The SEC Tournament seedings are starting to become a bit more clear. Alabama will be either the 4th or 5th seed. That may not seem like a big difference, but it is the difference between getting a bye and avoiding the risk for disaster, and having to face a South Carolina team that is on the verge of falling out of the RPI top 200--a scenario that would put the Tide's 2012 NCAA Tournament resume at serious risk while offering no upside whatsover. In fact, even beating South Carolina would likely make the Tide's RPI go down and would be a huge hit to Bama's SOS numbers. The bottom line is simple: getting the 4th seed rather than the 5th is unequivocally a good thing for Alabama.
There are four possible scenarios that will decide Bama's seeding position:
Tennessee loses to Vanderbilt. In this scenario, Alabama is guaranteed to get the 4th seed. If the Tide wins at Ole Miss, it will finish 4th with a better record than every team in the SEC except for Kentucky, Florida, and Vanderbilt (all of those teams hold tiebreakers over Alabama, so 4th is the best the Tide can do). Even if the Tide were to lose at Ole Miss, Alabama would still get the 4th seed thanks to holding the tiebreaker over Tennessee. If Alabama gets the 4th seed in this scenario, the Tide would face the winner of Thursday's Tennessee-South Carolina game in the quarterfinals on Friday afternoon.
Tennessee beats Vanderbilt and Alabama loses at Ole Miss. In this scenario, the Tide is guaranteed to get the 5th seed. Alabama would have a worse record than Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee, but a better record than everyone else in the league. If Alabama gets the 5th seed in this scenario, the Tide would face South Carolina in the first round on Thursday afternoon, and advance to play the 4th seed (would be Florida if they lose to Kentucky this weekend, otherwise would be Vanderbilt) on Friday afternoon with a win against South Carolina in the opener.
Tennessee and Alabama both win, and Florida beats Kentucky. In this scenario, Alabama would finish in a 3-way tie with Vanderbilt and Tennessee for 3rd place, with Kentucky and Florida taking the top seeds. In this 3-way tiebreaker, Alabama would finish 2nd among the 3 teams thanks to having a 1-1 record against Vanderbilt and Tennessee, meaning the Tide would claim the 4th seed (Vanderbilt would be the 3rd seed thanks to a 2-1 record against Alabama and Tennessee, and Tennessee would be the 5th seed thanks to a 1-2 record against Alabama and Vanderbilt). If Alabama gets the 4th seed in this scenario, the Tide would face the winner of Thursday's Tennessee-South Carolina game in the quarterfinals on Friday afternoon.
Tennessee and Alabama both win, and Florida loses to Kentucky. In this scenario, Alabama would finish in a 4-way tie with Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee for 2nd place, with Kentucky taking the top seed. Ironically, even though Alabama would be tied for 2nd place, this scenario would not be a good one for the Tide. Alabama would finish last among the 4 teams in this tie with a 1-2 record against Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee, meaning Bama would be forced to take the 5th seed. In this scenario, the Tide would face South Carolina in the first round on Thursday afternoon, and advance to play 4th seed Florida on Friday afternoon with a win against South Carolina in the opener.
In all of these scenarios, Alabama will be on the same side of the bracket as Kentucky, so the Tide would have to get through the #1 ranked Wildcats in the semifinals unless the 'Cats fall victim to a major upset in their opener on Friday against the 8th or 9th seed.
Most importantly, though, Alabama fans should be looking to avoid a game with South Carolina that is virtually guaranteed to hurt Alabama's computer numbers (the biggest strength of Bama's resume) regardless of result, and that will be a major risk if the Tide drops the game. The best way to wrap up that 4th seed is simply for Tennessee to lose to Vanderbilt this weekend. Let's hope for that...and of course an Alabama victory at Ole Miss, that would help Alabama's resume too.