The SEC isn’t off to the best start as a conference. Other than Kentucky, almost every other team that’s played a big game against another major team has lost. If the league plans on getting more than two or three teams into the dance, they’ll need to start winning more games against tough competition from other major conferences. Luckily it’s still early in the season and there will be plenty of chances for other teams to prove their worth.
In the first week and a half of action, not many teams from the SEC have impressed me or even surpassed my preseason expectations. That being said, we have learned a lot so far with limited data, and that led to a good bit of movement in my first real SEC power rankings of the season.
1. Kentucky Wildcats
It’s kind of scary, but Kentucky actually proved to be better than I expected them to be so far this season. The backcourt of Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, and Isaiah Briscoe have been amazing and with the Wildcats at the top of my national top 25 rankings, they’re the obvious selection for the top spot in the SEC power rankings this week.
2. Florida Gators
The Gators haven’t had the opportunity to play anyone too good yet, but Florida has looked as good as advertised. They have so many experienced players who have each found ways to contribute in the early games. Florida also has the benefit of playing each of their non-conference games at neutral sites around the state which makes the wins over lesser competition slightly more impressive than just beating them on their home court.
3. Arkansas Razorbacks
Arkansas, like Florida, also hasn’t played anyone noteworthy yet. The Razorbacks have a decent win over UT Arlington and remain undefeated unlike a majority of the league. The Razorbacks haven’t been as dominant as I would like to see having them this high, but they haven’t been bad enough for me to drop them below the other less than impressive teams.
4. Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies really missed a big opportunity for a key win when they managed to let the home game against USC slip away from them towards the end. Texas A&M still has more key players than most SEC teams, but they’ll need to hope USC continues to play well or that could be a loss that comes back to haunt them and the SEC later on.
5. South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina already has one of the most exciting wins of the season with a last second mid-air catch and shoot buzzer beater against Monmouth. The Gamecocks have also added big wins over their cupcakes that they’ve played so far. Sindarius Thornwell and PJ Dozier have been excellent for South Carolina so far and the Gamecocks legitimately look like they could be a top team in the SEC again this year.
6. Ole Miss Rebels
Ole Miss was the biggest riser this week climbing 5 spots compared to my preseason rankings. Deandre Burnett has been outstanding for the Rebels and I totally didn’t see him playing this well. Ole Miss made it to the championship game of the Paradise Jam and almost pulled off the upset over a really good Creighton team. We’ll see what happens in the next few weeks, but Andy Kennedy could be proving me and others wrong once again this season.
7. Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia got their season started off on the wrong foot with a road loss to a shorthanded Clemson team that has already started to prove they’re not quite as good as people thought going in. However, that was a road loss to a good team which can’t be counted as too bad. Unfortunately, in my eyes, the Bulldogs haven’t looked fantastic in their other wins over lesser teams. The win over George Washington is a good sign and now the Bulldogs will get a big test against the Kansas Jayhawks. It’ll be interesting to see how J.J. Frazier handles one of the best backcourts in the country with Frank Mason and Davonte Graham.
8. Auburn Tigers
Each of Auburn’s games have started out a little ugly, and that’s what I expected, but I didn’t expect the Tigers to come out of each one with a win by almost 20 points. Yes, it’s three wins against decent teams in lower conferences, but it’s three big wins nonetheless. Auburn gets their real test this week against Texas Tech and either Purdue or Utah State in the Cancun Challenge. If the Tigers return from Cancun with a 1-1 record like they’re expected, this is probably where they deserve to be ranked. However, if they can someone win the tournament or do the opposite and drop both games, Auburn could make a drastic move either up or down.
9. Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama was really, really close to being 4-0 with two key wins under their belt. Instead, the Crimson Tide sit at 2-2 with a close home loss to Dayton before they got waxed on their own home court by Saint Mary’s immediately after and another loss to Valparaiso literally minutes before I’m writing this. As I’ve come to expect with Alabama since Avery Johnson has been there, the defense is good, especially when they can slow the game down. Unfortunately, there has yet to be a player that proves they can step up and take over in the end when Alabama needs it, similar to what Retin Obasohan did last season for the Tide. Bama gets one easier game to recover, but then they head right back on the road to face Texas and Oregon back to back.
10. Vanderbilt Commodores
Oh, Vanderbilt, it looks like it might not have been all Kevin Stallings’ fault last season. The Commodores started off their season with an absolute beatdown at the hands of Marquette and then most recently lost to Bucknell in Memorial Gym. Luke Kornet has played alright so far, but the Commodores are clearly going to have to make a drastic turn around if they want to re-establish themselves as a top team in the SEC and even hope of making the tournament again this year.
11. LSU Tigers
Similar to Ole Miss, LSU has also looked a tad better than I expected. Duop Reath has been excellent for the Tigers and they’re not having to just rely on Antonio Blakeney. LSU hasn’t played anyone serious quite yet and has struggled with the easy competition at times. The Tigers will have to prove themselves quickly as they could find themselves playing Wichita State, Louisville, Baylor, or Michigan State all in three days while they’re in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
12. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State started their year off with a win over Norfolk State but then followed it up by getting crushed by Tacko Fall and UCF in the opening round game of the Charleston Classic. After losing the first game, the Bulldogs had to take on the losers bracket which doesn’t help they’re already awful non-conference schedule. The Bulldogs managed to knock off both Boise State and UTEP, but they lost they’re best player in the process. With Quinndary Weatherspoon now out for the year with a wrist injury, things aren’t looking good for Mississippi State. The talented freshman will have to use this year as a learning experience and try their best to win some games for I.J. Ready the senior.
13. Missouri Tigers
They’ve settled down now, but the first 80 minutes of Missouri basketball this season was mightily impressive. The Tigers started off the year with an absolute thrashing of a terrible Alabama A&M team where they saw several different players contribute significantly. Then Mizzou almost shocked everyone when they took Xavier to overtime before losing on a really bad mistake of fouling on the very last possession of overtime. After the overtime loss to Xavier, Missouri returned to their normal selves in a loss to Davidson, but they followed that up with a win over Tulane to avoid going 0-3 in their tournament. Maybe there’s hope for the Tigers this season, but for now they’ll stay within arms reach of the 14th spot in these power rankings that they know so well.
14. Tennessee Volunteers
Tennessee started off their year by losing to in-state foe, Chattanooga and has since followed it up by almost letting Appalachian State come back to beat them and then struggling just to keep it close with Wisconsin. After already falling to the bottom of my SEC power rankings, now Tennessee will have to survive the rest of the gauntlet that is the Maui Invitational. The Volunteers are just hoping they get matched up with Chaminade and have a small chance of leaving Hawaii with one win to hang their hat on.
The SEC might not be doing well as a conference quite yet, but at least they’re still proving that the league will likely be wide open again this year and that’s fun for the fans I guess. I’m hoping as we get to watch the rest of the early season tournaments this week we’ll see an SEC team or two surprise some people, but it not it could get ugly fast for a league that drastically needs to improve its image.
Surprisingly this was one of the easier weeks to make power rankings since I’ve been doing them over the last few years and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or I’m just crazy. I’m sure people are still going to disagree as always but I hope my reasoning and explanations is enough to at least convince you I’m not insane.