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)|
|5||Mountain West||0.568||New Mexico (10-0)|
|6||Atlantic 10||0.563||Butler (7-2)|
|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|
|(N) Kansas St
|Texas A&M||(N) Oklahoma||39%|
|Vanderbilt||(N) Middle Tennessee||24%|
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.