Bubble trouble in the SEC

Last weekend, I made a simple statement about the SEC.

When my broadcast partner Dan Shulman and I discussed the teams likely to make the big dance from the conference, I said that there were only two locks at the moment: Kentucky and Florida.

The fans responded via Twitter, many saying that I was crazy.

Well, my friends, how many other SEC teams are locks right now?

Will the conference get three or four teams into the tournament? Possibly, but there is still work to be done. And the SEC isn't alone: It is interesting to note that in several power conferences, the race for the final at-large berths is up in the air, creating a large bubble less than a month from Selection Sunday.

Of course, these bubble teams can make things easy for themselves and not sweat it out. They can win their conference tournament and secure an automatic bid!

SEC commissioner Mike Slive has told his member schools that they should improve their nonleague schedules. There are so many cupcake-city games out there, and that hurts the league's strength of schedule. And this has been a down year in the SEC, making it harder for teams to get quality wins in conference play.

Let's break down the other SEC contenders not named Florida and Kentucky. (Overall and conference records entering Wednesday's games)

Tennessee (16-10, 7-6): The Vols have an impressive nonconference win over Virginia on the résumé, and Tuesday's win over Georgia certainly helps. But home losses to Texas A&M and NC State, plus a setback against UTEP in the Bahamas, are negatives. Tennessee's RPI is in the 50s, so this is not lock city, baby! But there are enough potential W's down the stretch for Cuonzo Martin's team to make it in.

Mississippi (16-10, 7-6): The Rebels have dropped three straight games, including close losses to Alabama and Georgia. Mississippi had a huge opportunity against Kentucky on Tuesday but lost by 14. With an RPI in the 60s and just one top-50 RPI win against Missouri, the Rebels need to get hot late. They host Florida on Saturday, and an upset win would help their chances.

Missouri (18-7, 6-6): The Tigers' nonleague win over UCLA is a big plus, and wins at NC State, at Arkansas and against West Virginia also stand out. But a loss at Vanderbilt and a home setback against Georgia are negatives. And there are no ranked teams remaining on Mizzou's regular-season schedule.

Georgia (14-11, 8-5): While the Bulldogs' conference record stands out, there have been too many nonleague blemishes, most notably against Temple. Mark Fox has done a good job overall, and he has young talent that could make some noise next season.

LSU (15-9, 6-6): The win over Kentucky stands out, but the Tigers' RPI is around 70. Victories over Missouri and St. Joseph's give the Tigers three top-50 RPI victories, but this team has been inconsistent and needs a strong stretch run to be considered for an NCAA bid. LSU has two big chances to come up with statement wins-- it is at Kentucky on Saturday and at Florida on March 1.

Arkansas (16-9, 5-7): The Razorbacks have also beaten Kentucky and have a pair of solid nonleague wins over SMU and Minnesota. But they also have a losing record in conference and not enough positives as of now.

Vanderbilt (14-10, 6-6): Double-digit losses and only one top-50 RPI win, against Missouri, will leave the Commodores well on the outside.

I rest my case: Florida and Kentucky are the only locks for NCAA tournament bids in the SEC right now. But I believe one or two teams will get hot down the stretch and make a serious run at a trip to the big dance.