SEC teams positioning for March Madness

Published 1:34 am Sunday, February 17, 2008

Only 12 more days remain until the madness begins.

The days are flying by and before you know it, we’ll be at the month that matters the most in college basketball. It’s almost time for March Madness.

But while March is the month in which everything is settled, February is also crucial for teams to position themselves for the NCAA Tournament.

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Now is the time where teams can strengthen their position or fall out of tournament contention.

That seems to happen every game in the SEC. The conference might be a little down this year, but the battle to get into the Big Dance is a fierce as ever.

The SEC has been projected to get as few as three bids into the tournament and as many as six.

Now I’m not on the NCAA Tournament selection committee, but I think I have a pretty good idea about which teams are deserving and which teams have more work to do in order to get the golden ticket.

Tennessee is currently the only one lock for the tournament in the SEC.

The Volunteers are sitting pretty with a 23-2 overall record and are 10-1 in the SEC.

Barring a collapse, the Vols look like they will be no worse than a No. 2 seed in the tournament and could get one of the four No. 1 seeds

Tennessee’s game against Memphis next Saturday will probably determine if the Vols are worthy of a top seed.

After that, the waters get a little murky. No other SEC team looks like they will be competing for a top five seed, with Mississippi State, Arkansas, Florida and Vanderbilt fighting for positioning off the bubble.

Ole Miss was a part of that group as well before a disastrous week.

Coming into last week, the Rebels had a solid 21 RPI ranking even though they were 3-5 in SEC play, thanks to their strong non-conference performance.

However, by losses to Alabama and Auburn dropped Ole Miss’ RPI to 50 and saddled them with a 3-7 conference record.

It looks like the Rebs will have to win out or win the SEC Tournament in order to make the Big Dance now.

I just don’t see it. I think Ole Miss is NIT bound once again under Andy Kennedy.

Mississippi State’s resume is almost the opposite of Ole Miss.

The Bulldogs had a horrible non-conference season, losing five games.

However, since SEC play began, MSU has been on fire. Their win over Arkansas Saturday strengthened their hold on first place in the West and upped their conference record to 8-2.

With six conference games left, I don’t see MSU finishing any worse than 11-5 in the SEC and possibly 12-4.

That would put them at about a fifth or sixth seed in the tournament.

Vanderbilt solidified its spot in the tournament with a victory over Florida Saturday.

I think the Commodores will be around a sixth seed as well, with Florida slipping back onto the bubble.

However, I think Florida will right the ship and do enough to make the dance. Pencil the Gators in as a No. 9 seed.

Arkansas looks like a solid No. 8 seed. They are almost unbeatable at home, and should finish around 10-6 in the SEC.

The most interesting case is Kentucky. The Wildcats looked completely dead early this season, losing to teams like Gardner-Webb, UAB, Houston and San Diego.

However, the Cats have rolled to a 7-3 record in the SEC so far, and look like they could finish 11-5 in the conference with favorable matchups coming up.

Will the selection committee overlook their horrid non-conference performance and place them in the tournament based on only SEC play?

I can’t see them making it even with an 11-5 record unless they make a run to the SEC Tournament finals.

Put the Cats in the NIT along with Alabama.

As for LSU, Georgia, Auburn and South Carolina fans, well, there’s always next year.

And as we’ve seen, anything can happen in the SEC from year to year.

Jeff Edwards is the sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3633 or