As the calendar turns to February, college basketball teams have to begin separating themselves from competition in order to vie for an NCAA Tournament berth.
The SEC has a few teams that are projected locks to make the tournament, but the conference also has a handful of bubble teams as well. Here is a rundown of those teamsand where their res stand in terms of their resumes as of this week.
Kentucky – The Wildcats remain at the top of the conference despite back-to-back losses to Tennessee and Kansas. Kentucky also had a scare against Georgia on Tuesday, when it played without De’Aaron Fox in that game. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projected thee Wildcats as the last No. 2 seed in his latest bracketology, but even that could be in jeopardy.
Kentucky could use a quality road win against Florida on Saturday, or it may be in jeopardy of dropping to a No. 3 or No. 4 seed.
Florida – The Gators have been playing solid basketball since their loss to Vanderbilt. However, Florida’s last three opponents have all had losing records, so expect the competition to pick up for Florida in the coming weeks. The Gators welcome a struggling Kentucky team on Saturday night — a potential signature win.
As of right now, Lunardi projects Florida as a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A win against the Wildcats might bump the Gators up to a No. 4 seed.
South Carolina – It looks like Frank Martin didn’t want to leave his team’s fate in the selection committee’s hands this year. In response, the Gamecocks have won the games that they were supposed to win. Their last two games were on the road against the bottom two teams in the conference (LSU and Missouri), and the Gamecocks picked up two easy wins.
South Carolina returns to Columbia for its next two games. However, the games are against bubble teams in Georgia and Alabama. Although the Gamecocks have the comfort of home-court advantage, the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs are each going to be motivated for big road wins. Lunardi’s bracketology pits South Carolina as a No. 6 seed right now, so the Gamecocks need to avoid any slip-ups in the coming weeks.
Safe for now
Arkansas – The Razorbacks have been a bit of a surprise this season after losing quality talent over the past few years. Arkansas has won most of the games it was supposed to win this season, but its resume has a flaw. Non-conference wins are nowhere to be found on the Razorbacks’ resume. Last year, South Carolina’s lack of non-conference wins ultimately kept the Gamecocks out of the Big Dance.
Arkansas faces three teams with losing records coming up, so it should be capable of staying in good standing. Joe Lunardi has the Razorbacks slotted as a No. 9 seed in his most recent bracketology.
On the bubble
Tennessee– The fact that this young Tennessee team is even in the NCAA Tournament discussion is a credit to the coaching job that Rick Barnes has done this year. The Volunteers have won four games in a row — two of those wins coming against Kentucky and Kansas State. Tennessee’s biggest calling card is a No. 1 ranked strength of schedule, according to KemPom. However, the Vols’ number of losses is a concern, and they don’t have much margin for error down the stretch.
Joe Lunardi currently has them as the second team out of the tournament.
Georgia – The Bulldogs missed a golden opportunity to boost their resume on Tuesday night at Rupp Arena. Georgia held a lead over Kentucky at different points throughout the game and even took the Wildcats to overtime, but the Bulldogs couldn’t get the job done. Georgia’s biggest problem is a lack of quality wins. However, an upcoming three-game stretch against Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee could change that.
Joe Lunardi currently has the Bulldogs in his next four out of the tournament.
Edited by Nathan Odom
Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics