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Roll ‘Bama Roll Bracketology: Is the SEC a nine-bid conference?

Rarely has there been such a jumble in the SEC

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Substantively, there’s not much to report on the Tide’s position in the brackets. Lunardi still projects ‘Bama to hold steady as the No. 1 overall seed in the tourney. And, honestly, why wouldn’t they? The Tide’s final three games are nasty Q1 tilts against: away at No. 22 Texas A&M, No. 30 Auburn, and No. 15 Arkansas.

Likewise, the other bracketologist I find to have much national credibility, Jerry Palm, also has the Tide as the No. 1 overall seed.

What is rather far more interesting this week is the public perception of the SEC as a basketball conference — both Palm and Lunardi project the conference to have eight teams in the 2023 tournament, with feisty physical Mississippi State making the cut among the last four in. Though, as we shall discuss, I think they’re underselling what Vanderbilt has done.

Seriously, think to yourself: “What SEC teams are tourney-worthy?”

We all likely grab the first five without breaking a sweat: Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Kentucky (who’ve rebounded nicely to 10-5 in SEC play).

But, after that, who do you have?

Auburn (NET 30)

Sitting at 19-9, losers of 6 of their last 9, four losses to other bubble/L4I teams, bad losses to Ole Miss and Vandy, best win is home vs. Arkansas (15)? What’s after that? Bradley (No. 60)? Mississippi State (42)? Missouri (51)? Washington (113)? There’s just not much there there. This looks much more like a 1- or 2-seed NIT resume than an NCAA schedule.

Yet, both pollsters see the Tigers Dancing, in what is a clear case of analytics loving Auburn more than the NET or your eyeballs do. But, if there was anything made abundantly clear about the NCAA Top 16 reveal, those objective data points don’t hold up. Hell, not even the NET holds up (see Xavier NET No. 30 but placed as a Top 4-seed).

Projection: Out...for now. The final three are a true bitch: At Alabama, at Kentucky, home vs. Tennessee. They can get back in the conversation with a win over UT or ‘Bama, and they’re a lock if they win two of these last three — all of whom would be Q1 pelts. The Barn is just 2-7 vs. Q1. But 4-8 is a more compelling case by ending strong. Still, I don’t see it. I think they go 0-3 and are NIT bound. They can only ruin seasons at this point.


Auburn: In or out?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Out, welcome to the NIT for the 6th year under Bruce Pearl
    (179 votes)
  • 27%
    In, for whatever reason, pollsters are infatuated by this team
    (93 votes)
  • 18%
    Don’t know / Too close to call
    (62 votes)
334 votes total Vote Now

Mississippi State (NET 42)

What I find particularly fascinating about the SEC’s bubble teams is that the second tier are reminiscent of the conference’s leaders in style of play, though lacking the talent to execute it as well. To that end, I give you the MSU Bulldogs. They revel in every bit of the same physically grinding style as Texas A&M and Tennessee, but don’t quite have enough firepower to pull it off.

In both major projections, the Bulldogs squeak in among the Last Four In. This could be a case of other bubble teams simply imploding (Wake, Washington, etc.) But unlike Auburn, I think the Bulldogs make a more compelling case on paper. They are 6-9 in-conference, but they have wins at No. 15 Arkansas, at No. 13 Marquette, split vs. No. 30 Mizzou, and won at home over NET No. 24 TCU. They have lost a lot of games to peer-level adversaries (UK etc.), but have avoided bad losses. Even their one bad “name brand” loss was on the road to a projected tourney team, No. 60 Drake, who is projected to win the MVC.

