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SEC Conference Preview: New Year's Update

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Grab a jello mold and put on a fake smile, because it's time to check on the neighbors

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio State / Alabama debacle confirmed what a handful of sideways glances at the calendar had already told us - meaningful conference football is over, and it's time shift our gaze towards basketball season.

To that end, SEC conference play tips off this Tuesday. You may find yourself thinking, "Hmm, I haven't been following our conference at all. I know Kentucky is good, but who else do I have to worry about? How has the rest of the SEC fared?"

First, I want to thank your subconscious for asking a series of questions that perfectly tees off the remainder of this article. And second, keep reading. Here's everything you need to know about the rest of the SEC.

The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI)

Before I go any further, a quick introduction to the RPI is in order. The RPI is the tool we'll use to compare non-conference performance among our SEC brethren, and it works like this:

The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) is the formula used by the NCAA to rate men’s and women’s college basketball teams. The formula is described below.

The RPI is calculated by adding three parts.

Part I (25% of the formula): Team winning percentage.

Part II (50%): Average opponents’ winning percentage.

Part III (25%): Average opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage: Basically taking all of the opponents’ Part II values and averaging them.

Note: Only games against other teams playing a mostly D1 schedule count when computing the RPI.

In the topsy-turvy world of college basketball, where 300+ D1 schools play a myriad of non-conference opponents, it really is our best tool to relatively assess a school's winter performance. For the masochists among you, a more thorough explanation of the tool is available here.

The schools themselves are listed in order of AP/Coaches rank for any schools receiving votes, then by descending RPI. Enjoy the show.

The Ranked Teams (err, team)

#1/#1 Kentucky Wildcats (13-0)

RPI as of 1/4: 1

Common A&M Opponents (0)

RPI Top 100: 6-0 (W - #5 Louisville; W - #11 - Texas; W - #13 Kansas; W - #19 North Carolina)

RPI 100+: 7-0

In 140 characters or less: Perhaps the best defensive college basketball team I've ever seen. Insane depth. Battle tested. Gutted out a tough win @ #5 Louisville.

Also Receiving Votes

#29/#30 Arkansas Razorbacks (10-2)

RPI as of 1/4: 28

Common A&M Opponents (1): Dayton - 69-55 W

RPI Top 100: 2-1 (L - @ #9 Iowa St; W - @ SMU; W - Dayton)

RPI 100+: 8-1 (L - @Clemson)

In 140 characters or less: Never saw a shot they didn't like. Breakneck pace. Leads the SEC (8th in the nation) in scoring.

#30/#36 LSU Tigers (10-2)

RPI as of 1/4: 35

Common A&M Opponents (1): Sam Houston St 76-67 W

RPI Top 100: 4-1 (W - @ #15 WVU; W - UMASS; L - ODU)

RPI 100+: 6-1 (L - @Clemson; W - Texas Tech)

In 140 characters or less: Nice road win over WVU. Strength down low. Recruiting at a high level. Early season loss to Old Dominion looks better by the day.

#37/No votes Florida Gators (7-5)

RPI as of 1/4: 136

Common A&M Opponents (0)

RPI Top 100: 1-4 (L - @ #13 Kansas; L - #19 UNC; L - #25 Georgetown)

RPI 100+: 6-1 (L - @FSU)

In 140 characters or less: Lost a ton of talent to injuries/graduation/pros. Impressive non-conf slate, but failed every test so far. Big game against UConn coming.

1/4 Update: They lost to UConn. Another test failed.

No votes/#41 Georgia Bulldogs (8-3)

RPI as of 1/4: 18

Common A&M Opponents (2): Mercer - 86-77 3OT W; @Kansas St - 50-46 W

RPI Top 100: 3-3 (L - #7 Gonzaga; W - Seton Hall; L - @Georgia Tech)

RPI 100+: 5-0

In 140 characters or less: Very challenging non-conf slate. Second best SOS (Kentucky) in the SEC. Taken to 3OT's by Mercer. Win over Kansas St. Tough to figure out.

