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SEC-Big 12 Challenge Preview: Opportunity Abounds for the SEC

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The SEC looks for its first win in the challenge, with several games capable of helping not just the league’s profile but Tennessee’s.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Kansas Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Big 12 is locked in a battle with the ACC for this season’s best conference. The latter currently holds a slim lead in RPI, which the Big 12 could retake with today’s out-of-conference opportunity in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.

But though the SEC is currently fifth in conference RPI we rank first in out-of-conference strength of schedule, and with ten teams playing the Big 12 today the lead will only increase. It’s a job well done by the SEC in an effort to improve its basketball product in hopes of putting more than three teams in the NCAA Tournament field.

Though the Big 12 currently has only two teams in the RPI Top 25 (Baylor at #1, Kansas at #6), they dominate the next tier with West Virginia, TCU, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State all between 31-45 coming into today. Meanwhile the SEC has Kentucky, Florida, and South Carolina in the RPI Top 25 but only Arkansas and Tennessee from 26-50.

It’s a similar story in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, where the Big 12 has eight teams in the Top 50 and three in the Top 10 (West Virginia is #31 in RPI but #3 in KenPom). The SEC has only five teams in the KenPom Top 50 and only Kentucky & Florida in the Top 25.

In the latest Bracket Matrix the Big 12 puts seven teams in the field with Texas Tech the last team in. The SEC has four in the field with Kentucky, Florida, and South Carolina all looking safe and Arkansas currently a nine seed.

The Big 12, which is 3-0 in today’s event, can only solidify its reputation today. But the SEC could gain some serious ground in not only reputation and tournament possibilities, but ways that could directly affect Tennessee’s RPI argument.

Here’s the full schedule for today:

2017 SEC-Big 12 Challenge

Game Time Network
Game Time Network
Texas A&M at #18 West Virginia 12:00 PM ESPN
#25 Florida at Oklahoma 2:00 PM ESPN
Kansas State at Tennessee 2:00 PM ESPN2
LSU at Texas Tech 2:00 PM ESPNU
Texas at Georgia 4:00 PM ESPN
Iowa State at Vanderbilt 4:00 PM ESPN2
Arkansas at Oklahoma State 4:00 PM ESPNU
#5 Baylor at Ole Miss 6:00 PM ESPN2
Auburn at TCU 6:00 PM ESPNU
#2 Kansas at #4 Kentucky 6:15 PM ESPN

Of significant importance for the Vols are the teams we play twice. Unfortunately South Carolina doesn’t get to play in the challenge this year, which obviously hurts the SEC’s chances as well as UT’s RPI number. But the biggest games today (outside our own) for Tennessee’s chances are Kentucky-Kansas, Vanderbilt-Iowa State, and if Ole Miss could somehow upset Baylor. All three are home games for the SEC. You want to cheer for the league regardless today, but those three in particular would give Tennessee an extra boost.