Last week was another week of mostly cupcake games for the league. It was still finals week for a few teams and other teams were working their way back from their break. There were a few close calls, but only Missouri managed to get a really bad loss when they were upset by Eastern Illinois on their home court, but that’s about what I’ve come to expect with the Tigers. Kentucky got a big win over UNC, and Arkansas got a win over Texas that would have looked better before everyone figured out that Texas isn’t all that great this season.
Other than that, it was another average week in the league. This week needs to be much better if the SEC wants to make one last push at giving the league its best chance at landing 5 teams in the tournament come March. With another pretty uneventful week, my rankings haven’t changed much either, but here’s where I think all 14 SEC teams stand with one more week remaining in the non-conference schedule:
1. Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: W vs North Carolina (103-100)
Kentucky got another big win on the year with a thrilling shootout against UNC. Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox were fantastic, and Kentucky continues to prove that their going to give any team that faces them a complete handful on the offensive end. Kentucky’s defense may be a concern at this point, but against SEC competition that will probably look like much less of an issue.
2. South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Week: W at South Florida (77-66)
In an effort to bounce back from their first loss of the season to Seton Hall, the Gamecocks got a road win under their belt against South Florida. Still playing without Sindarius Thornwell is a concern as to how long his suspension is actually going to be, but for right now, South Carolina is still a hair above Florida, but it’s getting really, really close. If Thornwell doesn’t come back soon, South Carolina could have some issues at the beginning of SEC play which could hurt them in the end.
3. Florida Gators
Last Week: W vs Charlotte (87-46)
Against a decent Charlotte team, I finally got to see Florida play well on both sides of the ball. The Gator defense was once again very good and this time held the 49ers to just 46 points, but in addition the Gator offense also did their job to make sure this game wasn’t close. Florida has returns to the O-Dome to face Arkansas Little Rock and finish out their non-conference slate. The Gators may have dropped a few games in their difficult non-conference schedule, but we have to keep in mind that all of them were on the road or on a true neutral court against top 25 teams.
4. Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: W at Texas (77-74)
Arkansas finally got a win away from Bud Walton Arena and moved to 9-1 on the year with a victory over Texas which makes Arkansas the team that has beaten Texas more than anyone else in basketball. The Razorbacks have just two easy games remaining in their non-conference schedule, but as the Hogs keep winning, it really looks like they’ll be a contender at the top of the SEC this season. They get a perfect test to start SEC play as they host Florida in their first league game.
5. Texas A&M Aggies
Last Week: L vs Arizona (67-63)
Texas A&M had another great opportunity to prove that they are one of the best teams in the SEC and maybe one of the best teams in the country but the Aggies came up short once again. Against a talented Arizona team with just 7 available scholarship players, the Aggies came out lost in the first half. The Texas A&M that I come to expect showed up in the second half and almost brought the game back, but still fell short. I still believe the Aggies are one of the most talented teams in the SEC, but they’re going to wish they would have gotten 1-2 more key wins later on if they can’t manage to win 12-14 SEC games.
6. Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: W vs Louisiana Lafayette (73-60), W vs Charleston Southern (84-64)
Yante Maten keeps getting better and I’m starting to think I picked the wrong Georgia player to win SEC Player of the Year. In Georgia’s two wins this week Maten had 18 points and 15 rebounds followed by his second 30 point game of the season in just 22 minutes of play. I’m still slightly concerned about the players around Frazier and Maten, but it’s much more clear that the two are more than capable of leading this team and establishing the Bulldogs as a threat at the top of the SEC. Georgia has two good road tests this week at Georgia Tech and at Oakland, but then the Bulldogs get their SEC play started and travel to Auburn.
7. Auburn Tigers
Last Week: W vs Coastal Carolina (117-72), W vs Mercer (76-74)
This week we got to see what can happen if Auburn completely controls the pace of the game and what happens when the other team slows the Tigers down. Because of T.J. Dunans’ impressive buzzer beater the Tigers still walked away with two wins but they definitely exposed one of their massive weaknesses once again. After a huge win over Coastal Carolina where Auburn played without two starters, the Tigers also got news that 2017 5-star Austin Wiley was cleared to enroll early and the 6’11” big man made his debut against Mercer. Wiley will take a little bit of time to adjust to the college game and have his teammates get used to looking for him down low, but it still looks like he’s the big missing piece that was keeping Auburn from being pretty good this year. If the Tigers can re-establish their chemistry with Wiley in the mix, the SEC should look out.
