With it being mid-February already, we're hitting the home stretch of the college basketball season. Two SEC teams are looking comfortable for the NCAA Tournament: Florida and Kentucky. How many more teams will the SEC get in?
This past weekend was not a good one for the hopes of getting more than three bid for the league. ESPN's Bubble Watch feature had four teams in contention for at-large bids—Missouri, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and LSU—and they went 1-3 this weekend. The only thing that prevented the possibility of an 0-4 run was the fact that Mizzou and UT played each other.
Tennessee is still the third-highest team in the Pomeroy rankings even after sinking to 15-10 with the loss in Columbia. The efficiency stats like the Vols, but they're taking on an awful lot of losses for a system in which humans who still respect the RPI are picking the teams. UT does have nice non-conference wins over Xavier and Virginia, but it also has terrible SEC losses to Vanderbilt and especially Texas A&M.
Missouri might have overtaken Tennessee in the pecking order by winning Saturday's game. The Tigers have gotten out of their three-game slide by narrowly taking out Arkansas and UT. They too have a nice non-conference win in UCLA, but they also have losses to Georgia and Vandy. The win over the Vols two days ago was their first over anyone you'd consider in the SEC's top tier.
MU's biggest problem going forward is the same as Tennessee's: each has only one chance to get a nice win before the conference tournament, and it's when they play each other on March 8 in Knoxville. Depending on how things shake out nationally, the loser of that one might have to win the SEC Tournament to feel safe heading into Selection Sunday.
As far as Ole Miss goes, losing back-to-back to Alabama and Georgia in their last two games might have knocked them out for good (barring getting the auto-bid again). We'll know by the end of the week if the Rebels have any hopes left whatsoever, as they have home games against Kentucky on Thursday and Florida on Saturday. Win them both, and Ole Miss will be right back in the thick of things. Split them, and the team might just maybe be able to sneak in without an SEC Tournament championship with a lot of help nationally (especially if the win is Florida). Lose them both, and they're done. With Bama, A&M, Arkansas, and Vandy to go after this week, there's no resume building to be done.
LSU also has the ability to play itself into contention with games against UK and UF to go. The good news is that they're spaced out more, with one coming on Saturday and the other coming a week from Saturday. The bad news is that they're both road games. It's really hard to imagine these Tigers making the field of 68 without both of those being wins.
Current prediction: Three bids—Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri
Key games: Kentucky at Ole Miss, Tuesday; Florida at Ole Miss, Saturday; LSU at Kentucky, Saturday