Four SEC bubble teams
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
Winning in the Southeastern Conference tournament on Friday will mean more than advancing into the semifinals. Four SEC teams are in action with an NCAA tournament at-large bid on the line.
Bubble teams Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee and Ole Miss all have work to do if they plan to hear their name called on Selection Sunday. Meanwhile, other bubble teams’ fate could be in the outcomes of three Friday games.
USA TODAY Sports dissects each borderline SEC teams’ résumé and explains how their next matchup could be the difference between the Big Dance or the NIT.
Kentucky (21-10, RPI of 50)
Pivotal Friday matchup: vs. winner of Thursday night’s second round game vs. Arkansas and Vanderbilt.
The Wildcats have proven they can win without injured freshman Nerlens Noel—beating Florida and Missouri at home without the nation’s top shot blocker. But Kentucky can’t rely on signature wins to earn an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament because 12 of its wins have come against teams ranked below the top 150. An opening-round exit at the conference tournament would leave John Calipari’s young team staring at an unpleasant wait for Selection Sunday.
Ole Miss (23-8, RPI of 56)
Pivotal Friday matchup: vs. winner of Thursday’s second round game vs. Texas A&M and Missouri.
A loss to Mississippi State is as big of a resume stain that a bubble team could manage. Yet the Marshall Henderson-led Rebels still have a shot at making the NCAAs if they can string together deep SEC tournament run. Ole Miss’ non-conference schedule (No. 275) is also glaring for a team that also lost to South Carolina. Another bad sign is that if Ole Miss lost to another borderline team, Middle Tennessee, in a non-conference clash. If those are the two bubble teams the committee is dissecting, it won’t take a magnifying glass to figure Ole Miss is NIT-bound.
Alabama (20-11, RPI of 62)
Pivotal Friday matchup: vs. Tennessee in the quarterfinals.
The Crimson Tide have the exact opposite problem that Kentucky has, boasting a strong top-100 record (7-7) and no signature wins to make the selection committee swoon. Moreover, Alabama has beaten Kentucky, … [For more on Four SEC bubble teams could make or break season, click here.]