After a slow start for the conference, the SEC had a pretty good week last week. Kentucky continues to dominate including a 115-69 win over Arizona State in the Bahamas. South Carolina knocked off ranked Michigan and Syracuse teams back to back to earn a spot in the top 25 and then Florida continues to look good with key wins over Seton Hall and Miami and a narrow loss to Gonzaga. Not to be outdone, Texas A&M continues to impress but just couldn’t get it done against UCLA to win the Wooden Classic.
Aside from a few key games this week, most of the SEC teams will go back to playing lesser competition that gives teams an opportunity to recover from the tournaments over the last few weeks. Despite the competition going down a little, the SEC still has to stay awake because losing buy games is what really leaves a bad impression for the conference.
1. Kentucky Wildcats
Before Monday’s matchup against Arizona State it was starting to look like maybe Kentucky was just looking better than reality with wins over cupcakes and a continuously dropping Michigan State team. Then, Kentucky went down to the Bahamas and walked away with a 46 point victory over a 4-2 Arizona State team to reassure me and many others that they’re certainly deserving of the title of best team in the country. The Wildcats have their big matchups coming up, but it might be time to start up the 40-0 discussion sometime soon.
2. South Carolina Gamecocks
I’ve been high on the Gamecocks all during the preseason, but even I was shocked by how dominant South Carolina was this week. Sindarius Thornwell had another fantastic week as he led South Carolina to impressive wins over Michigan at home and Syracuse in a practical road game. Both teams were ranked when South Carolina beat them and now the Gamecocks have been rewarded with a spot in my top 25 rankings and the more important AP rankings.
3. Florida Gators
Florida came so close to knocking off Gonzaga to stay undefeated and if they had they probably would have remained the second best team in my power rankings. Despite the loss, the Gators still got wins over Seton Hall and Miami while they were in Orlando for the Advocare Invitational. Mike White has a team loaded with different weapons and as they continue to learn to play well together they should continue to stay one of the top teams in the SEC and in the country.
4. Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies battled back and forth with UCLA and even managed to force the Bruins to play to their tempo but in the end, Bryce Alford and Lonzo Ball were too much for the Aggies as they fell in the Wooden Legacy championship game. Robert Williams burst onto the scene as an explosive freshman big for the Aggies and DJ Hogg, Tyler Davis, and even Admon Gilder continue to impress. I want to think the Aggies are the second most talented team in the SEC, but they’ll need to get more wins in the big games to prove it.
5. Georgia Bulldogs
Yante Maten is starting to heat up. The Bulldogs hung with Arizona for a big in the CBE Hall of Fame classic but ultimately lost by 20 points. A loss to Kansas is nothing to sulk about, but J.J. Frazier and others will have to step up if Georgia is going to prove that they’re a top team without knocking off big competition.
6. Auburn Tigers
Auburn faced their first serious competition this season while in Mexico for the Cancun Challenge. Auburn led from start to finish in their win over Texas Tech where the talented freshman barely looked phased by their first game away from home. Auburn then came out and hand with Purdue in the championship game but the 17 threes and 65% shooting from deep was way too much for the Tigers as they eventually got shot out of the gym. Still, Auburn did what they needed to do in Cancun and surpassed expectations. Pair that with three dominant wins to start the year, and the Tigers keep climbing.
7. Arkansas Razorbacks
I was struggling on whether to put the Razorbacks above or below Auburn this week. They were higher coming into the year, but after losing to Minnesota by 14 and getting off to a slow start against a very bad Mount Saint Mary’s team, the Razorbacks will need to do a little bit more to prove they belong at the top of the SEC. Right now it just doesn’t look great to have a loss to the only good team they’ve faced so far.
8. Ole Miss Rebels
With just a 5 point home win over Montana this week, Ole Miss wasn’t in shape to move up the rankings. I’m still more impressed with the Rebels than I was going into the season, but I’ll get a good opportunity to learn more about them when they face a solid Middle Tennessee State team at home tomorrow. The Rebels should be able to get it done, but Middle Tennessee State has proven they’re not a team to be taken lightly.
9. Alabama Crimson Tide
Avery Johnson wasn’t pleased with Alabama’s showing in Las Vegas last week and I don’t blame him. They offense was miserable in a loss to Valparaiso and the Crimson Tide salvaged their trip with a win over a pretty bad St. Louis in the final minutes of the consolation game. Alabama needs to get more looks for Dazon Ingram and Braxton Key, but as of now they’ve failed to do that and as a result haven’t looked good on the offensive end. Alabama’s defense will keep them out of the bottom, but they need to prove they can run an offense to earn respect in the SEC.
10. Vanderbilt Commodores
I’ll give Vanderbilt credit for just losing to a now ranked Butler team this week, but the Commodores still have a ways to go to reach where I thought they would be before the year. With two losses on the year already, one of them being to Bucknell, Vandy can be glad that the true bottom of the league has been just as bad. Luke Kornet and crew have to be better over the next few weeks or things could get ugly in the SEC with their lack of skill and already a short bench.
11. Tennessee Volunteers
I’m going to give Tennessee a slight reward for their effort in Hawaii this week. They were far from a good representative for the SEC with just a win over Chaminade the host team, but Tennessee did stick with a struggling Oregon team into the final minutes. Tennessee still isn’t very good, and probably won’t be all year, but Rick Barnes might be able to get this team to play better than expected on a few occasions this season.
12. LSU Tigers
LSU should be happy that they managed to knock off Old Dominion while they were in the Bahamas, because after the absolute beating they took at the hands of Wichita State I was already getting ready to move the Tigers down to last place in my power rankings. This season, LSU is still struggling with having the worst coach in the league, but this season they don’t have a loaded roster to keep them afloat in the league. We’re likely just counting down the games until Johnny Jones is finally let go at LSU.
13. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Losing Quinndary Weatherspoon proved to be about as big of hit as everyone thought it would be for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs fell to Lehigh and then barely escaped against Northwestern State, a team in the bottom 50 in country, with just a 6 point win at home. I.J. Ready and some of the freshman will have to step up quick for Mississippi State or it will be yet another rebuilding year at the bottom of the league for the Bulldogs in Starkville.
14. Missouri Tigers
I was sure I would have to put Mississippi State at the bottom of my rankings this week, but then Missouri had to go and lose to North Carolina Central. The Tigers were held to just 52 points on their home court by a team that was ranked 262nd in defensive efficiency going into the game. I’m not sure how this same Missouri team took Xavier to overtime, but for now the Tigers remain as their normal selves in the coveted 14th spot in the league.
Even with a good week at the top with three teams now in the top 25 nationally, the SEC continues to be at a crossroads as the bottom of the conference looks equally bad if not more so than the top looks good. If the SEC is going to get more than 3 teams into the NCAA Tournament, teams like Alabama, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Georgia, and Auburn will have to keep playing better and get out of non-conference play without many more losses.
The league is certainly going to beat up on each other when conference play rolls around, but they’ll need to perform that that’s a good thing and not just a bunch of bad teams lucking out with wins over each other. Kentucky is going to run away with this conference, but the rest of the league at least needs to be good enough to give them a few challenges on the road this season.