The Other Guys

Alabama Crimson Tide (9-3)

RPI as of 1/4: 47

Common A&M Opponents (1): Arizona St - 76-71 W

RPI Top 100: 0-3 (L -  #9 Iowa St; L - @ #16 Wichita St; L - @Xavier)

RPI 100+: 8-0 (W - UCLA)

In 140 characters or less: Tough out for their ranked opponents. Nice win over UCLA. No bad losses. Will compete for an NIT bid. Hosts A&M in SEC opener.

Fightin' Texas Aggie Basketball (8-3)

RPI as of 1/4: 53

RPI Top 100: 0-2 (L - @ #22 Baylor; L - Dayton)

RPI 100+: 8-1 (L - @Kansas St; W - Arizona St)

In 140 characters or less: Left non-conf without a signature win. Road woes still evident. Avoided the type of bad loss that plagued the bottom half of the SEC.

Vanderbilt Commodores (8-3)

RPI as of 1/4: 71

Common A&M Opponents (1): Baylor - 63-66 L

RPI Top 100: 1-3 (L - @Georgia Tech; L - Rutgers)

RPI 100+: 7-0 (W - Purdue)

In 140 characters or less: Shoots the ball very well. Leads the SEC in FG%; 2nd in 3PT%. Failed most of their offseason tests, but didn't get tagged with a bad loss.

South Carolina Gamecocks (7-3)

RPI as of 1/4: 73

Common A&M Opponents (1): Baylor - 65-69 L

RPI Top 100: 1-2 (W - Oklahoma St; L - Charlotte)

RPI 100+: 6-1 (W - Clemson; L - Akron)

In 140 characters or less: The friskiest SEC team in the bottom half. Did well against power five opponents. Stats hold up very well on both ends for angry Frank Martin.

Update: I wrote this before they took down #9 Iowa State in a neutral site game on Saturday. Like I said. Frisky. So frisky.

Tennessee Volunteers (8-4)

RPI as of 1/4: 76

Common A&M Opponents (2): Kansas St - 65-64 W; Mercer - 64-54 W

RPI Top 100: 1-3 (L - #13 Kansas; L - VCU; W - Butler)

RPI 100+: 7-1 (L - Marquette)

In 140 characters or less: Very suspect away from home under new coach Donnie Tyndall, but it's still tough to win in Knoxville. Poor on the glass.

Ole Miss Runnin' Rebels (8-4)

RPI as of 1/4: 80

Common A&M Opponents (1): @Dayton - 74-78 L

RPI Top 100: 2-2 (W - Cincinnati; L - TCU; W - Creighton)

RPI 100+: 6-2 (L - Charleston Southern; W - @ Oregon)

In 140 characters or less: Started with a bad loss to Charleston Southern, but attacked a non-conf slate full of power five tests. Average SEC rankings across the board.

Auburn Tigers (7-5)

RPI as of 1/4: 103

Common A&M Opponents (0)

RPI Top 100: 1-2 (W - Xavier; L - Tulsa; L - @Colorado)

RPI 100+: 6-3 (L @ Texas Tech; L Coastal Carolina)

In 140 characters or less: Lost every road power five test, bad home loss (Coastal Carolina), narrowly escaped Texas Southern. Bruce Pearl doesn't work quickly.

Missouri Tigers (4-7)

RPI as of 1/4: 157

Common A&M Opponents (0)

RPI Top 100: 1-5 (L - #8 Arizona; L - #18 Oklahoma; W - Valparaiso)

RPI 100+: 3-2 (L - Purdue; L - UMKC)

In 140 characters or less: Disastrous season-opening loss to UMKC. A brutal non-conference slate hasn't helped matters, but the Tigers just don't look good this year.

Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-6)

RPI as of 1/4: 196

Common A&M Opponents (0)

RPI Top 100: 0-2 (L - McNeese; L - TCU)

RPI 100+: 6-4 (W - Florida St; L - @Tulane; L - @Oregon St)

In 140 characters or less: A decent home win over Florida State on Friday stopped an abysmal 1-6 run for the Bulldogs. There's really not much to like here.

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