I held off as long as I could. I really did. But now we're only nine games out, and the conference standings (and overall college basketball landscape) have started to take shape. Now, we can start talking NCAA tournament scenarios.
What do we need?
The SEC's push to increase non-conference schedule difficulty helps us a great deal here. Last year, Georgia went 12-6 in conference (earning the #3 seed in the process), but it wasn't enough to overcome their shoddy resume pre-Christmas. So they were slapped with a bid to the NIT, and they were by far the highest ranked major conference team to miss the dance.
This year, I don't see anyone getting Georgia'd. I think the improved non-con schedules, plus the associated national perception bump, will give the conference a much fairer shake. To me, that means we're in if we can get the following:
12-6 and a conference tournament win.
There are a hundred bubble factors we can't control (note: we'll take a closer look there in a couple of weeks), but that record should get us a top five SEC seed. And if we fly to Nashville and do anything besides crap the bed, our full body of work would likely be enough.
How do we get there?
At the risk of simplifying what is actually a very complex question, our second half schedule breaks into three categories.
- Bad loss, wouldn't be prudent. (@Mizzou, @South Carolina, Auburn, Alabama)
- The Homestand. We can drop one. One. (Georgia, Florida, LSU)
- It depends. Did we handle our business? (@Arkansas, @Florida)
Group #1 is simple. We'll be favored in all four, so these are games we need to have. Just don't lose. Simple enough, right? Our resume will likely be liiiiiight on signature victories, so our best bet is to be the team completely devoid of bad losses.
Group #2 is slightly more complex. For me, there's no specific game more important than the others... we just need to come out of this 2-1 at the worst. Georgia is a fellow bubble squad, Florida has name recognition, and LSU has been in most brackets since December. Victories over two of those teams in a relatively short period of time would be enough to offset a loss and keep the momentum going.
Group #3 is tricky. What we need from this group is completely dependent on what we take from groups #1 and #2. Obviously, if we go 6-1 in those seven, we can drop both of these and probably be ok... but 6-1 is a lot to ask. Most SEC teams have been bit by the bottom half at some point, and I fear that could eventually happen to us as well. If it does, we'll need one of these to hit our mark.
So, what do you think? What do the Aggies need to make the dance? Can they get there? Hit the comments below.