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The Path Ahead For SEC Bubble Teams



For 13 of the 14 SEC teams, this week’s SEC tournament is a chance to secure a bid to the NCAA tournament. Florida goes into Nashville as the only team with no further work to do in terms of securing a spot in the big dance. Everyone else still has games to win, with the sole exception of maybe Missouri. Below is a breakdown of six SEC teams that lie somewhere relatively close to being considered “on the bubble”, and what they will have to do to earn a bid.

Ole Miss (23-8, 12-6 SEC)

RPI: 56

Best Wins: Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama

Path Ahead: Ole Miss should hope Missouri beats the winner of Texas A&M and Auburn because the Rebels could use another quality win. Their best win was January 12th against Missouri. Another quality win against the second best team in the conference based on RPI, would be a step in the right direction towards a tournament bid. If they could add another win against Kentucky in the semifinals, Ole Miss could be in good shape for an at-large bid, even if they would lose to Florida in the SEC championship. If their semifinal win would come against someone other than Kentucky, Ole Miss still may be in good shape with a season total of 25 wins going into Sunday’s championship.

Kentucky (21-10, 12-6 SEC)

RPI: 50

Best Wins: Florida, Missouri, Maryland, Ole Miss, Tennessee

Path Ahead: After defeating Florida, the general consensus is that Kentucky should be in the tournament if it wins one game while it also avoids a bad loss this week. If Texas A&M or Auburn would knock off Missouri, and then beat Ole Miss, then Kentucky couldn’t afford to lose to either one of those teams in the semifinals. If Kentucky wins its first game, but loses to Missouri in the semis, then Kentucky would exit the SEC tournament with a win, avoid a bad loss, and should sit okay for an at-large bid. If Kentucky falls to Ole Miss in the semifinals, then it becomes more complicated, because Ole Miss would likely have played itself into a bid that would be taking somebody else’s spot away (perhaps Kentucky’s). For UK’s at-large chances, it would be better to lose to Missouri in the semis than it would be to lose to Ole Miss. A first-round win would still put UK in the tournament in all likelihood.

Alabama (20-11, 12-6 SEC)

RPI: 60

Best Wins: Villanova, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas

Path Ahead: Two wins this week for Alabama could really shake things up, but it will likely have to defeat Tennessee and Florida to make the NCAA tournament, which is no small task. Among Tennessee, South Carolina or Mississippi State, it doesn’t really matter who Alabama’s opponent will be in its first game. Alabama must beat whoever it plays first, and then beat Florida to get to the championship game. A win over Florida could be enough for an at-large bid, but if Florida would lose its first game and not play against Alabama, then the Crimson Tide may need to win the whole conference tournament to secure a spot to the big dance.

Missouri (22-9, 11-7 SEC)

RPI: 32

Best Wins: Florida, VCU, Illinois, Ole Miss, Bucknell, Arkansas, Alabama

Path Ahead: Despite losing an extra SEC game than the teams ahead of them on this list, Missouri’s non-conference wins and RPI puts the Tigers in good shape provided it beats Texas A&M or Auburn. Like Kentucky, Missouri is trying to win at least one game and avoid a bad loss. It’s not likely Missouri would see a situation where they could have a bad loss past its first game. To feel comfortable on Selection Sunday, Missouri needs to win its first game. Even with a loss, a top-40 RPI is probably too high to leave out the Tigers.

Tennessee (19-11, 11-7 SEC)

RPI: 54

Best Wins: Florida, Missouri, Kentucky, Alabama, UMass, Wichita State, Xavier

Path Ahead: If Tennessee loses to either South Carolina or Mississippi State in its first game, they are done. Tennessee must win its first game and likely will need to win its second against Alabama, in order to knock the Crimson Tide out of any chance of a bid. A loss to Florida in the semifinals, if the game is competitive, may put the Volunteers right on the bubble. Tennessee has to win its first two games, and beyond that they must pass the eye test. If they win the first two and lose to Florida competitively, they may possibly be in. If Tennessee loses badly to Florida, or anyone else after the first two games, they could be left out depending on how everything unfolds.

Arkansas (19-12, 10-8 SEC)

RPI: 78

Best Wins: Florida, Missouri, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee

Path Ahead: Arkansas has the toughest road to an at-large bid of anyone in the SEC. In the first round, they have to beat Vanderbilt in Nashville. In the second round, they have to beat Kentucky in what will essentially be a road game. Even if Arkansas wins each of those games, they still will have to win one more just to reach the championship. Arkansas’ RPI of 72 isn’t good enough for an at-large bid, and even after a strong SEC tournament, it’s not likely it will be high enough. Arkansas would probably actually benefit if they had Florida on its side of the bracket, just so that it can add another major quality win and improve its RPI. It will not play Florida until the championship, however, so the harsh reality for the Hogs is that they may have to win the entire tournament for an automatic berth.

