Teams can often play their way into the NCAA Tournament field, but usually not out. That’s the case in Atlanta.
Florida and Kentucky are in, and that’s all that is known.
No conference has a longer list of tournament hopefuls. Tennessee and Arkansas appear to be in the best shape, but one or both could find themselves in the First Four in Dayton.
Really, any bubble team would take the extra game if it meant inclusion on the bracket. To get there, Missouri, Georgia and LSU probably have to win multiple games this week.
NCAA TOURNAMENT OUTLOOK
Florida: The Gators, undefeated in league play, are good to go. Only a loss in its first game, to either Missouri or Texas A&M in the SEC quarterfinals, is likely to keep top-ranked Florida from being the overall No. 1 seed — and a NCAA Tournament favorite.
Kentucky: The Wildcats started the year as the nation’s top-ranked team but haven’t come together. The recent loss at South Carolina was the low point. Still, the Wildcats have the pieces and if they click could do damage in Atlanta and beyond.
Tennessee: The Volunteers are playing like a team that wants to be in the NCAA field, and perhaps coach Cuonzo Martin is off the hot seat.
Arkansas: Until its regular-season-ending 25-point loss at Alabama, the Razorbacks had stepped out of character for a Mike Anderson-coached team and won on the road, including at Kentucky.
Georgia: The RPI in the mid-70s doesn’t help, but a second-place tie and No. 3 seed in the SEC Tournament will be considered by the committee.
Tigers had more impressive non-league victories than anybody in the league besides Florida and Kentucky, and they swept Arkansas. But MU’s resume is probably going to need an eye-opener, like a quarterfinal victory over Florida.
LSU: If the Tigers can get past Alabama, Kentucky awaits and LSU has defeated the Wildcats this season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Julius Randle, Kentucky, F, Fr.: For the fifth straight year, Kentucky has the SEC’s top freshman. Randle is a combination of power and finesse, but can he carry the Wildcats through the bracket?
Trevor Releford, Alabama, G, Sr.: Releford’s last hurrah, and the Crimson Tide need to win for his career to continue. The former Bishop Miege standout is having his best season and was chosen all-SEC.
Scottie Wilbekin, Florida, G, Sr.: One of the nation’s top defenders, Wilbekin is also the player Florida most often finds when it needs a basket.
Jordan McRae, Tennessee, G, Sr.: The Vols are hot, and one of the reasons is McRae, who joined teammate Jarnell Stokes on the all-SEC team.
Jabari Brown, Missouri, G, Jr.: If anybody in the SEC can heat up and carry a team for a game or two, it’s Brown, who had a player-of-the-year stretch midway through the league season.