The FBI has narrowed into not just bagmen but into those receiving the bags. Also, we’ve finally gotten our six-way tie in the SEC. Unfortunately, it’s not in football and the SEC East isn’t the culprit. Here’s the SEC Starting Five:
1. The college basketball world was once again entangled by a Pete Thamel Yahoo Sports article on the details pertaining to the FBI investigation into mass corruption, bribery and wire fraud in college basketball. Unlike the other pieces were written about the FBI probe, this one finally gave insight into what programs and which players were connected to the investigation. Kentucky, South Carolina, LSU, Vanderbilt and Alabama all had former or current players listed in the documents seized from Andy Miller’s agency, ASM, by the FBI. Auburn, as has been widely reported since the news broke in September, is involved thanks to the arrest of former assistant Chuck Person.
Kentucky’s Kevin Knox and Alabama’s Collin Sexton were among the handful of current players said to have had meals with Miller’s former associate Christian Dawkins. To this point, both will remain eligible and compete in Saturday’s contest for their respective programs.
It’s still uncertain how this will impact the programs involved and who may be sanction by the NCAA. I went into further detail yesterday into the FBI’s involvement and how it will have an effect on the rest of the college basketball season.
2. During the 2016 SEC football season, America came oh so close to a six-way tie atop the SEC East standings. A tie that would’ve sent Missouri to the SEC Championship Game for slaughter against Alabama. Unfortunately, our dreams were dashed and it was Florida winning outright and still getting slaughtered by Bama. Well, I have good news as there is currently a six-way tie for third place in the league. Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi State, Alabama and Arkansas are all deadlocked at 8-7 in league play with three games remaining. Were the SEC tournament to start today, those teams throughout a tiebreaker would hold the 3 through 8 seeds, in that order.
3. As exciting as the league has been this year one might be concerned over how many teams will get into the NCAA field. Auburn and Tennessee are the only locks for an at-large bid. I’d even feel safe to say that Kentucky is safely in after winning two straight games following a four-game losing streak. The Wildcats are 16th in the RPI and are a 4-7 record against Quadrant 1 opponents and zero losses to Quadrant 3 or 4 opponents.
Outside of those three programs, the lines are blurred to who will earn an invitation. Alabama has them most Quadrant 1 wins among SEC teams with 6, but also has a 17-11 record and with a poor finish could creep extremely close to must win in St. Louis territory. Texas A&M is 4-8 vs Quadrant 1 teams but sits at 6-9 and in tenth place in the league and is only outside of the bottom four thanks to tiebreakers. Can a team that finishes 3 games below .500 and in the bottom four of a power conference get an at-large? Should they? Missouri felt safe after winning four straight, but now has lost two in a row, including a home loss to Ole Miss that falls into Quadrant 3, they’re second of that nature this season. The Tigers do have five Quadrant 1 wins that should bolster their resume. The return of Michael Porter Jr., who was cleared Thursday for full contact, could play a role in how the Tigers are evaluated. If Porter Jr. returns and immediately elevates Missouri’s play then they could find a higher seed than were they to finish strong without him. Either way, I’d view Mizzou as relatively safe from the bubble. Arkansas should also be fine at No. 35 in the RPI, despite the 2-8 record against Quadrant 1 opponents. The Razorbacks only have one loss that falls outside of those eight and it’s to a Quadrant 2 teams.
4. At this point, Florida is the team I’d be concerned about. At 64, the Gators RPI is a problem. Especially when you weigh in it’s below Mississippi State’s, only by a one, but still lesser than a team that has a single Quadrant 1 win and a non-conference strength of schedule ranking of 310. Florida’s SOS sits at 37 overall and their non-con SOS is encouraging at 44. The 5-4 record against Quadrant 1 will look good on the team sheet but it’s still hard to feel good about them moving forward when you weigh in the RPI. The RPI is only one metric that the committee takes into account and other advanced analytic data metrics like KenPom and BPI have them ranked at 29th and 34th, respectively that bodes well for their at-large profile. Still, finishing Auburn, Alabama and Kentucky could turn things sideways for the Gators and provide angst before St. Louis.
5. Weekend Thoughts:
- Texas A&M travels to Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon in a game that could either put the Aggies in position for an at-large bid or take them out of the conversation. An 8-10 conference finish should be good enough for A&M to get a bid as long as they don’t flame out in St. Louis. A win at Vandy would also be beneficial as the Dores hold an RPI of 111. That’s not a team A&M can afford to lose to. It’s also a team that has won five straight at home and made every home game this season intriguing.
- For the time being, LSU and Georgia are on the outside looking in on the bubble conversation. The Bulldogs played their way back into the bubble picture with back-to-back wins against Florida and Tennessee but quickly played themselves out of it with a loss at South Carolina on Wednesday night. LSU is surprisingly 5-5 vs Quadrant 1 teams and feasibly could be in great at-large position arriving in St. Louis if they can win at Georgia on Saturday then close the season with a win a South Carolina and a victory over Mississippi State. All of which are winnable games, in a season where no game can’t be won or lost.
- Arkansas at Alabama and Missouri at Kentucky are two games where the winner likely wraps up their at-large status. The two road teams would obviously benefit the most from the wins as the trips provide a Quadrant 1 opportunity.
- Florida hosting Auburn is a game the Gators have to win. In my opinion, an RPI of 64 is too high to earn an at-large berth out of a major conference. The Gators have had plenty of opportunities to earn marquee wins in this vastly improved SEC. A loss to Auburn on Saturday in front of their home crowd would make it even more evident that this team may not be as deserving for an at-large spot as some would lead you to believe.
#19 Tennessee (20-7, 10-5 SEC) at Ole Miss (12-16, 5-10 SEC) 12:00 PM CT SEC Network
LSU (16-11, 7-8 SEC) at Georgia (15-12, 6-9 SEC) 1:00 PM CT ESPNU
South Carolina (15-13, 6-9 SEC) at Mississippi State (20-8, 8-7 SEC) 2:30 PM CT SEC Network
Texas A&M (17-11, 6-9 SEC) at Vanderbilt (11-17, 5-10 SEC) 3:00 PM CT ESPN2
Arkansas (19-9, 8-7 SEC) at Alabama (17-11, 8-7 SEC) 5:00 PM CT SEC Network
Missouri (18-10, 8-7 SEC) at Kentucky (19-9, 8-7 SEC) 7:15 PM CT ESPN
Auburn (24-4, 12-3 SEC) at Florida (17-11, 8-7 SEC) 7:30 PM CT SEC Network
Be sure to check back on Monday for the SEC Starting Five as I recap the weekend in college basketball and look at the week ahead. For updates throughout the weekend, follow me on Twitter, @JulianCouncil