8. LSU Tigers
Last Week: W vs North Carolina Central (70-66), W vs Texas Southern (88-80), W vs College of Charleston (75-65)
All three games for the Tigers this week were much closer than they probably should have been, but LSU managed to win them all, which goes a long way in a league like the SEC. It’s impressive that Johnny Jones has made it through the entire non-conference schedule with this team and has yet to pick up a really bad loss. LSU still has an impressive win over Houston and no bad losses. I still don’t think LSU can contend in the SEC with Johnny Jones as their coach, but the Tigers have surpassed my low expectations so far.
9. Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: W vs Tennessee Tech (74-68), W vs Lipscomb (92-77), L vs Gonzaga (86-76)
Tennessee couldn’t get it done once again, but the Volunteers held on with Gonzaga until almost the very end in an ugly foul fest in Nashville. If anyone is benefiting from quality losses right now it’s Tennessee and while they haven’t managed to complete any of the big upsets, they’ve shown me that they’re a young team that shouldn’t be overlooked in SEC play this year. Unfortunately for Tennessee, they have one remaining road game in non-conference play and then start SEC play with a gauntlet of games at Texas A&M, vs Arkansas, at Florida, and then vs South Carolina.
10. Ole Miss Rebels
Last Week: W vs Murray State (78-73), W vs Bradley (66-49)
After narrowly missing out on a big road upset win last week, Ole Miss bounced back with two pretty good performances. These obviously weren’t huge wins to vault the Rebels up my Power Rankings, but as I’ve said before, just winning all of the games you are supposed to win is key in the SEC. Ole Miss has one more easy non-conference game against South Alabama, but then the Rebels have a pretty tough start to SEC play as the face Kentucky at home, then travel to Florida and Auburn. Whether Andy Kennedy can surpass expectations once again this season might be seen within the first two week of SEC play.
11. Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: W vs USC Upstate (78-61), L vs Clemson (67-54)
Another big game for Alabama, this time against Clemson in Birmingham, and another disappointing loss. Alabama just looked like Clemson was way too much for them during the entire game and it seems like even Alabama fans are starting to turn towards next season already. Last year Avery Johnson had a good defense and an okay offense that was able to get wins because Retin Obasohan would step up in key moments. This year the Crimson Tide defense has taken a slight step back but the offense is even worse. If Alabama doesn’t score in transition, it almost looks like they aren’t able to score at all. I imagine Dazon Ingram, Braxton Key, and other young stars will step up in some way, but as of right now, Alabama doesn’t look very good and I don’t think their ceiling is much higher with this season’s roster.
12. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last Week: L vs East Tennessee State (67-65), W vs Southern Miss (86-44)
The lost to East Tennessee State definitely doesn’t look good, but it actually wasn’t an upset according to KenPom rankings as East Tennessee State is currently the 82nd ranked KenPom team. Either way, Mississippi State bounced back with a big win over Southern Miss on a neutral court that included a 33-0 run at one point to really put the game out of hand. The Bulldogs still sit near the bottom of the SEC right now, but it remains clear that if Quinndary Weatherspoon is playing, the Bulldogs are a team that could scare some people this season. And as a very young, talented team, Mississippi State will only get better as the year goes on.
13. Vanderbilt Commodores
Last Week: W vs Chattanooga (76-74)
Thanks to a big three at the end by Luke Kornet, the Vanderbilt Commodores avoided another home loss. Chattanooga isn’t a bad team so this win is actually a good one for the Dores. However, with just a game against Dayton remaining, it looks like Vanderbilt will limp into SEC play with a very unimpressive 6-6 record. As a team with what I thought would be a strong enough starting five to at least contend in the SEC, Vanderbilt now looks like they’ll be fighting to prove that they are still worth mentioning in SEC play.
14. Missouri Tigers
Last Week: L vs Eastern Illinois (67-64)
I had a feeling moving Missouri out of the bottom spot would be short lived and the Tigers immediately proved once again that they are the rightful owners of the 14th spot in my Power Rankings with another awful home loss, this time to Eastern Illinois. The Missouri team that was playing decent basketball at the beginning of the year and had me questioning whether they could string together a few wins is no more and instead the Missouri most people are used to have returned. It’s another year in the SEC where I wonder if Missouri will get any wins at all. Just getting to 10 wins on the season seems like a stretch goal for Kim Anderson and the Tigers at this point.
Like I said before, this week seemed like just another average week in the SEC. The league is still pretty much separated into 4 tiers and there hasn’t been a lot of movement between these tiers. I’m beginning to believe in Arkansas and Georgia and the addition of Wiley makes Auburn’s ceiling even higher, but the league still has work to do if it plans on sending 5 teams to the NCAA Tournament in March. This week will be pivotal as a lot of SEC teams are playing big matchups against teams in other major conferences.
With just one week of non-conference play remaining my rankings are about to start getting more and more solidified. Thanks for reading these and carrying what I have to say, and I hope everyone enjoys their holidays (and hopefully gets to watch a lot of college basketball)!