So we've already locked up a 1st round bye, but there is still quite a bit to play for heading into the SEC Tournament.
The first issue is getting better than a #4 seed to ensure you wouldn't face Kentucky until the SEC final.
But of course the biggest question left is NCAA seeding (and the hope of landing in a Nashville pod the first weekend, which only seems very likely if we get a 4 or better).
Outpacing Florida the rest of the season could go a long way to getting that higher seed, as I believe that Florida has only a slight edge over Vandy for the second highest SEC seed. I think that the 2nd SEC team will get at least a 5 seed and very possibly a 4 or better, so if Vandy can outshine Florida the rest of the way, we have a shot at getting a 4.
So here are the scenarios for seeding #2-5 in the SEC Tournament, as well as some implications that these seeds would have for the NCAA Tournament...
- Vandy and Florida are tied for 2nd at 11-5. The teams are 1-1 head-to-head, both have clinched a first round bye.
- Tennessee and Alabama are 9-6. Alabama beat UT in their only head to head matchup. One will get a 1st round bye, the other will not.
The three crucial games this weekend are Bama @ Ole Miss (3 pm Sat), Vandy @ UT (3 pm Sat) and UK @ UF (11 am Sun).
The SEC tiebreakers are as follows:
- Head-to-head. If there are multiple teams in the tie, it is the winning percentage of all the involved teams.
- Record against the #1 team in the league, then descending down the standings to the first matchup that is not equal.
Based on the standings and the possible outcomes there are 8 possible combinations of game results, but only 5 distinct outcomes. Here they are in order from most desirable to least:
(Note that the NCAA implications are just the best guess of a non-expert. They are based off the idea that Florida is a 4/5 right now and Vandy is about a 6.)
Vanderbilt Wins, Florida Loses
2. Vandy, 3. Florida, 4. Alabama, 5. Tennessee
In this scenario, Vandy takes the #2 seed outright.
Regardless of the outcome of the Bama game, Florida takes the #3 seed (either outright or by head-to-head over Bama),
Alabama gets the #4 and the last bye (either outright or by head-to-head over UT)
UT finishes #5.
Note that this is the only way Vandy can get the #2 seed.
In this scenario, I believe we'd enter the SEC tournament either almost even, or maybe with a slight edge in Vandy's favor. But the two teams would be lined up for a possible match-up in the semis, so whoever made it deeper in the SEC tournament would likely get the higher seed..
Vanderbilt and Florida Both Win
#2 Florida, #3 Vandy, #4 Bama, #5 Tennessee
Florida's win over Kentucky would lock up the spot since the 2nd tie-breaker is record against the league's top team.
Vandy then slots into the #3.
Regardless of the outcome of the Bama game, Bama gets the #4 and UT the #5.
In this scenario, UF's NCAA seeding case gets a huge bump from a win against UK, which would make it tough for Vandy to pass them without winning the SEC tournament. Still a possible semi-final matchup against Florida would give Vandy a good chance to pull themselves up to at least a #5 and probably a #4.
Vandy and Florida Both Lose
#2 Tennessee, #3 Vandy, #4 UF, #5 Bama
This would result in a 3-way tie if Bama loses, or a 4-way tie if Bama wins.
A 3-way tie finishes, UT (3-1), Vandy (2-2), Florida (1-3).
A 4-way tie finishes, UT (3-2), Vandy (3-2), Florida (2-3), Bama (1-2). In this scenario, UT finishes ahead of Vandy because the teams had equal records against Kentucky, but UT had a better record against Florida.
Vandy is not in great shape here, but does avoid have an opportunity to make the SEC Final without having to beat UF or UK, so a solid chance to improve the seed. However, the downside of the easy road is the ceiling is limited without a win over UF or UK.
Vandy Loses, Florida Wins, Bama Wins
#2 Florida, #3 Vandy, #4 Bama, #5 UT
Florida takes #2 outright.
Vandy, Bama and UT have a 3 way tie.
The 3-way tie finishes Vandy (2-1), Bama (1-1), UT (1-2).
This would clearly be bad news seeding wise for Vandy who would probably have to win the SEC Tournament (or come real close) to have any hope of a 4 seed.
Vandy Loses, Florida Wins, Bama Loses
#2 Florida, #3 UT, #4 Vandy, #5 Bama.
Florida takes #2 outright.
Vandy and UT end up tied for #3, and UT wins based on having equal records against UK, but a better record against UF.
Bama is #5 outright.
Note that this is the only scenario in which Vandy finishes 4th.
Obviously this is even worse for Vandy as they'd need to make a splash in the SEC tournament and would have a semi-final with Kentucky looming.
General NCAA Implications
We are in a volatile place right now seeding wise. We have the bad losses which hurt, but the good numbers which help. We also have some close losses to good teams that are still losses. We are certainly on the rise right now, and the UF win was our best other than Marquette, but adding another loss to anything less than top competition puts all the spot light back on our bad losses, so I still think that we could be anywhere from a 4 to a 9 (and maybe a 3 if we ran the table).
My guess is that right now we'd be a 6 on most boards, with maybe a few 5s and a few 7s., but our RPI and SOS are good, so I think that is a big bonus for us, as well as the fact that we don't look like the same team that lost to Cleveland St, so probably closer to a 5 than a 7.
Here are my very uneducated guesses as to seed based on what we do from here. Feel free to disagree, but for goodness sake do not take this as gospel:
- Lose to UT, Lose to anyone but Florida or Kentucky before SEC Final - 8-9.
- Beat UT, Lose to anyone but UF or UK before SEC Final - 7/8.
- Lost to UT, make SEC Final without beating UF or UK - 7.
- Beat UT, Lose to UF in SEC semi-final or final - 6.
- Beat UT, make SEC Final without facing UF, lose to UK - 5.
- Win SEC Tournament without beating UK - 4/5.
- Beat UT, make SEC Final by beating UF, lose close to UK - 4.
- Beat UT, win SEC Tournament, Beat UK - 3/4.