Can the SEC muster some good wins?

Can Cal and the Cats still grab a #1 seed? - Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

It's been a tough start to the season for SEC teams not named Florida or Missouri as most every league school has either dropped several games or put together a nice W-L record without any real punch to it. As the non-conference portion of schedules draws to a close over the next 3 weeks, what chances remain for the league to prove itself?

Earlier this week Glenn looked at Kentucky's start and compared it to some other recent teams to get a sense of what their NCAA seed chances might be. The SEC as a whole has had a rough start to the season and that very much impacts how much the Cats might be able to improve their seed - they need quality wins to do it and right now it appears there will be very few opportunities for those in conference play.

We'll use the RPI as our measuring stick - not because I think the RPI is any great measure of how good the league is, but it is what the Selection Committee uses to select and seed teams so it is relevant to the discussion. The RPI used here comes from TeamRankings.com

Here's where the SEC sits among conferences:

RPI Rank Conference RPI Best Team
1 Big Ten 0.597 Michigan (10-0)
2 Big East 0.582 Syracuse (8-0)
3 Pac-12 0.576 Colorado (8-2)
4 ACC 0.573 Duke (9-0)
5 Mountain West 0.568 New Mexico (10-0)
6 Atlantic 10 0.563 Butler (7-2)
7 SEC 0.554 Florida (7-0)
8 Big 12 0.554 Kansas (7-1)

Thanks to Tennessee's win over a good Wichita St. team last night the SEC pulled into a virtual tie with the Big 12 for 7th place. You know what conference has finished 7th the last couple years? The Pac-12. Obviously there is still a lot of season left to play, but if you are doing a back-of-the-envelope estimate of how good of a seed the Cats might be able to get, think of where you might have placed a 3-5 loss Pac-12 team the last couple years.

Can the SEC improve before teams start beating up on each other in January? Despite some bad losses and missed opportunities, the league still has a number of chances to get good wins over teams from BCS conferences and strong mid-major opponents.

School Opponent KenPom Win Odds
Florida Arizona 63%

(N) Kansas St
80%
Kentucky Marshall 94%

@Louisville 18%
Missouri (N) Illinois 50%

@UCLA 37%

Bucknell 67%
Alabama @VCU 25%

@Texas Tech 82%
Tennessee Xavier 74%

Memphis 56%
Texas A&M (N) Oklahoma 39%
LSU @Boise St 25%

@Marquette 17%
Georgia Southern Cal 72%
Vanderbilt (N) Middle Tennessee 24%

Butler 40%
Auburn (N) Illinois 12%

Florida St 37%

If you are keeping track at home, Mississippi, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Mississippi St are done with their chances against top teams. The best they can hope for is to avoid bad losses. Not all of the BCS league teams listed here are actually good, but beating them can still help the RPI via the Opponent's Opponents SOS component.

As you can see, most of the teams still have chances at quality wins. That's important before the start of conference season because it's really the only way to establish who really is good ("good" in terms of the Selection Committee that is) before schools start playing each other. Someone is going to emerge with a good conference record, but the only way to know if that means anything is by judging how well SEC teams did against teams that weren't themselves.

What does all this mean for the Cats? If they want a shot at a #1 seed it won't be enough to simply run the table the rest of the way - the SEC hasn't shown itself to be any better than a good mid-major conference so far this year. UK will need their league mates to beat most of the teams above and take care of business against everyone else over the next several weeks so that conference wins will actually mean something.

Florida and Missouri are good bets, I think Tennessee is too. Alabama could easily split their top games, but the rest of the SEC doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. Maybe LSU can surprise a good Boise St team on the road or Georgia can get USC at home, but most of these other teams are probably going to lose.

Glenn put the dream of a #1 seed on life support and that's probably about right. Unfortunately, getting off life support is going to depend as much on other teams performance as it will on the Cats.

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