Much of the popular story line in the SEC has been focused on Kentucky’s unexpected struggles. The Wildcats are likely to miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 unless they can win the conference tournament.
But Kentucky’s poor performance has overshadowed just how strong the SEC is in 2020-21. The league is the second-best conference in the country, according to the NCAA’s NET rankings — only trailing the Big Ten.
The SEC has six projected teams in the field of 68 now, led by No. 2 seed Alabama, which is on the cusp of stealing a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday should coach Nate Oats’ squad keep winning behind its smothering defense.
Tennessee then rests at the No. 3 line, Missouri at No. 5, Florida at No. 7, Arkansas at No. 8 and LSU at No. 9. The SEC’s NCAA Tournament-worthy teams can benefit from a much better year overall in the league with those six teams sporting a combined 26 Quadrant 1 victories. That could make a difference on Selection Sunday and when March Madness tips off.
MORE: ACC could make wrong kind of history on Selection Sunday
While those teams are relatively safe, the SEC could also win on the bubble. Ole Miss, winner of four consecutive games, is one of the first four out in the latest bracket projection. Georgia also has bounced back into consideration after upsetting a reeling Missouri earlier this week.
Selection Sunday is March 14. The NCAA Tournament tips off March 18.
No. 1 seeds
Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Ohio State.
Last four in
Minnesota, Utah State, Seton Hall, Saint Louis.
First four out
Connecticut, Stanford, Ole Miss, St. John’s.
Next four out
Maryland, Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Memphis.
Others considered for at-large bids (no particular order): Richmond, Wichita State, Southern Methodist, Pittsburgh, Alabama-Birmingham, Georgia.
On life support: Texas Christian, Marquette, Providence, Marshall, Utah, Arizona State, Oregon State, Mississippi State, Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas A&M, St. Mary’s, San Francisco, Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Dayton, Davidson, Nevada, Penn State.
Multi-bid conferences: Big Ten (9), Big 12 (7), ACC (6), SEC (6), Pac-12 (4), Big East (4), Mountain West (4), Atlantic 10 (3), Missouri Valley (2), West Coast (2).
Leaders or highest NET from projected one-bid conferences – (21 total): American Athletic – Houston, America East – UMBC, Atlantic Sun – Liberty, Big Sky – Eastern Washington, Big South – Winthrop, Big West – UCSB, Colonial Athletic – Northeastern, C-USA – UAB, Horizon – Wright State, Metro Atlantic – Siena, Mid-American – Toledo, Mid-Eastern – Norfolk State, Northeast – Bryant, Ohio Valley – Belmont, Patriot – Navy, Southern – UNC-Greensboro, Southland – Sam Houston, Southwestern – Prairie View A&M, Summit – South Dakota, Sun Belt – Texas State, Western Athletic – Grand Canyon
- Banned from participating: Alabama State, Alabama A&M, Delaware State, Auburn, Arizona
- Transition schools, ineligible for the tournament: Cal Baptist, North Alabama, Merrimack, Dixie State, Tarleton State, Bellarmine, UC San Diego
- COVID-19: Ivy League, Bethune-Cookman, Maryland-Eastern Shore, Howard, Maine
Note: Most statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com. The NET rankings (NCAA Evaluation Tool) also are a reference point.
About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his eighth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past seven March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson