SEC stacked with NCAA Tournament bubble teams | Inquirer Sports

SEC stacked with NCAA Tournament bubble teams

/ 01:28 PM February 17, 2020

Kentucky’s Immanuel Quickley (5) shoots near teammate Nick Richards (4) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. Kentucky won 67-62. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

The SEC has three teams that should be locks for the NCAA Tournament.

The rest of the conference may have some work to do.


No. 11 Auburn (22-3) climbed as high as No. 5 in The AP Top 25 and was among the top 16 seeds in the NCAA’s preliminary rankings earlier this month. The Tigers have lost just three times in their follow-up to the 2019 Final Four run.

No. 12 Kentucky (20-5) was No. 1 early in the season, among the initial NCAA top 16 and has won eight of nine.


No. 25 LSU (18-7) has slipped up lately with three losses in four games, but still should be in the field of 68, barring a late-season collapse.

Then things get interesting.

Florida (16-9) bounced back from losing four of six by beating Texas A&M and Vanderbilt last week. The Gators have a tough road ahead, though, with Arkansas, Kentucky (twice) and LSU still left on the schedule.

A fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance under Mike White will likely depend on those games.

“Their team is so good,” Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams said after a 78-61 loss to the Gators on Wednesday. “They put stress on you in every possible way.”

South Carolina (16-9) has a strange resume with wins over Kentucky and Virginia offset by home losses to Boston University and Stetson. Six wins in seven games and a winning SEC record (8-4) should help the Gamecocks’ chances.

Arkansas (16-9) has gone from appearing to be safely in the bracket in coach Eric Musselman’s first season to being on the bubble.


The reason: Isaiah Joe’s knee injury.

The sophomore guard was the SEC’s sixth-leading scorer before undergoing knee surgery on Feb. 4. The Razorbacks have played four games since then and lost every one.

Arkansas has a couple of resume-building opportunities coming up, with games against Florida and LSU before the SEC Tournament.

Mississippi State’s last-second win over Arkansas on Saturday was a huge boost to the Bulldogs’ NCAA Tournament chances. The win was Mississippi State’s second against a Quad 1 opponent and gives the Bulldogs (16-9) a chance at a 20-win regular season with no games left on the schedule against the SEC’s top 3 teams.

Alabama’s waning NCAA Tournament chances got a huge boost with a win over LSU this week and a four-point loss to Auburn doesn’t look too bad. Still some work to do, but those will look good on the resume.


Virginia (17-7), 9-5 ACC). The reigning national champions survived what could have been a debilitating loss by beating North Carolina by two — yes, the Tar Heels have fallen that far — and have some resume-building potential, with No. 7 Duke and No. 5 Louisville coming up.

Creighton (20-6, 9-4 Big East). Seven wins in eight games, including over No. 10 Seton Hall, has Greg McDermott’s team in good shape.

Rutgers (18-8, 9-6 Big Ten). The Scarlet Knights’ run toward their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1991 got a nice bump with a win over Illinois on Saturday.

Saint Mary’s (21-6, 8-4 WCC). The Gaels won a can’t-lose game against Pacific on Saturday and have a couple of more before facing No. 2 Gonzaga in the regular-season finale.


Illinois (16-9, 8-6 Big Ten). The No. 22 Illini have lost four straight and saw star Ayo Dosunmu go down with a knee injury against Michigan State. The good news: Dosunmu suffered no structural damage and Illinois has a solid resume to this point.

Stanford (16-9, 5-7 Pac-12). Once the surprise of the Pac-12, the Cardinal are stuck on the bubble after seven losses in eight games.

Memphis (17-7, 6-5 AAC). Blowing a 10-point lead in an overtime loss to Cincinnati was a big blown opportunity. Two games against Houston and another against Wichita State will be huge.

Virginia Commonwealth (17-8, 7-5 Atlantic-10). Three losses in four games makes Tuesday’s showdown with Dayton massive.

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