Eye on the bubble: Predicting how many SEC teams make the NCAA Tournament
Hours from now, you’ll have your answer to the all-important question — who’s in?
I promise I’ll try and limit the clichés.
This is March. Anything can happen in a single-elimination tournament. Who is this year’s Cinderella? Who’s bubble will burst? It’s the best time of the year!
Ok. Now I’ll really try to limit the clichés.
Instead, I’ll try to provide some analysis as to which SEC bubble teams have an ideal Sunday ahead, and which ones will be muttering the letters “N-I-T” in between muffled expletives.
If your argument for why Alabama deserves to be in the field has the words “beat Kentucky” in the first sentence, I challenge you to come up with a second sentence. Can’t? Ok. I will.
How about “18-15.” What about “losing record in conference play.” Or, perhaps the one the selection committee will care a lot about for a borderline team, “3-7 in the final 10 games.”
Alabama trended in the wrong direction down the stretch. The Ole Miss win was nice — it just the 3rd Quad 1 win of the year — but it didn’t necessarily change that it was a disappointing season in Tuscaloosa. Does anything suggest this year that Avery Johnson’s squad was anything but mediocre?
Beating Kentucky in the SEC Tournament would have changed the conversation for Alabama. Instead, it was a blowout loss and possibly a deflating way for the Crimson Tide’s NCAA Tournament bubble to burst.
I think a loss to Arkansas would have been a death sentence for the Gators. Even with a win they would have had to sweat it out and hope that a few automatic bids from mid-majors went chalk.
But beating Arkansas and LSU? Yeah, the Gators should be in with that.
A team that’s been tough to figure out all year still has enough quality wins to make the field. With multiple wins vs. LSU away from home and the fact that they stayed afloat in a solid year for the SEC, there will be worse résumés than the Gators.
The interesting thing is that Florida really whiffed on some huge opportunities to get those monumental wins in non-conference play against Michigan State and Florida State, yet the Gators would be a scary matchup for one of those teams in the first round, especially if Jalen Hudson can put it together.
Mike White should get a chance to win an NCAA Tournament game for the third consecutive year.
Ole Miss: In
That’s how confident I was in the Rebels’ tournament aspirations at the start of the weekend. The only team on this list who didn’t win an SEC Tournament game looks like it’ll be in good shape to make the field, barring some wild scenario. Usually teams sitting on the 8-9 line heading into conference championship weekend are locks, and I’d expect Kermit Davis’ squad to be in that same spot.
The interesting thing is that all of those things are true despite the fact that Ole Miss has just 1 win against a tournament team in the last 2 months. To me, this is a great sign of the SEC’s rise. You have a team picked by many to finish last in the division without much 21st century history and it was one and done in the SEC Tournament after not really having a true marquee win.
But 20 wins and a winning record in the SEC? That’s good enough for a bid. What a time to be alive.
How many total from the SEC? 7
I’ll say this: The SEC nearly pulled off the perfect scenario to get 8 teams in and tie last year’s record. By having Florida win 2 games and by having Alabama beat Ole Miss, the bubble teams actually had favorable SEC Tournament results. But as I mentioned, I believe Alabama’s loss to Kentucky will ultimately keep that number at 7.
Just to recap, here are the SEC teams who should be dancing:
- Mississippi State
To have 15 teams make the field in a 2-year stretch would still be a major victory for the SEC. What would be even better for the conference?
Not repeating last year’s performance and getting a team past the Sweet 16.