The SEC West is Quite Bad at Playing Basketball

Perhaps you haven't heard, but the SEC West is quite bad at basketball. For those of you who are out of the loop on college basketball are Ole Miss fans, you may not know the significance of a statistic called Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). This statistic takes your wins and losses and then, based on whom you have played, attempts to determine your ranking among all of college basketball. Schedule strength is a major component. Dropping games to teams that are considered bad (>100 RPI), hurts your chances when the NCAA Selection committee is selecting teams to go to the NCAA tournament. Likewise, wins over good (<100 RPI) or top (<30) teams help your case. RPIs aren't extremely accurate this early in the season, but they're still important. Let's take a look at the RPIs of the SEC East.

I have chosen to use the RPI rankings provided by RealTimeRPI.com for this post, but there are several other services as well.

Team RPI
Florida 10
Georgia 37
Kentucky 3
South Carolina 78
Tennessee 33
Vanderbilt 12

That's a solid division without any teams they'll have to play twice who would destroy their chances were they to lose. Now let's look at the SEC West.

Team RPI
Alabama 192
Arkansas 138
Auburn 326
LSU 176
Ole Miss 40
Mississippi State 217

Click the jump to read an analysis.

So yeah. These RPIs should (hopefully) go up some, but the point is that Ole Miss will be playing each of those teams twice this season. Losing to any one of them at this point would be a "bad" loss in terms of RPI. I know this seems strange, but we need to be cheering for Arkansas and Mississippi State to win some games and get into the top 100. Those are both teams capable of beating Ole Miss and destroying our hopes.

Alabama - 6-6 - RPI 192

Alabama's record and RPI are probably a bit misleading since their only three truly bad losses (>100 RPI) were close (5, 8, 1 point differences) and certainly could have gone either way. No matter what, they sit at 6-6 with no way to improve their RPI before conference play. Jamychal Green and Tony Mitchell are the only players of note on this squad, but they get production from other role players.

Arkansas - 7-2 - RPI 138

In comparison to all other non-Ole Miss SEC West teams, Arkansas is in pretty good shape. They have no bad losses, having only lost to teams with 30 and 76 RPIs. Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, they haven't played anyone else in the top 100, so they don't have any good wins either. Rotnei Clarke is back with 14 points per game so far, and senior forward Delvon Johnson has drastically improved over last year, averaging 12 points per game and 4.5 blocks so far this year. The Razorbacks can't slip up any more in their out-of-conference, and a huge matchup against #39 Texas would be a nice win to take into the season. Here's hoping they get that.

Auburn - 3-7 - RPI 326

Auburn lost to the Presbyterian Blue Hose, a team that is ineligible for post-season play until 2013 due to transitioning to Division I. Yes. They're that bad. They did manage to squeak out a four point win against 0-11 Arkansas Pine-Bluff though, so they've got that going for them. We cannot lose to this team. We just can't. I'll cry. Their leading scorers are sophomore guards, and they've got some relatively highly touted recruits inbound, so perhaps their future is somewhat less bleak. That's what a new arena can do for you I guess. Their RPI is unsalvagable at this point.

LSU - 7-4 - RPI 176

LSU doesn't have any bad losses, having lost games to teams with the RPIs of 44, 47, 64, and 66. They don't have any good wins either though, as their highest win is over a 144 McNeese State team. The Tigers are getting excellent production from freshmen guards Andre Stringer (15.5 ppg for the Jackson native) and Ralston Turner (14.2 ppg) but have seen their big men get in foul trouble early against decent teams. LSU has a big game against 110 RPI North Texas tonight and 74 RPI Virginia just before conference play begins. They need to win both of those games obviously.

Ole Miss - 7-2 - RPI 40

The Rebels have only one bad loss, to a 102 RPI Dayton team. Dayton has a good opportunity to get into the top 100, erasing that loss. Our only hope for another good win before conference play is for Southern Miss (22 RPI) to meet us again in the championship of the Cancun Governor's Cup tournament. They defeated East Tennessee State this afternoon to advance to the semi-finals. The Rebels are the most talented team in the division so far, sporting a load of scorers (Chris Warren and company) and a defensive player in the post who can change games by himself (Reginald Buckner).

Mississippi State - 7-3 - RPI 217

Mississippi State has a good opportunity to pick up some quality wins at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawai'i this week. They could potentially play Butler (52 RPI), Baylor (101 but climbing), or Florida State (124 but an ACC slate that could up that considerably with a few wins), or Utah (98). Mississippi State, like LSU and Arkansas, has no bad losses (unless you consider a 30 point loss to 53 RPI VTech "bad") but has no good wins. They have seen some promise from recently suspended and fat Renardo Sydney, and Dee Bost returns for SEC play, but it could be too little too late. To save their RPI, they really need to win some unexpected games at the Hawai'i tournament, and I don't think that's likely based on the state of the team right now. Raven Johnson and Kodi Augustus can't do it by themselves.

So that's the state of the SEC West. It's bad and could get worse. But hey, for five of these teams there's always football, right? :-(

Oh yeah. Ole Miss plays a 2-7 Texas State team tonight at 5 CT in Cancun. If we lose, I'll probably never write about Ole Miss athletics again (visions of Jacksonville State are dancing in my head right now).

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