March is the time of year where teams can make surprising runs and steal bids away from bubble teams, so the Tennessee Volunteers and other teams need to make a deep run in the SEC Tournament to avoid being left out.
Florida and Missouri are the only SEC teams that are locks for the tournament, so the rest of the conference has some work to do this week.
Tennessee should be in, but an early exit in the SEC Tournament would be disastrous. Kentucky got a big lift in its tournament hopes by knocking off Florida on Saturday (recap via ESPN.com).
Ole Miss needs a win or two in the conference tournament, but it has a legitimate case to get an at-large bid. As long as there aren't too many surprises in other conference tournament, the Rebels have a good chance to sneak in.
The Alabama Crimson Tide don't have an impressive résumé, but a 20-11 record will give the selection committee something to look at. Arkansas, who is behind Alabama in the SEC, has a better résumé but lost to the Crimson Tide.
So what teams are most in need of a deep conference tournament run? Check out the full bracket here at SECDigitalNetwork.com.
Tennessee Volunteers (19-11, 11-7)
The Volunteers struggle to score, but they have a very impressive résumé.
A one-point loss at Georgetown and a close loss at Virginia in non-conference play shouldn't hurt the Volunteers. They knocked off a ranked Wichita State team as well.
In SEC play, Tennessee has knocked off Florida, Missouri, Kentucky and Alabama. Those teams are all ahead of the Volunteers in the SEC standings, so they look like they are in good shape.
However, conference tournaments don't normally go as planned. Teams go on runs and steal bids from bubble teams, which could bump Tennessee out of the tournament.
With two wins in the SEC Tournament, the Volunteers would reach the semifinals and all but lock up an at-large bid. There would be a very small chance of the Volunteers being left out if they can make it to the finals.
Kentucky Wildcats (21-10, 12-6)
The defending national champs have some work to do in the SEC Tournament. Although the upset over Florida was a huge win for their résumé, the Wildcats can't afford to slip up early in the tournament.
Kentucky is 4-3 without star freshman Nerlens Noel. As the No. 2 seed in the SEC, they will take on the winner of Arkansas and Vanderbilt. Earlier this month, the Razorbacks defeated the Wildcats.
Although Kentucky has defeated Florida, Tennessee, Missouri and Ole Miss, the selection committee needs to see how the team does without its star player. The Wildcats have already had a disappointing loss to Georgia without Noel, so it needs to come out ready on Friday.
A loss in the first round will likely knock the Wildcats out of the NCAA tournament, and losing after only one win wouldn't do much for the team's chances.
Everyone in the nation is waiting to see if the defending champions can turn it on to get a bid, and it will take a convincing run in the SEC Tournament to lock up a spot.
Alabama Crimson Tide (20-11, 12-6)
If the tournament started today, the Crimson Tide are probably on the wrong side of the bubble. However, a potential matchup with Tennessee in their first game gives the Crimson Tide a chance to make a statement.
Alabama has wins against Kentucky and Tennessee, but there's not much else on its résumé. If Alabama can win its first game on Friday, it will likely draw Florida in the next round. If they can knock off both of those teams, it would be hard to pass on Alabama on Selection Sunday.
The Crimson Tide don't score a lot. At 63.7 points per game, they will have a hard time outscoring the top teams in the tournament.
Out of every SEC team near the top of the standings, Alabama has the most to prove. Its résumé is in the need of serious improvement, so a deep run in the SEC Tournament is a must if it wants to be a part of March Madness.
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