Tuesday, March 8, 2016

SEC conference tournament preview

This is part 25 of a 32-part series that will take a look at every conference and conference tournament in the country.  We'll recap who's playing and what the stakes are for each team in the conference.

The standings:
Texas A&M 13-5 (24-7)
Kentucky 13-5 (23-8)
South Carolina 11-7 (24-7)
LSU 11-7 (18-13)
Vanderbilt 11-7 (19-12)
Ole Miss 10-8 (20-11)
Georgia 10-8 (17-12)
Florida 9-9 (18-13)
Arkansas 9-9 (16-15)
Alabama 8-10 (17-13)
Mississippi St 7-11 (14-16)
Tennessee 6-12 (13-18)
Auburn 5-13 (11-19)
Missouri 3-15 (10-21)

Tournament format:
Everyone but Mizzou heads to Nashville.  Wednesday March 9 to Sunday March 13.

The matchups:
1) Texas A&M vs. 8/9) Florida/Arkansas
4) LSU vs. 5/12/13) Vanderbilt/Tennessee/Auburn
2) Kentucky vs. 7/10) Ole Miss/Alabama
3) South Carolina vs. 6/11) Georgia/Mississippi St

The stakes:
Kentucky and A&M play for protected seeding, but it almost feels like their seed will merely be a result of a chain reaction of results from other conferences.  There's no win in this conference available to either, before the finals, that would move the needle.  And with a Sunday finish, the final ends too close to the selection show; therefore a quality win by one over the other will be ignored.  They're simply going to take whatever is available after teams around them play their impact games.

South Carolina has one bullet to dodge, then a loss to Kentucky would be acceptable for them.  The real danger could be if Kentucky loses, then South Carolina has to win twice to avoid serious profile damage.  They'll get away with an ugly non-con SoS with just enough bad loss avoidance.

The bubble gets a bit messy.  Vandy has to play an extra game and then gets a no-win proposition with LSU.  Winning that game is probably mandatory, then a loss to A&M wouldn't hurt them and they'd be home free.  I'm really not a fan of the profile, though, it relies on two home wins over the two conference leaders.  They could easily miss, even if they beat LSU, so stay tuned.

Florida's trapped itself in an awful spot - they need a quality win to get back to the right side of the bubble, and they have to win twice and beat A&M to do it.  Good news?  That win could be enough.  Bad news?  That's not an easy win to get.  Alabama's in the same situation, with Kentucky in their way instead.  However, Alabama might even need another win on top of that.  Bottom line:  the lack of depth in the conference is going to hurt these teams trying to play their way up.  Resumes are flawed because of the number of losses.  To be fair, they did schedule up.  Imagine how much worse the situation would be without the overall SoS boost everyone is providing each other.

LSU is so far gone from the bubble that Vandy+A&M won't be enough, and a loss to Vandy brings the NIT bubble into play.  In fact, the NIT bubble as a whole could be a mess.  As it stands, you'd have Florida and Alabama going there, and maybe Vandy, and probably LSU, and Georgia is squarely in the middle of the NIT field.  That's 4, maybe 5 teams in the NIT already and we've got a 20-win Ole Miss team and a .500 Arkansas team to deal with too.  how many of these teams can get in?  With that in mind, I think Arkansas and Ole Miss are definitely out (even beating Kentucky or A&M won't be enough), and one of LSU and Georgia will be a legit bubble team.  Right now I think that's advantage LSU over Georgia.

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