Could the SEC get 6 Big Dancers?


John Calipari, Terrence Jones
John Calipari, Terrence Jones

Kentucky coach John Calipari, left, talks with player Terrence Jones (3) during a time out in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011. Arkansas defeated Kentucky in overtime 77-76. (AP Photo/April L. Brown)

Published: Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 25, 2011 at 12:32 p.m.

The perception around the country this season is the Southeastern Conference is down in men's basketball.

Yet heading into the final week in February, as many as six teams could make the expanded field of 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament this season.

Here's a breakdown of the chances of those six teams heading into March (note, RPI rankings according to RealTimeRPI.com):

THEY'RE IN

Florida
Record: 21-5 (10-2 SEC)
RPI: 12
Strength of Schedule: 11
Key Games Remaining: at Kentucky (Saturday), Alabama (Tuesday), at Vanderbilt (March 5)
Analysis: At this point, Florida is playing for seeding. The Gators benefited from a tough non-conference schedule that included games against Xavier, Rhode Island, Kansas State and Ohio State. Florida is 8-1 this season against the RPI Top 50, with the lone loss coming against Ohio State.

Kentucky
Record: 19-8 (7-6 SEC)
RPI: 17
Strength of schedule: 15
Key games remaining: Florida (Saturday), Vanderbilt (Tuesday), at Tennessee (March 6)
Analysis: Yes, the Wildcats have struggled on the road this season, but Kentucky has played a tough enough schedule that it shouldn't matter. Kentucky picked up a big non-conference road win at Louisville that will stick in the minds of the selection committee.

Vanderbilt
Record: 20-7 (8-5 SEC)
RPI: 22
Strength of schedule: 19
Key games remaining: at Kentucky (Tuesday), Florida (March 5)
Analysis: Every year Vanderbilt is underestimated. And every year the Commodores deliver. Give Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings credit for re-tooling this season after the losing A.J. Ogilvy and Jermaine Beal. A big non-conference win at home against St. Mary's (Calif.) will stick out to the selection committee come seeding time.

ON THE BUBBLE

Tennessee
Record: 17-11 (7-6 SEC)
RPI: 29
Strength of schedule: 1
Key games remaining: Kentucky (March 6)
Analysis: Tennessee notched a big must-win last Tuesday at Vanderbilt, rallying from an 11-point, second-half deficit. The Vols can't afford a letdown in their next two games at home against Mississippi State and at South Carolina. A win against Kentucky at home on the final day of the regular season could lock up an NCAA Tournament bid.

Georgia
Record: 18-8 (7-5 SEC)
RPI: 40
Strength of schedule: 25
Key games remaining: at Alabama (March 5)
Analysis: Georgia kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive with a big road last Saturday at Tennessee. After blowing a first-half lead at No. 13 Florida, the Bulldogs have a pair of easier games against South Carolina and LSU before closing the season March 5 at Alabama. The Alabama matchup could end up as a play-in game for an NCAA Tournament bid.

Alabama
Record: 19-8
RPI: 80
Strength of schedule: 140
Key games remaining: at Florida (Tuesday), Georgia (March 5)
Analysis: Could the eventual SEC champion miss the NCAA Tournament entirely? Alabama plays in the awful SEC West, hence the poor schedule strength. The Tide, coached by former Gator assistant Anthony Grant, will need to win at least one of its last two games against SEC East division foes to stay in the mix for an at-large bid.

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