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SEC Basketball: Top 5 Weakest Nonconference Schedules

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SEC Basketball: Top 5 Weakest Nonconference Schedules

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Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

As many teams in the SEC found out last season, in the world of college basketball, the NCAA selection committee rules all, and nothing matters to the selection committee more than the wins and the losses in a team’s nonconference schedule. One or two close losses and a team could find themselves on the outside looking into March Madness, like the Tennessee Volunteers did, no matter how well they performed in conference play.

One reason nonconference schedules are important is because they gauge how a team might fair in the NCAA tournament against teams that are from different conferences and play difference styles of basketball. However, the most important reason strength of nonconference schedules matter to these SEC teams is because of how competitive the middle of the SEC will be this season.

The SEC is expected to come down to a battle between the Kentucky Wildcats and Florida Gators for supremacy with Tennessee also thrown into the mix. Besides the worst teams like Auburn, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M, the rest of the SEC could finish anywhere from third to 10th in the conference. The nonconference wins and losses could mean the teams that finished sixth or seventh in the SEC could get into the tournament over teams that finished fourth or fifth – it’s that important.

This season, several teams in the SEC have some of the hardest nonconference schedules in the nation; however, several teams also have the type of schedules that could be easily described as laughable. They could begin the season undefeated and lose seven or eight games in SEC play and miss the tournament with a 20-plus win record, like the Ole Miss Rebels almost did last year.

Unfortunately, a few of the teams with the easy nonconference schedules are teams who think that they should be in the hunt for an NCAA tournament berth this season. Their weak schedules could come back to haunt them late in February when the selection committee is looking at the bubble teams.

Here are the five SEC basketball teams with the weakest nonconference schedules:

Taylor Sturm is an SEC Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TSturmRS or add him to your network on Google.

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No. 5 LSU Tigers

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Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers are one of the sleepers in the SEC this season. LSU’s toughest nonconference opponents are in the Old Spice Classic – Butler, Memphis and Oklahoma State – but that’s it. The rest of LSU’s nonconference schedule sees Texas Tech and UMass as the strongest opposition. The Tigers need to make big waves in the SEC if they want to go to the tournament.

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No. 4 Arkansas Razorbacks

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Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

The Razorbacks strongest opponents appear in their opening tournament, the Maui Invitational. If Arkansas can make it out of the first round or two, they have an opportunity to face Dayton, Minnesota, Gonzaga, Syracuse or California.

However, outside of the Maui Invitational, SMU is the strongest nonconference opponent the Razorbacks face. They’ll have to have a near flawless win record early in the season if they want to make the tournament.

The strength of schedule actually works in the Razorbacks' favor, because, despite not having B.J. Young or Marshawn Powell anymore, Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley are two of the top incoming recruits in the country. The confidence gained from winning early could shake up the SEC in Arkansas' favor.

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No. 3 Mississippi State Bulldogs

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Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State doesn't have any strong nonconference opposition this season. Fortunately, this also means that this team will finally be able to get onto its feet. With some of the best sophomores in the SEC, MSU has a very slight chance to go to the big dance. However, the Bulldogs will need to win almost all of their nonconference games against the likes of lowly teams such as Jackson State, Kennesaw State, Prairie View A&M and Southeastern Louisiana State.

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No. 2 Auburn Tigers

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Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Although Auburn’s nonconference schedule looks easy at first glance, there are a few overlooked games against teams like Illinois, Boston College and Tennessee State that may look a little better later in the season. Unfortunately, the Tigers lost many of their best players to graduation and transfers, and will likely be one of the worst teams in the SEC, which means they have no chance at making the NCAA tournament. A bad nonconference schedule may be just what this rebuilding team needs to gain some confidence for the future.

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No. 1 Texas A&M Aggies

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Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

When I say that the Aggies don’t play anyone, I mean anyone. Their toughest nonconference opponents all season long will be the Oklahoma Sooners. They may play the Virginia Cavaliers in the Corpus Christi Challenge is they can get past Missouri State, but victories over lowly teams like Mississippi Valley State, Prairie View A&M and Arkansas Pine-Bluff will not get you into the NCAA tournament – or even the NIT.