Great Week For SEC and NCAA Chances

If the primary goal of the SEC is to get as many teams as possible into the NCAA Tournament, this was a very good week. Six teams are in the running for NCAA at-large consideration and none of them lost a game to one of the "bottom" six in the league.

That's crucial in the final stretches of the regular season because you want the best resume possible for your fourth, fifth and sixth best teams. That didn't happen last year as the SEC never separated its top from bottom. Thus only three teams made the NCAA while three others were high seeds in the NIT.

Three games remain in the regular season and it's important that the "big six" get the job done in those contests where they are facing the teams at the bottom of the standings. If the top six teams keep winning, they should all move into the RPI top 50, which would make all the head-to-head games they've played against each other more meaningful.

Keep in mind that the more this occurs, it not only helps get an extra spot or two in the NCAA Tournament; it also weakens the chances of the other teams to get into the NIT because they cold end up with losing records.

Here's the latest average RPI for SEC teams using the average of the analysis and ESPN Inside RPI. Remember the 65-team field normally includes 15 or so teams that would not get at-large bids, so any time over 50 has a lot of work to do and any team in the 40-50 range better pick up another win or two.

Kentucky (27-1, 12-1), No. 5 ----- The Wildcats are battling for a No. 1 seed and DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall look like seasoned veterans now. They play at Tennessee Saturday and a win there might make things a little antsy on Rocky Top.

Vanderbilt (21-6, 10-3), No. 20 ----- Kevin Stallings' team survived an overtime scare from Georgia to stay on target for a possible top five seed in the Big Dance. Vandy visits Arkansas before coming to Gainesville on Tuesday. No matter what happens in Athens, beating Vandy would likely be a bid clincher for the Gators.

Tennessee (20-7, 8-5), No. 26 ----- Earlier in the week I declared the Vols a "lock" but I am rescinding that. Oh, they are in excellent shape and I'm certain they'll get in, but Tennessee has lost three of four and now needs a win or two to right the ship. Obviously beating Kentucky at home would end this discussion, but if they lose next week's games against Arkansas and at Mississippi State take on greater importance.

Florida (20-8, 9-4), No. 46 ----- The Gators have won 9-of-12 since opening the SEC season with two losses. They have clearly moved comfortably ahead of the Mississippi schools in the SEC pecking order and it will stay that way if they win at Georgia. If not, Florida will need that Vandy game or an upset at Kentucky to avoid adding pressure to its trip to the SEC Tournament. The Gators' 6-0 record against the SEC West can't be ignored.

Mississippi State (20-8, 8-5), No. 55 ----- The Bulldogs have taken over first place in the SEC West and need to win at least two of their final three regular season games. They must also hope Ole Miss drops a few games, because the Rebels' win over Kansas State dwarfs anything State did outside the SEC. Of course, they have one trump card of their in-state rivals. The Bulldogs beat the Rebels in both meetings. State visits South Carolina Saturday and it's fairly close to a must win.

Ole Miss (18-9, 6-7) ----- The Rebels really cannot lose a game because all three remaining games are against the bottom six in the SEC. Two of those three games, including Saturday against Alabama are on the road. That helps a little, but not much. The Rebels almost certainly have to earn a meaningful win in the SEC Tournament. That means beating one of the top four in the East or getting even with State in the second round.


While all this is going on, five of the so-called bottom six are scrambling to finish above the .500 mark so they can play in one of the other postseason events. Right now Alabama and South Carolina (14-13) are the only ones with winning records. Arkansas (14-14) is next, followed by Auburn (13-15) and Georgia (12-14) who are in the worst shape.

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