Florida is coming off two crucial wins in defeating Auburn and Ole Miss in a span of about 43 hours and now faces four SEC games left in the regular season clearly in control of its destiny. Billy Donovan's team will host Tennessee Tuesday night before heading up to Athens to take on the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. If the Gators can win twice this week they will be on the verge of wrapping up a return to the NCAA Tournament.
Here's the best on the SEC pecking order with two weeks to go with three teams all set and three others battling for one or two bids.
Locks ----- Kentucky (26-1, 11-1), Vanderbilt (20-6, 9-3) and Tennessee (20-6, 8-4) are assured of spots in the field of 65 no matter what happens from here on in. All three have reached the 20-win mark and have played strong enough non-conference schedules that even an unlikely collapse down the stretch won't knock them out. Right now ESPN's "bracketology" projects the Wildcats as a No. 1 seed with Vandy a No. 4 and Tennessee No. 5. The key for the SEC's reputation is to make certain there aren't the only ones in the Big Dance.
No. 4 Florida (19-8, 8-4) ----- The Gators have to rank next in line with their 19 wins even though some RPI calculations have the Gators trailing the next two on my list. Florida warrants the edge because they are playing in the much tougher Eastern Division, which is a ridiculous 24-6 head to head against the West. Florida also beat both Ole Miss and Mississippi State head-to-head. The Gators have significant wins over Michigan State, Florida State and North Carolina State to deadline the non-conference slate.
No. 5 Mississippi State (19-8, 7-5) ----- The Bulldogs need to finish strongly in the SEC because their non-conference schedule does not offer much in the way of a significant victory with Old Dominion topping the list. They lost at Florida, but can hang their hat on two wins over Ole Miss. This week the Bulldogs have two almost must-win games with Alabama and South Carolina.
No. 6 Ole Miss (17-9, 5-7) ----- The Rebels have one of the best non-conference wins of anyone with their win over Kansas State, and their non-conference slate also shows losses to top teams Villanova and West Virginia. The problems for the Rebels are obvious; Ole Miss lost twice to Mississippi State and also lost at home to Florida. A less obvious problem is the fact that the aforementioned win over Kansas State is their only win over a top 100 team outside the SEC. Ole Miss has a tough week in that they play Auburn and Alabama, two teams that cannot help their RPI, but a loss or two would be near fatal.
The rest of the SEC is just battling for NIT consideration at this point. Even though Arkansas is tied for the SEC West lead, the Razorbacks have 13 losses already and have no shot at NCAA at large consideration.
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