Never before have as many as eight SEC teams made the NCAA Tournament, but in 2023, over half the league heard their name called on Selection Sunday and are on the road to the Final Four in Houston.
FiveThirtyEight every year produces a spectacular page showing minute-by-minute every team’s odds of advancing to each round of the Big Dance, and using their odds, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at every SEC team’s odds of making the Final Four right now before the Round of 64 starts. Let’s take a look, starting with the lowest odds and going up to the highest.
11-Mississippi State Bulldogs: 0%
This one’s an easy one! With State’s narrow loss to Pitt last night they are out of the NCAA Tournament before it’s barely gotten started.
7-Missouri Tigers: 1%
For Mizzou to make the Final Four they’ll have to handle 10-Utah State in the first round and come out of a region with 2-Arizona, 3-Baylor, and 1-Alabama. Very few 7-seeds have made the Final Four and that Round of 32 game with the 2-seed and the almost inevitable showdown with the 1-seed is usually why.
8-Arkansas Razorbacks: 4%
The Hogs have made back-to-back Elite Eights but were better seeded those years and will have to get past the defending champion Kansas in the second round before even thinking about Gonzaga and UCLA. Plus they’re asking for a fight facing Illinois in Game 1.
9-Auburn Tigers: 4%
Not sure why Auburn has four times better odds than Mizzou given that they’re a 9-seed in Houston’s region and would be the first 9-seed to ever make the Final Four should they win four straight. I guess Mizzou isn’t very good. Maybe I shouldn’t have picked them in my bracket.
7-Texas A&M Aggies: 5%
Now this 7-seed has a little bit more favorable a path to Houston than the other teams, because if they get past 10-Penn State they get a rivalry game against 2-Texas and everyone knows you have to throw out the record books (and seed lines) in rivalry games. Just look at the UNC-Duke game last year. Plus this team came within a hair of winning both the SEC regular season and conference tournament championships.
6-Kentucky Wildcats: 10%
Don’t ever count out the ‘Cats—all they need is a seed and a first round matchup, and they can take it from there. In 2014, they were an 8-seed and made not only the Final Four but the title game, and in 2011 also made the Final Four as a 4-seed. Split the difference and run to Houston as a 6? Why not? Providence, Kansas State, Marquette, and Purdue? They’ve faced worse. They’ve also been better. What we’ll get is what we’ll see over the next few weeks, but don’t ever say it’s over till it’s over: Tshiebwe’s been waiting for this moment a long time since that Saint Peter’s game.
4-Tennessee Volunteers: 12%
Drawing Louisiana and Duke/Oral Roberts isn’t the toughest path to a Sweet 16, and getting past Purdue likely leaves either Marquette or Kansas State or Kentucky in the Elite Eight. If they get that far they better not hope UK stands in their way given how the last two meetings went.
1-Alabama Crimson Tide: 45%
Now those are good odds! 45%! But I’m not buying it. While the #1 overall-seeded Tide have a pretty favorable path to Houston, their play has not been the same ever since the Brandon Miller situation and if they are needing overtime to squeak past South Carolina and Auburn in February then they will have an extremely difficult time doing the same against any 2, 3, 4, 6, or even their second-round 8/9 seeded opponent for four-straight games in March.
Should the Crimson Tide, Kentucky Wildcats, or any other of the
eight seven (adios Mississippi State) SEC teams make the Final Four, they’ll be the first SEC team to do so since the 5th-seeded Auburn Tigers of 2019 and the 7th-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks of 2017 (yes you read that right, South Carolina somehow did that six years ago). March Madness is here: it’s about to get really crazy.