The one small ounce of comfort for Kentucky’s bubble status throughout the past few weeks has been the notion that, “Hey, at the end of the day someone has to get in… Sixty eight someones in fact.” In previous years, a few of Kentucky’s recent stumbles would have been enough to knock them out of the NCAA tournament picture. Luckily for Kentucky, we live in a college basketball world this year where Gonzaga currently tops the rankings. Stranger things have happened, but barely. The SEC has been nearly as unpredictable and down this year as the rest of the college basketball landscape. Florida and Missouri appear to be NCAA tournament locks, and have been for a while. The SEC seems destined to grab one more spot in the NCAA tournament– but who wants it? The spot was clearly up for grabs last weekend, with at least 4-5 SEC teams heavily in the “bubble talk” discussion. Instead of seizing the moment, most of the teams faltered.
Although it’s not a certainty (what is this season?), at least one more NCAA tournament spot seems up for grabs from the SEC. Surely someone else has to get in, right? Alabama? Kentucky? Ole Miss? Arkansas? Tennessee? Who wants it? And who has the best case/best opportunity still standing in front of them?
WHO HAS THE MOST IMPRESSIVE WIN?
*Strictly based on the ranking when the game was played
1. Arkansas (Win over #2 Florida)
2. Tennessee (Win over #8 Florida)
3. Ole Miss (Win over #10 Missouri)
4. Kentucky (Win over #16 Ole Miss)
5. Tennessee (Win over #23 Wichita State)
6. Tennessee (Win over #25 Kentucky)
Thoughts: Tennessee takes the cake here as the Vols have the highest number (3) of wins over opponents who were at some point ranked in the top 25.
EACH TEAM’S MOST IMPRESSIVE 3-4 WINS:
*Listed in no particular order
Alabama- Villanova, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas
Kentucky- Missouri, Ole Miss, Maryland, Tennessee
Ole Miss- Missouri, Tennessee (twice), Arkansas
Arkansas- Florida, Missouri, Kentucky, Oklahoma
Tennessee- Wichita State, Kentucky, Florida, Alabama
Thoughts: Arkansas’ list of 4 sticks out as perhaps the most impressive, with wins over 2 surefire NCAA tournament teams, and another (Oklahoma) most-likely NCAA tournament team. Tennessee’s list of 4 probably stacks up as the next best, with 2 NCAA tournament locks in Florida and Wichita State.
RECORD IN THE LAST 6 GAMES:
Tennessee (5-1, 1-game losing streak)
Arkansas- (4-2, 1-game winning streak)
Alabama- (4-2, 1-game losing streak)
Kentucky- (3-3, 1-game losing streak)
Ole Miss- (3-3, 1-game losing streak)
Thoughts: Four of the five teams listed above lost this weekend. Only Arkansas came out with a win, but generally speaking Tennessee and Arkansas seem to be the 2 teams trending up the most at the moment.
WHO HAS THE WORST LOSSES:
*Losses to teams who have NO chance to make the NCAA tournament
1. Alabama – Dayton, Mercer, Tulane, Auburn, LSU
2. Arkansas- Texas A&M, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, LSU
3. Ole Miss- Texas A&M, South Carolina, Mississippi State
4. Tennessee- Georgia (twice)
5. Kentucky- Texas A&M
Thoughts: All season long we have said that it won’t be Kentucky’s bad losses that keep them out of the tournament… Alabama and Arkansas’ probably will…
WHO HAS THE BEST CHANCE TO STILL MAKE A SPLASH:
1. Kentucky- @ Georgia, Home vs. Florida
2. Arkansas- @ Missouri, Home vs. Texas A&M
3. Tennessee- @ Auburn, Home vs. Missouri
t-4. Alabama- @ Ole Miss, Home vs. Georgia
t-4. Ole Miss- Home vs. Alabama, @LSU
Thoughts: Each of the 5 teams essentially faces a similar situation: 2 games left (1 they HAVE to/SHOULD win, and 1 that would help boost the resume’/leap from them over another SEC bubble team)
Final Thoughts: With this group of 5, the margin for error is relatively small. It might end up being a case of the 1 team who manages to make it through the last week of the season without messing up (losing the game they are supposed to win), and comes out with the most impressive victory (Kentucky has the best chance to do this, with Arkansas and Tennessee closely behind with a shot at Missouri). If each team holds serve (winning the one they are supposed to– but not picking up a very impressive win in the other game), whichever team makes the deepest SEC tournament run might grab the spot. If everyone has a bad week, the SEC might just end up being a 2-bid league.