The final week of the regular season with be a crucial one for a handful of SEC teams fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Vanderbilt, Florida, Alabama and LSU were each listed firmly on the bubble in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s latest tournament projections. The Commodores and Gators barely made the field, while Alabama and LSU were placed on the outside looking in.
Vanderbilt is trending in the right direction thanks to a three-game winning streak that was capped by an impressive 12-point victory over Kentucky last weekend. The Commodores were one of the “Last Four Byes” according to Lunardi, and received a No. 10 seed in the West Region.
After being safely in the field for much of the regular season, Florida was listed as the last team in the field by Lunardi. The Gators have regressed onto the bubble because of a three-game losing streak against a few of the conference’s top teams. Florida was listed as a No. 11 seed in the South Region and would play Oregon State in a play-in game in Dayton, Ohio.
Not far behind Florida was Alabama. The Crimson Tide were projected as one of the first four teams to miss the cut, according to Lunardi. Alabama will likely need to beat Arkansas and UGA this week to jump back on the right side of the bubble.
The final SEC team on the bubble was LSU, who was listed on the fringe as one of the next four teams out of the field. The Tigers reappeared on the bubble after knocking off Florida at home last weekend, but they cannot afford to lose another game the rest of the way. Amazingly, the Tigers can still finish in the top four of the conference standings and earn a double-bye into the quarterfinals with a strong finish to the regular season.
Kentucky ascended to a No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region after drubbing Alabama at home and falling to Vanderbilt on the road last weekend. Kentucky was matched up with Stephen F. Austin in the first round in Oklahoma City. The Wildcats can further improve their stock by beating Florida and LSU this week.
Texas A&M was the next SEC team listed in Lunardi’s field. The Aggies received a No. 5 seed in the West Region and would play Temple in the first round in Des Moines, Iowa. Texas A&M has won four straight after sustaining a midseason swoon and controls its destiny to the top seed in the SEC Tournament. The Aggies wrap up the regular season at Auburn and at home against Vanderbilt.
The final team in the NCAA Tournament mix was South Carolina. The Gamecocks dropped to a No.9 seed in the South Region after falling to Mississippi State last weekend. They were matched up with Texas Tech in the first round in Raleigh, N.C. South Carolina is 8-6 since starting the season 15-0 and will conclude the regular season against UGA and Arkansas.