Everyone else, except for Florida of course, must win the SEC Tournament to secure an automatic berth to the big dance. LSU (18-11, 9-9), however, may be in good shape to receive a bid to the NIT.

Article written by John Wilmhoff

Former beer vendor, college mascot and ESPN editor. This spring, you can also find me blogging about the Reds on Follow me on Twitter: @JohnWilmhoff

18 Comments for The Path Ahead For SEC Bubble Teams

  1. MN CAT
    3:02 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    So should we be pulling for Missouri to reach the semis?

  2. Kevin Burton
    3:19 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    Sad we’re even having this conversation.

  3. Musehobo
    3:20 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    I’m pretty sure Missouri is a lock.

  4. Laker Cat 18
    3:24 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    I think Arkansas is out. Tennessee is the team that is really on the bubble, but the fact that they’ve won like 7 or 8 out of their last 9 games is impressive. It may boost them in front of UK or Alabama as far as priority to getting in.

  5. Smitty
    3:25 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    2 – Not sad…Reality when you lose all of your starters from a championship team…. Ask Billy Donovan and Roy Williams

  6. Yep
    3:30 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    @5 Exactly right. The preseason rank all got to us and forgot how difficult it really is to completely rebuild. You dont get MKG’s and Anthony Davis’s every year. That is just reality

  7. the brown eye
    3:39 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    i for one, would gladly suffer through this year because of last year. I still enjoy watching the final four games from last year. Or check out the IU game from Atlanta (I was there). You wont find a better game for execution

    So yes, this year is a downer. So what? Its still not a loss. All i want for this year is to make the tourney so we can keep a new streak going and not to mess up the 3 pointer streak. This year for some reason i keep thinking it is going to fall.

  8. Kevin Burton
    3:40 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    Doesn’t matter…..shouldn’t be fighting for NCAA bid w/ incoming talent and coaching staff we have.

  9. Kevin Burton
    3:43 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    7, agree

  10. kybigblue
    3:53 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    Terrible when 3 of the top 4 teams in the SEC may not make it to the NCAA and the best team in the conference is only one game ahead of them. Has the SEC ever been this bad before compared to the rest of the nation?

  11. Biglaw Dawgin'
    4:00 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    Kentucky needs to just win it all and end all of this beat them, don’t worry about losing to them jazz. Plus I like being able to still have the ultimate argument stopper to other SEC fans: “UK has more SEC Tournament Championships than all of the other schools. COMBINED.” Boom, conversation over. UK = 27, other schools = 25.

  12. RisingStar
    4:40 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    Enough talk of basketball – let teams decide the outcome as they always do. Let’s get to the real point of this post-has Mullet Cat signed with an agency yet? How much does that guy get paid to drive MC across the state? Does MC support Ashley for the Senate? WWMCD?

  13. omg
    4:48 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    @10.. Please dont turn into everyone else. SEC isnt that bad. Just because ESPN and the media tells you they arent any good doesnt mean anything. 18-22 old kids just hoopin. Anything can happen. SEC is just an after thought and its a shame. It doesnt get the hype and the love from everyone on television so people just think the SEC isnt good and I can not stand it.

  14. omg
    5:24 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    I’m so silly!

  15. omg
    5:25 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    I love Justin Beiber!

  16. UK Freshmen
    8:01 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    When is the last time a #3 ranked team was sweating out even making the tournament?

    Answer: NEVER. Sad, but true.

  17. dave
    8:09 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink please visit this site.
    you’ll see that the (bcs) team with highest rpi to not make the tourney last year was WVA at 57. and BC at 58 the year before. and miss st 55 the year before that and UF at 54 the year before then.
    so UK is on the bubble only if we lose 1st sect game. and mizz is no where near the bubble with a 32 rpi.

  18. dexter
    8:25 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    I find it hard to see Ole Miss getting in ahead of us even if they beat us in the semis, they don’t have a win over Florida and they were beaten by us on the road. Tennessee is a tough decision for the tournament, they have a lot of good wins, but most of them have come at home, and they have a bad losses as well. Right now I think Tennessee is about even with Kentucky except they have had 4 away wins the entire season. I think the article was spot on with their position going in to the tournament. I think even if we lose we still should be in, unless their are a few bid-thieves more bid-thieves than expected.