There are 14 teams and 14 sets of hopes and dreams in St. Louis for this week’s SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament. What each team needs to do to accomplish one of three things — improve seeding, get off the bubble or sneak into the NCAA Tournament:
1. AUBURN (25-6, 13-5)
With 25 wins, an SEC co-championship and an RPI of eight, the Tigers are locked into the tournament. Winning the whole thing might move them up to the two line as far as NCAA seeding goes, but anything else and they will probably be a three.
2. TENNESSEE (23-7, 13-5)
The Vols are basically in the same boat as Auburn. They shared the conference title and have an RPI of 10. Where they end up on the seed line could depend on what happens in other conference tourneys if they make the SEC final.
3. FLORIDA (20-11, 11-7)
The Gators are an interesting dilemma for the committee because of the 10 Quadrant 1 wins and some bad in-conference losses. Bracketologists are conflicted as a result, having UF anywhere from a five to a seven. UF has a shot at a four seed with a couple of wins.
4. KENTUCKY (21-10, 10-8)
The Wildcats don’t have a lot of big wins, but no bad losses. The RPI is 17 which would indicate a higher seed than they might get. It’ll be a Kentucky crowd at the tournament (because it always is) and coach John Calipari has already dismissed the importance of the tournament, but getting at least one win would probably cement Kentucky as a five seed.
5. MISSOURI (20-11, 10-8)
The Tigers are in, but could be headed for the dreaded 8 vs. 9 matchup one way or another. Beating the Georgia-Vandy winner won’t help much, but a win over Kentucky in the quarterfinal game would be a real boost.
6. ARKANSAS (21-10, 10-8)
Arkansas has an RPI of 30, which is fine, but the Razorbacks would love to show the committee they can win away from home. They need to get by the opener and then get Florida in the second game if they win.
7. MISSISSIPPI STATE (21-10, 9-9)
The Bulldogs had a late surge, but faltered in their last two games. The RPI of 69 means they almost certainly have to win the tournament to get in, in part because of a soft non-conference schedule.
8. TEXAS A&M (20-11, 9-9)
The Aggies are in with their RPI of 24 and might be the team that sends Alabama to the NIT on Thursday. A win would help the resume and then they would get a shot at Auburn. Again, they want to play their way out of that 8-9 game.
9. ALABAMA (17-14, 8-10)
Alabama was a lock once upon a time before its collapse down the stretch. The Tide has to beat A&M on Thursday or it will likely be a sad Sunday when the brackets are released. A win against the Aggies might get them in and they could use some help from Oklahoma, whose own issues have cost Alabama a Quad 1 win.
10. LSU (17-13, 8-10)
It seems like a long time ago that LSU was considered a bubble team. They were not able to maintain and likely have to win the whole thing to get in. They get a rematch of the final game of the regular season against Miss. St. on Thursday.
11. SOUTH CAROLINA (16-15, 7-11)
Last year, a Final Four. This year, the Gamecocks need to win their opener against lowly Ole Miss to be in NIT consideration.
12. GEORGIA (16-14, 7-11)
Any team with Yante Maten is a dangerous team to play (just ask Florida), but anything outside a tournament championship will mean another miss for Mark Fox. Of course, there was this from Calipari this week — “I would not be surprised to see Georgia march through this tournament.”
13. VANDERBILT (12-10, 6-12)
The Commodores played some good basketball at times and then some not-so-good ball. They can’t wait for next year and a big-time recruiting class to come in.
14. OLE MISS (12-19, 5-13)
The end can’t come soon enough for a team looking for a new coach and a fresh start.