How Many SEC Basketball Teams Will Make the NCAA Tournament?
As conference play continues on (with a loaded slate of SEC basketball tonight, by the way), the picture for the NCAA tournament contenders is getting clearer and clearer. There’s a solid slate of top-tier teams in the conference that will be battling it out for high seeding, a middle slate of teams that feel good about their chances (but not good enough to rest on their laurels), and a few teams both on the right and wrong side of the bubble at the moment.
More than half of the conference made the field of 68 last year, with 8 total teams getting their shot at the Big Dance. Alabama was the only 1 seed from the conference, thanks in large part to the play of now-NBA rookie Brandon Miller as well as some solid upperclassman leadership.
So how many SEC teams can we expect to see in the tournament this year? If form holds, we could see as many as eight or more make the dance. Falling out of the field of 68 from last year would be Arkansas, who has plummeted to outside the top 100 in the NET rankings, and Missouri, who has done the same.
The newcomers? At the moment, that would be Florida and South Carolina. Both are within the top 50 nationwide at the moment. Prospects are bright for Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Alabama, Auburn, and Tennessee to return to the tourney as well.
Sitting on the bubble right now are Ole Miss, Georgia, and LSU. The Tigers are outside most projections at the moment, but remain within striking distance. Georgia and Ole Miss have had solid starts to their seasons, but against lower-level competition. Both teams will need to rack up some top-shelf wins in order to make it into the tournament, as things stand today.
I have a tough time seeing all eleven teams listed making the tournament when all is said and done, but ten would be feasible. There’s always the chance that one of these teams that feels comfortable at the moment could plummet, or that a talented-yet-underachieving team like Arkansas could suddenly catch fire and rack up some impressive wins. At the end of the day, though, I feel most comfortable saying that, in all likelihood, the SEC will send 8 teams once again to the Big Dance.