Projection: IN...after Auburn craters. There’s a soft landing for MSU. They play Vandy on the road, and that’s dicey. But they get USC at home, who are far worse outside of Columbia. And more importantly, this weekend Texas A&M comes to town. It’s the chance for MSU to turn heads one last time. They are 3-7 vs. Q1, but a win over Aggie, and no bad home loss to USC would likely do it. Vandy has at least been bandied as a bubble team; the Cocks are sitting home this Spring.
The Bulldogs would get my nod over Auburn in a heartbeat because of the high-level road wins they have. This could be a dangerous team with the right matchups. They frustrate the hell out of teams that rely on guard play. Both of the Tide’s games against CLANGA were absolute wars. My guess is that slippage will open the door among some once-certain tourney teams in the B1G and ACC


MSU: In or out?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    Finish 2-1 and they’re in. You can’t ignore three Top 15 road wins.
    (187 votes)
  • 22%
    Out, someone like Illinois or Arizona State is going steal this bid.
    (66 votes)
  • 13%
    Don’t know / too close to call
    (38 votes)
291 votes total Vote Now

Missouri (NET 51)

Just like Mississippi State is Big Lots Tennessee, Mizzou is Great Value ‘Bama. This is the other fast team in the SEC, and is the only one who even comes close to the volume shooting approach of the Tide.

The problem is two-fold. They’ve not been very good against the elite (go look at those KU and Alabamabox scores), and they are hella’ inconsistent out of CoMo in conference play...even downright awful at times. They absolutely smoke Illinois and Iowa State at home...but get blasted by 33 points on the Plains, and struggle with the likes of LSU and Ole Miss.

But there is a lot of tasty stuff to love in that tourney CV: At 5-8, they have the best NET wins among any of the bubblers. And those are five quality wins too: Iowa State, Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee — two of those on the road. The backend of the schedule sets up very nicely to enter the SECT red-hot on a three-game tear: Ole Miss, LSU, Georgia. Woof.

Projection: IN. You simply cannot overlook that 5-8 Q1 record vs. NET teams. Yes, they’re flaky vs. the elite of the country and they’ve been bad on the road vs. the SEC. But as the seeding is done to prevent conference matchups early, this team’s style of play (and track record doing so) is a matchup nightmare for a lot of squads outside of the SEC. If they rattle the last three off, they’re in: 23-8, 11-7 in SEC play with a 5-9 Q1 record seems a mortal lock.


Mizzou: In or out

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Look at that record, ignore the NET. This team can ball. They’re in with no obvious gaffes.
    (142 votes)
  • 35%
    Out: Too flaky, too bad away from CoMo. Early injuries won’t be compensated for, and the overall poor play against elite teams dooms them in committee.
    (107 votes)
  • 17%
    Too close / don’t know
    (54 votes)
303 votes total Vote Now

Hon. Mention: Vanderbilt (NET 91)

Admit it, you didn’t think you’d see Vandy here. But, here we are. The ‘Dores are 5-1 since ‘Bama plastered them, including a win over Tennessee. They’ve now moved to 8-7 in SEC play.

But they promptly screwed up that mojo by losing to woeful LSU, almost certainly dooming their hard charge for the Dance. They still have a chance, for sure: Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Florida are the stretch run, and two wins out of that group would give the ‘Dores a very respectable 6-12 record vs. a lot of Q1 and Q2 teams.

Still, they seem to have put it together too late. Another NIT for Jerry...which is honestly a major win after January. He’ll be back next year.

Projection: Out. Too little, too late

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Meanwhile, here’s our weekly run-down of where ‘Bama stands by the numbers in the 2022-2023 season.

  • Ranking: AP 2 (LW 1) / CBS Coaches 2 (LW 1)
  • RPI: 1st (LW 1st)
  • SOS: 3rd (LW 3rd)
  • KenPom: 3rd (LW 2nd), 15th offense (LW 13th), 5th defense (LW 5th)
  • Sagarin: 2nd (LW 2nd)
  • Bart Torvik: 2nd (LW 3rd); 12th adj. offense (LW 14th); 2nd adj. defense (LW 4th)
  • True Tempo: 3rd — 73.2 adj. possessions per game (LW, 1st)
  • Offense PPG: 82.9 PPG
  • Defense PPG: 69.0 PPG
  • NET ranking: 2nd (LW 3rd)

Roll Tide


How many bids is the SEC getting?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Just the 5 locks.
    (12 votes)
  • 25%
    (84 votes)
  • 47%
    (159 votes)
  • 21%
    (73 votes)
  • 2%
    9: Even Vandy kicks in the door!
    (8 votes)
336 votes total Vote Now