SEC West hopefuls already in seemingly impossible position
Even with three extra at-large spots, few SEC West teams will warrant inclusion
Big East has five locks and SEC has two; all other major conferences have one
No locks in the Atlantic 10, but four teams are in decent position at this time
Mississippi sits at 9-3 and even with a couple of disappointing losses, the Rebels have an RPI of 61 two weeks before the start of SEC play. Not a bad place to be when it comes to NCAA at-large possibilities, right?
Think again. Thanks to the horrific state of the SEC West, Mississippi has almost no chance of landing an at-large berth. It's a seemingly impossible position for a BCS conference team at this stage of the season, but it's true.
As of now, all 10 of Mississippi's divisional games will be against teams outside the RPI Top 150 and only five of the Rebels' 16 SEC games will be against top 80 opponents. The Rebels wouldn't be much worse off playing an Ivy League schedule. The Ivy has two top 60 teams and only three of its eight teams are below No. 175.
Mississippi State, considered the preseason favorite in the West, just had two players involved in a brawl in the stands in Hawaii and sits at No. 239 in the RPI. Assuming it keeps Renardo Sidney (who is suspended again) and Dee Bost comes back in form, the Bulldogs are now an "all-downside" proposition: no computer benefit for a win over a solid team.
Auburn is projected to wind up as the worst-ever BCS-league team. According to Jerry Palm, operator of CollegeRPI.com, the Tigers are projected to finish at No. 292. The 2007-08 Oregon State team, at No. 269, holds the current (dis)honor. The worst SEC team ever was 1993-94 Tennessee, at No. 235.
Mississippi's hopes may come down to home games against Tennessee (Jan. 29) and Kentucky (Feb. 1). Without wins there, the Rebels could end up with a completely empty 11-5 league mark. Even with three extra at-large spots this year and some precedent set with Kentucky's SEC-enhanced at-large bid in 2008, it's hard to imagine that kind of profile being worthy of inclusion this season.
Remember, records listed are Division I only, per NCAA tournament selection guidelines. All RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) and SOS (Strength of Schedule) data are from Sunday's realtimerpi.com RPI report.
GW = good wins
BL = bad losses
(N) = neutral-site game
Duke remains the clear class of the league and the battle for second and beyond remains as muddled as it was last week.
SHOULD BE IN
Boston College (10-2, 1-0; RPI: 18, SOS: 32)
The Eagles barely held off Patriot contender Bucknell in their only game, making it nine wins in their last 10. This week brings sneaky road tests at regional rival Rhode Island and South Carolina.
GW: Texas A&M (N), Cal (N), at Maryland
IN THE MIX
Florida State (11-3, 1-0; RPI: 105, SOS: 215)
The 'Noles helped themselves some in Hawaii, picking up a win over Baylor after getting beaten by Butler and then having the Bulldogs win the tourney. Offense against comparable opponents remains a big question mark. There are way too many jump shots.
GW: Baylor (N)
North Carolina (8-4, 0-0; RPI: 25, SOS: 9)
The Heels had a much easier time with William & Mary than in last spring's NIT game. Their profile remains the same, with no bad losses (Minnesota, Vandy, Illinois and Texas) and only one win worth banking.
Miami (10-3, 0-0; RPI: 19, SOS: 34)
The 'Canes swept through three games in Vegas against inferior foes, although the computer numbers look very solid. Things toughen up quickly with their ACC schedule. The next few weeks will tell a lot.
GW: West Virginia, Ole Miss
BL: at Rutgers
Maryland (8-4, 0-1; RPI: 121; SOS: 118)
Between the surprise loss to BC to open ACC play and the next league game (at Duke on Jan. 9), the Terps will play three games. Those opponents have a combined D-I record of 4-24. In other words, check back in a few weeks.
BL: Boston College (home league opener)?
Virginia (8-4, 1-0; RPI: 113, SOS: 170)
The Cavaliers had a terrible week, barely surviving Norfolk State and then losing at home to transitional D-I Seattle with Mike Scott back. Now the wins at Minnesota and Virginia Tech are countered by some bad defeats.
GW: at Minnesota, at Virginia Tech
BL: at Stanford (by 21), Seattle
NC State (7-4, 0-0; RPI: 63, SOS: 35)
A last-second putback to beat Delaware State isn't the type of statement the Wolfpack needed after missing on their four biggest opportunities of the season. The next four games should be wins, so check after they travel to BC and Florida State before hosting Duke in mid-January.
GW: George Mason?
Virginia Tech (7-4, 0-1, RPI: 35; SOS: 18)
Beating St. Bonaventure in overtime was the best of a bad-news week for the Hokies, who lost two more players for the season to injury. It's not looking too good right now in Blacksburg.
GW: Oklahoma State (N)
For now, Kansas State drops from lock status due to Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly getting suspended for receiving impermissible benefits. Pullen will be back after one more game but there's no word on Kelly's situation. The impact of the loss of last year's point guard, Denis Clemente, is an ongoing issue, but K-State needs Kelly back and performing to be in position to live up to preseason expectations.
SHOULD BE IN
Texas (10-2, 0-0; RPI: 26; SOS: 71)
It's possible this is the second-best team in the league at the moment. The Longhorns manhandled Michigan State in East Lansing, which almost never happens. That's Texas' third very solid W of the season already.
GW: Illinois (N), North Carolina (N), at Michigan State
Missouri (11-1, 0-0; RPI: 29, SOS: 130)
The Tigers won a wild Braggin' Rights game against Illinois, pulling away in the final minute with the help of a (correctly called) intentional foul. They're not clicking on all cylinders yet, but the potential is there to become very dangerous. Thursday's home game vs. Old Dominion is an intriguing clash of styles.
GW: Vanderbilt, vs. Illinois
Texas A&M (10-1, 0-0; RPI: 30; SOS: 128)
The Aggies have a really favorable Big 12 slate, loaded with early marquee-win opportunities at home. The last two of A&M's three road games against currently ranked teams don't come until late February/early March.
GW: Temple (N), Washington
Kansas State (9-3, 0-0; RPI: 9, SOS: 8)
The Wildcats looked understandably limited in the loss to UNLV the night Pullen and Kelly were suspended. Of note, K-State's first four road games in Big 12 play are at Oklahoma State, Missouri, Texas A&M and Kansas. Not easy. GW: Gonzaga (N), at Washington St., Virginia Tech?
Baylor (8-3, 0-0; RPI: 130; SOS: 266)
The Bears were the biggest losers in Hawaii, where they fell to Washington State and Florida State and essentially are 0-3 on the season after also losing to Gonzaga earlier. The computer numbers reflect that reality.
IN THE MIX
Oklahoma State (11-1, 0-0; RPI: 37; SOS: 155)
The Cowboys beat Stanford and now get resurgent Gonzaga on New Year's Eve. The opening part of Big 12 play is rigorous, so this could be an important springboard and a quality win.
Iowa State (11-2, 0-0; RPI: 111, SOS: 286)
Nothing much has changed here, only now the trip to Virginia looks like a much lesser opportunity for a quality win.
BL: None, really
Nebraska (10-2, 0-0; RPI: 100, SOS: 243)
Similar to Iowa State, but with a win over USC in the books. Opportunity, or a reality check, comes with a road trip to Missouri and Kansas in mid-January.