As Bryan the Intern has been tracking this year, the SEC is probably the worst of the BCS conferences nearing the end of non-conference play. Taking a look at RealTimeRPI.com conference RPI ratings, the SEC is ranked 7th, behind all the major conferences and the Mountain West. Of course, it helps that the Mountain West has only 9 teams, and 7 of those teams have their strength of schedule within the top 200 teams in the country. (The SEC has only 5 teams with a SOS of 200 or less. Florida, currently 11-2 and #53 in the website's RPI rating, has a SOS of 205.)
Switching to the 2008 Ken Pomeroy RPI rankings, we're reminded that the SEC was #4 in Conference RPI, with an average overall RPI of .5633 and a SOS Rank of 13th (out of 32 conferences). Not to compare the RealTimeRPI numbers too closely -- everybody has their own RPI secret recipe of 11 herbs and formulas -- but currently the average RealTimeRPI SEC Average overall RPI is .5315, and a SOS Rank of 26th.
It appears that SOS is calculated based on games played, and not projected from future opponents. Most of the SEC teams' strength of schedule should head upwards once conference play starts as everybody gets their turn(s) against Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida. My guess it would rise only just a bit, and possibly not enough to overtake the Mountain West. The SEC
(I couldn't find any sort of website that kept the weekly RPI and SOS data for 2007-08, so I can't tell if the SEC experienced a low conference RPI/SOS last year and then rose through the rankings, or if the conference RPI/SOS leveled off at the beginning of conference play. If you remember or know, feel free to correct me in the comments.)
Last season, the SEC got 6 teams in the tournament -- mainly due to Georgia's storm-aided run to the SEC Championship. Florida and Ole Miss needed an impressive showing in the SEC tournament to make the NCAA's, but couldn't put it together. The #7 Conference RPI last season was the Atlantic 10, which got 3 NCAA tournament bids. The worst BCS conference was the Big Ten, who received 4 bids.
Currently, ESPN's Joe Lunardi is predicting UK, Tennessee, Florida, and LSU making the NCAA tournament. Tennessee and Florida are projected to be #7 seeds (yuck!), Kentucky a #9 seed (barf!) and LSU a #12 seed and the distinction of being one of the last four teams into the tournament.
Last year, we lamented as Kentucky walked what seemed to be a tightrope made of dental floss to get into the NCAA tournament. The wax that held together the strands of floss was our conference RPI -- according to Pomeroy, UK's 2008 non-conference RPI was 210, SOS was 100; overall RPI was 57 and SOS was 19.
This year, it may be closer to being opposite. Our out-of-conference RPI may be better than our conference RPI, especially if we lose to some of the cellar dwellers. Not being able to beat the teams we need to beat in the SEC will cause us to miss the NCAA's. It happened last year with Florida, who's young squad lost 8 games in conference play and had an overly-cupcaked non-conference schedule (Non-conference SOS: 271, Overall SOS: 87).
Given all that, I am starting to become terrified of SEC Conference play. Losing 6 games could be deadly, especially if we are unable to pull out a quality non-conference win in Da Ville.
How wrong am I about this? Crunch your numbers and let me have it in the comments.