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Which SEC Team (Other Than Kentucky) Will Advance the Furthest?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This season, the Southeastern Conference didn't do itself in. Without as many RPI bombs as most recent years, the conference didn't cannibalize itself, and because of that five teams from the conference made the Big Dance this year. Some ended up in better situations than others, but none are in horrific shape.

As Team Speed Kills broke down in this post, Kentucky is set up pretty perfectly. It's impossible for them to face more than one top 20 team in their region. If that goes by the chalk, the Wildcats will face Kansas.. a Kansas team they beat 72-40 earlier this season.

So the question of which team will advance the furthest isn't a very good one. So instead, we're talking about which SEC team will advance the second furthest. What can I say? It's tournament time, and the Rebels are in. I wanted to write something. Shut up.

The Seeds

  • #5 Arkansas
  • #9 LSU
  • #10 UGA
  • #11* Ole Miss

Because of the way seed pairings go in the tournament, it can actually be advantageous to be seeded lower, at least in terms of probability to advance through the first few rounds. I couldn't find a more recent article, but this one, published in 2012, breaks things down pretty well.

For the sake of ease, here are the probabilities, based solely on seeding, of each team advancing through the tournament.

First Second Sweet 16 Elite 8 Final 4 Championship
#5 Arkansas 69.6% 37% 5.4% 4.3% 2.2% 0%
#9 LSU 54.3% 3.3% 1.1% 0% 0% 0%
#10 UGA 35.9% 17.4% 6.5% 3.3% 1.1% 1.1%
#11 Ole Miss 31.5% 12% 4.3% 2.2% 0% 0%

Ole Miss has a better chance to make the final four than LSU does, y'all. Bet the house.

But yeah. Based solely on the numbers, it's obvious that one major factor is when the seed can first face a one seed. 8 and 9 seeds don't make it past the second round very often because they're matched up against one seeds. Fives meet one seeds in the Sweet 16. The other high seeds don't have a chance at the one seed until the Elite 8.

The Matchups

Here are the matchups if every higher seeded team wins their games (other than each SEC team in question).

First Second Sweet 16 Elite 8 Final 4
#5 Arkansas Wofford UNC Wisconsin Arizona Kentucky
#9 LSU NC State Villanova Louisville UVA Duke
#10 UGA Michigan State UVA Oklahoma Villanova Duke
#11 Ole Miss Xavier Baylor Arizona Wisconsin Kentucky

So... here's the crazy thing. It appears that Ole Miss has the easiest road to the Sweet 16. I definitely don't think Ole Miss will make it that far, but they don't face a really tough team until that point.

Arkansas faces #4 UNC in the second round and then #1 Wisconsin in the Sweet 16. LSU faces NC State in the first round, with #1 Villanova in the second. UGA matches up against Michigan State, then UVA (a two seed everyone thought probably deserved a one seed).

Ole Miss, on the other hand, would face Xavier in the first round. The Musketeers are playing good basketball at the right time, but a significant number of their wins have been by just a possession or two. When Ole Miss has gotten into battles like that this year, it has won its fair share. Baylor, who the Rebels would face in the second round (or technically the third round, but whatever), generated a twitter backlash when they were selected as a three seed. They haven't had a bad loss since January 17th, but the Bears did lose nine games and only beat Texas Tech (RPI 184) by three points eleven days ago.

Ole Miss is playing pretty bad basketball, so I don't anticipate the crew making it that far (if they even manage to beat BYU tonight), but the road ahead of the Rebels isn't impossible.

Actual Teams

Arkansas has a pretty good basketball team. Despite their matchups along the way, the Razorbacks may just be able to keep winning. I don't see them beating Wisconsin in the Sweet 16, but the other three teams are very likely to be out of this tournament by then. UVA is likely to hold Georgia to about 30 points, and Villanova should trounce LSU, if those teams even make it to the second round.

I'm personally pretty convinced Ole Miss will lose to BYU tonight. The Cougars are just too efficient as shooters, and that doesn't work well for the Ole Miss defense.

All that means that Arkansas is the most likely SEC team to have to lose to Kentucky again.