Three likely in, three on the bubble
Published: Friday, March 1, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 1, 2013 at 12:34 a.m.
The prevailing thought in January was that it was a down season for men's basketball in the Southeastern Conference.
Yet heading into March, as many as six teams are still alive for NCAA Tournament at-large bids. It's doubtful that all six will make it, but it's not out of the realm of possibility to have three-to-five teams represent the SEC in March Madness.
Entering Thursday, here's a look at the resumes of the six SEC teams still in play (Ratings Percentage Index and schedule strength numbers are courtesy of RealTimeRPI.com):
Schedule strength: 25
Best wins: Wisconsin, Marquette, Missouri, Kentucky
Bad losses: at Arkansas
What they need to do: At this point, the Gators are playing for seeding. Florida can still end up with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but its margin for error is slipping. Florida likely must win its final three regular season games and the SEC Tournament to earn consideration for a No. 1 seed.
Schedule strength: 54
Best wins: Illinois, VCU, Florida
Bad losses: LSU, Texas A&M
What they need to do: Close the regular season strong and win a game or two in the SEC Tournament. Missouri's non-conference schedule is strong enough where it can afford another loss or two and still get into the Big Dance.
Schedule strength: 60
Best wins: Missouri, Maryland
Bad losses: Texas A&M, Baylor
What they need to do: Pick up a few more road wins, beginning Saturday at Arkansas. A win to close the regular season at Rupp Arena against No. 8 Florida would all but cement an NCAA Tournament bid.
On the bubble
Schedule strength: 24
Best wins: Florida, Kentucky, Wichita State
Bad losses: Georgia
What they need to do: Keep winning. The Vols have won six straight and are playing at a high level now on both ends of the floor. Tennessee's biggest chance for an RPI boost will come in its regular-season finale against Missouri.
Schedule strength: 125
Best wins: Missouri, Tennessee
Bad losses: Texas A&M, South Carolina
What they need to do: The Rebels need one more signature win to boost their RPI, and that chance probably won't come until the SEC Tournament. In the regular season, Mississippi must win out. After facing Mississippi State on Saturday, the Rebels have a big matchup at home next week against Alabama
Schedule strength: 86
Best wins: Villanova, Kentucky, Tennessee
Bad losses: Auburn, LSU, Mercer, Tulane
What they need to do: Close the regular season strong with road wins over Florida and Ole Miss. If that doesn't happen, the Crimson Tide will need to win the SEC Tournament to secure an automatic bid.
Outside looking in
Texas A&M (87 RPI) and Arkansas (89 RPI). At this point, both teams would need to win the SEC Tournament to secure an automatic bid.