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Posted at 9:09 AM ET, 02/11/2011

NCAA tournament 2011: Sizing up the SEC

By Eric Prisbell

[Note: If you are planning to run an NCAA tournament office pool or a pool among friends, please contact me via e-mail. I'd like to hear from you about your pool. I'm not quoting you or anything; I'm just interested in your thoughts about an idea I have. prisbelle@washpost.com.
Thanks.]

The Southeastern Conference has seen better days in basketball. But it's a compelling league because of the parity in the East Division. The West seemed irrelevant before Alabama emerged as a threat in league play.

SEC

Conference rank: 6

NCAA tournament bids: 5

Locks: Florida, Kentucky

Probable: Tennessee, Georgia, Vanderbilt

Bubble: Alabama, Mississippi

Most likely to fade: Alabama. The Crimson Tide is a great story, having recovered from a poor nonleague performance. But do you really believe they can keep it up the second half of the league schedule?

Sleeper: Tennessee. Yes, the Vols have six losses to teams with RPI worse than 50. But they have also beaten Pittsburgh, Villanova and Vanderbilt. You never know what you're going to get.

Player to watch: Terrence Jones. The Kentucky freshman is third in scoring and first in rebounding in the SEC, and the big man will play a large role in how far Kentucky goes in the NCAAs.

Most impressive coaching job: Anthony Grant. Alabama suffered six losses in nonconference play - including three bad ones. Its RPI in early December was in the 300s. Grant managed to get the Tide on a roll in SEC play, winning 10 of 11 games before Thursday's loss at Vanderbilt.

Biggest disappointment: Mississippi State. If not for Michigan State and Kansas State, two colossal disappointments, the Bulldogs would be getting a little more play for their overall dysfunction. You have Renardo Sidney fighting with a teammate. You have Ravern Johnson suspended for criticizing coaches on Twitter. It's a reality show.

Most compelling story line: The Bruce Pearl saga. Forget for a second about the fact that the Vols are nothing if not erratic, capable of beating just about anybody and losing to just about anybody. Just consider Pearl, who was suspended for eight games after lying to the NCAA during its investigation of the program. It's a juicy story line that will re-surface if the Vols get on a roll.

By Eric Prisbell  | February 11, 2011; 9:09 AM ET
 
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