This week was a really bad one for the SEC as a basketball league. On Sunday and Monday the SEC had a good opportunity in 5 different games against ACC teams on neutral courts or on the road. Some games were closer than the SEC would have expected, but all 5 SEC teams lost including a narrow miss of an upset for Tennessee over North Carolina and an embarrassing loss for Auburn at the hands of a Boston College tip-in at the buzzer.
The league definitely hurt it’s chances at getting five teams into the NCAA Tournament this year, but there still seems to be 4 solid teams at the top and as long as those teams can keep winning and looking good, the SEC would love to have four teams in the Big Dance after the unimpressive non-conference showing so far. I can talk about the successes or failures of league some other time. Here’s how the teams within the league stand in my eyes:
1. Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: W vs Valparaiso (87-63), W vs Hofstra (96-73)
Kentucky rebounded from their loss to UCLA with two blowout wins once again. It doesn’t look like I’ll say any differently this season but the Wildcats are once again the best team in the SEC and it might not even be close. Kentucky has two big tests coming up and two more chances for the Wildcats to carry the SEC banner against North Carolina and Louisville.
2. South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Week: L vs Seton Hall (67-64)
South Carolina took over a week off and responded well but still lost a close game to Seton Hall in Madison Square Garden. The Gamecocks are no longer undefeated and as the final team to lose in the SEC, they also cap off a terrible week/weekend for the league. The Gamecocks are still playing without their best player Sindarious Thornwell, but it doesn’t seem to be slowing them down too much.
3. Florida Gators
Last Week: L vs Duke (84-74), L at Florida State (83-78)
It’s becoming very clear that Florida’s offense could be detrimental to their success this season. Both Duke and Florida State were able to both outscore the Gators and shut their offense down for long spurts throughout the game. Florida is losing games to good teams, which keeps them slightly above Texas A&M who hasn’t looked impressive in games they should have won big.
4. Texas A&M Aggies
Last Week: W vs Denver (80-58), W vs South Carolina State (83-76)
Two wins over two bad teams is what’s expected for the Aggies as this point. I would have liked to see Texas A&M put away South Carolina State by a wider margin early, but a win is a win, especially in such a bad week for the league as a whole. A&M’s offense needs to make sure it doesn’t become too reliant on the inside game although that seems to be a much better strategy than relying on the outside game like so many other SEC teams.
5. Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: W vs Houston (84-72), W vs North Florida (91-76)
I’m really starting to buy into Arkansas this year and they continue to look really good at home. Their schedule so far hasn’t been fantastic, but a win over Houston gives the Razorbacks their second top 60 win and they remain with just one loss to a surprisingly good Minnesota team. After the top four teams in the SEC, Arkansas now looks like the only team on the verge of joining the top group.
6. Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: No games
The Bulldogs don’t play another game until tomorrow, but with the awful performance that the Tigers put up in Madison Square Garden, the Bulldogs are certainly ahead for now. Georgia needs to start getting dominant play from their two stars, Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier, or they could see Auburn and other young, talented teams below them reach their potential and surpass the Bulldogs before it’s all said and done.
7. Auburn Tigers
Last Week: L vs Boston College (72-71)
The SEC lost some close games this weekend against the ACC but this was by far the closest and the worst loss. Auburn came out slow after a week off and just couldn’t get it going against the Eagles. This is the kind of loss that will really hurt the Tigers is they find themselves anywhere near the bubble at the end of the season. Auburn now needs to roll through their next two cupcakes and hope for at least one win over either Oklahoma or UConn to end non-conference play.
8. LSU Tigers
Last Week: No games
Also playing no games this week, I was tempted to place the LSU Tigers ahead of the Auburn Tigers mostly because of their win over Houston last week. Ultimately, I don’t want to overreact too much to Auburn’s bad loss since they played without one of their key players in T.J. Dunans and were coming off of a week of finals and played on the biggest stage with such a young team. Make no mistake, Auburn doesn’t have any more room for error from here on out. Teams 6-12 are all really close at this point and any more big wins or bad losses could totally shake up the bunch going forward.
9. Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: L @ Oregon (65-56)
Once again Alabama kept it close with a good team on the road, but once again the Crimson Tide couldn’t get the win. Alabama has 4 close losses to pretty good teams this year but doesn’t have a single top 150 win so far. Alabama is playing with a ton of effort for Avery Johnson, but they’ll need to get at least one good win and can’t lose more games for me to start moving the Tide up.
10. Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: W vs Presbyterian (90-50), L at North Carolina (73-71)
Tennessee might be showing signs of being a good team. Rick Barnes has his young team starting to play well. They got a 40 point win over a really bad Presbyterian team but followed it up with a game in which they led North Carolina most of the time and almost got the upset done on the road over a top team in the country. I’m not the biggest believer in quality losses, but the Vols definitely got something like that in Chapel Hill.
11. Ole Miss Rebels
Last Week: L at Virginia Tech (80-75)
This one wasn’t nearly as impressive at Tennessee’s close loss, but the Rebels deserve credit for sticking with a much improved Virginia Tech team on the road and giving the Hokies all the could handle. DeAndre Burnett is quickly becoming one of the most impressive players in the SEC and it looks like the Miami transfer is going to be yet another player that Andy Kennedy uses to turn his underrated team into a dangerous competitor in the SEC.
12. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last Week: No games
The Bulldogs only fall because Tennessee and Ole Miss looked much better this week. If Quinndary Weatherspoon can keep himself on the court with his injury Mississippi State should be good enough to climb back up at some point this season.
13. Missouri Tigers
Last Week: W vs Miami Ohio (81-55), L vs Arizona (79-60)
Missouri stuck with a limited Arizona team for a majority of the game but ultimately the 7 players for Arizona were still too much for the Tigers. Don’t get me wrong, Missouri is still really bad and safely at the bottom of the SEC, but Vanderbilt seems in worse shape at this point.
14. Vanderbilt Commodores
Last Week: W vs High Point (90-63), L at Middle Tennessee (71-48)
I really don’t know what to say at this point but Vanderbilt is just bad. I’ve been okay or pleased with almost everything I’ve seen from the rest of the league so far but Vanderbilt has greatly underperformed. Bryce Drew needs to get things turned around quickly or he could head into year two at Vanderbilt already on Commodore fan’s bad side. Luke Kornet has to be better than he’s been so far. There’s no reason for Vanderbilt to only score 48 points against Middle Tennessee, no matter how good the Blue Raiders are.
Hopefully things will start to turn around for the SEC as teams get finished with finals and can fully focus on basketball over the next few weeks. Conference play is coming soon and the league needs to have performed well enough in the non-conference schedule that the SEC games actually have bigger meaning in March.