While the SEC has stampeded through the college football scene claiming nine of the last 12 national championships, the SEC in men’s basketball is attempting to improve its standing in the college basketball world.

North Carolina-Wilmington v Duke
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Thursday Bracketology Landscape 

Since the expansion of the NCAA Tournament to 64 teams in 1985, the SEC has sent six teams into “The Big Dance” several times in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s but have not sent more than six teams into the tournament in conference history.

In Thursday’s ESPN.com bracketology, Joe Lunardi has eight teams from the SEC participating in the tournament including Alabama as a 10-seed in the South Region while Auburn also is a South Region selection as a 4-seed.

Of the eight SEC team’s listed in Lunardi’s bracket, three teams (Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee) are either projected four or five seeds while two teams (Alabama and Missouri) are projected as 10 seeds.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 02 Alabama at Vanderbilt
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Alabama’s Big Win over Auburn

Wednesday night saw Avery Johnson’s squad take a big step forward toward reaching their NCAA Tournament destination as Alabama defeated Auburn 76-71.

The win enhanced the Crimson Tide’s tournament resume in multiple ways. First, Wednesday night’s victory brought them into a tie for third with Kentucky and within one loss of Auburn for second in the SEC standings. Second, Alabama’s RPI ranking from the NCAA’s official RPI rankings catapulted them from No. 36 before the game to No. 26 after the game. Third, the victory over Auburn gave Alabama their second win over an RPI top 25 team. Their first came in December over Rhode Island who is No. 11 in the NCAA’s RPI rankings.

Kentucky v Florida
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Big Winners around the SEC

In addition to Alabama, two teams around the league helped their causes with big wins over nationally ranked teams.

The Missouri Tigers notched their best win over the season over Tennessee Wednesday night. The victory was Missouri’s first win over an RPI top-25 team and their third over an RPI top 50 squad. A couple of losses that could drag the Tigers down in the NCAA Tournament conversation is an 18-point loss at Utah in November and a six-point defeat to non-conference rival Illinois in St. Louis who is ranked No. 155 in the NCAA’s latest RPI rankings.

The other big winner from the SEC’s slate of mid-week games is South Carolina. Although outside of the NCAA Tournament picture, the Gamecocks have defeated top 50 RPI teams in Georgia and Kentucky in back-to-back games. With three more games against top 50 RPI teams in Tennessee, Florida and Texas Tech looming ahead, South Carolina could make their way into the NCAA Tournament discussion with one or two wins in the next three games.

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