SEC Basketball:  March 2013 Update

By Dennis Berry

What a difference a month can make. At one point during February the SEC was looking like a one bid NCAA Tournament conference.Going into the first Saturday of March, the SEC now has about six teams that are making a push for NCAA bids.

Going into this past Saturday's slate of games, bracketologists saw as many as four SEC teams making the NCAA Tournament. Those teams are mixed. ESPN has Florida, Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Missouri. CBS has Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee. It’s interesting that Alabama – who is in second place heading into March – is not listed on either bracket projections.

Then came Saturday, March 2. On the first Saturday of March, four SEC teams are looking to make thier case for a NCAA bid lost.

After Saturday's games a lot of NCAA hopes for SEC teams took a big hit..

The Florida Gators should be considered a lock to get a NCAA Tournament bid. They have been the best team in the SEC all season. The only thing concerning about the Gators are their recent slump on the road. They have lost their last three games on the road in conference play to Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee. Even given that recent run on the road, Florida has done everything to secure their spot in the NCAA. They look like a team that has all the tools to make a run to the Final Four this year.

After that it gets really interesting for the rest of the teams trying to get into the "Big Dance."

Alabama is almost in the same position they were last season. They are in second place in the conference and might be left out of the NCAA. Right now their best wins of the season would have to be Tennessee and Kentucky. They also beat Villanova way back in November. The problem for the Tide is losses. They have been defeated by the likes of Dayton, Mercer, Tulane, and Auburn. When it comes to picking teams for the NCAA, those losses will come back to hurt them. They missed a great chance to get a signature win at Florida on Saturday when they only scored five points in the final 10 minutes in a 64-52 loss. Right now it looks like the Tide will have to win the SEC Tournament to get in.

Kentucky’s NCAA resume begins after they lost Nerlens Noel to a torn ACL at Florida on February 12. The NCAA run did not start well when they lost by 30 points at Tennessee. After that loss, however, the Wildcats rebounded. They were on a three game winning streak – with a win over Missouri – heading into their final three games. After a loss to Arkansas on Saturday the Wildcat's NCAA chances look poor. They play at Georgia on Thursday and cannot lose that game. Then they host Florida on the final day of the regular season. A win against the Gators and at least one in the SEC Tournament might be enough to get the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament.

Remember when Ole Miss was the country’s favorite SEC team. People were in love with scoring threat Marshall Henderson and the Rebels appeared to be on their way to the NCAA Tournament. Then came a loss to Kentucky at the end of January and that started the Ole Miss slide. From January 29 to February 20 they were 2-5 with losses to Texas A&M and South Carolina. Going into Saturday they had won two straight, but suffered a horrible loss at Mississippi State. That pretty much ended the Rebel's NCAA Tournament hopes. Now the only way they can make the NCAA is to win the SEC Tournament.

The Missouri Tigers were picked by many to be contenders to win the SEC in their first year. That has not worked out for the Tigers. They were 11-2 heading into conference play, but have only been a middle of the pack team since. Their non-conference schedule has wins over Stanford, VCU, and a ranked Illinois team. In the SEC they have losses to LSU and Texas A&M. Missouri should be a better team; they are loaded with talent but they have had trouble closing out teams on the road. If they make a run in the SEC Tournament, they should be in.

Johnny O'Bryant III works his way past Missouri Tigers forward Alex Oriakhi

Mar 2, 2013; Columbia, MO, USA; LSU Tigers forward Johnny O'Bryant III (2) works his way past Missouri Tigers forward Alex Oriakhi (42) during the first half at Mizzou Arena. Photo Courtesy By Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports.

If Tennessee could figure things out in the first half of the season, they would be a NCAA Tournament team for sure. The Volunteers were playing their best basketball of the season at the right time, but will the first half of the season come back to haunt them? Going into conference play they were 8-4 and coming off a loss to Memphis. They ended up losing six of their first nine SEC games. The Volunteers were on a six game winning streak before losing at Georgia on Saturday. That loss really hurt their NCAA hopes. It appears that the only way the Vols make the NCAA, like most of the conference, is to win the SEC Tournament.

At this time it would appear that the SEC has about two teams with legit chances to make the NCAA Tournament. Those teams are Florida and Missouri. The only other team that has a chance to make the NCAA at this point is Kentucky.

The rest of the teams would be pretty good locks to make the NIT. LSU and Arkansas would be the other two teams that the NIT could look at inviting as well.

The rest of the SEC will be pretty much done after the SEC Tournament unless they go on a crazy run and win the SEC Tournament to secure the automatic bid. If that is the case, then one of the other SEC bubble teams (Missouri, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee, or Alabama) will see their bubble burst for good as a result.

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