over Arkansas because of the Razorbacks' low ranking. Kentucky's win over Tennessee in essence resulted in the teams swapping spot. Historically teams in the top 40 can count on getting into the Big Dance, and 40-55 is very much the "bubble". Florida's low strength of schedule will get a boost from three games against teams in the top 45. Even the Mississippi State game will help since it's a road game and Florida's strength of schedule currently ranks 136.

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