While Kentucky continues to be about the only predictable thing in the conference, other teams continue to either surpass or fail to meet their expectations set after non-conference play. Alabama is the biggest surprise in my eyes and their definitely deserving of the biggest raise this week. On the other hand, Auburn and Texas A&M continue to struggle for different reasons and each is well below my pre-season expectations.
1. Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: W vs Texas A&M (100-58), W vs Arkansas (97-71)
The lack of a solid point guard was made very apparent as Kentucky did whatever they wanted against Texas A&M. The Wildcats followed that up with another beatdown of a team that was supposed to be near the top of the SEC. At least that time Arkansas kept it as a 3 point game at the half. Kentucky has won all three of their SEC games by an average of 30.3 points, so they’re pretty good.
2. Florida Gators
Last Week: W vs Ole Miss (70-63), W vs Tennessee (83-70)
Florida got two home wins over middle of the pack SEC teams and I’m not quite convinced that they’re as close to Kentucky as some think they are but for now they’re my second best team in the SEC. Luckily for Florida they get to face Kentucky in Gainesville first, but UF shouldn’t look too far ahead to that game on February 4th.
3. South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Week: W at Georgia (67-61), W vs Texas A&M (79-68)
Sindaruis Thornwell is back and South Carolina is back to their normal selves. The Gamecocks are now 9-0 when Thornwell plays and have looked good doing it. South Carolina has an easier week this week with Tennessee and Ole Miss, then the hardest week of the season is next where they’ll get to face both Florida and Kentucky in just a four day span. At that point we should know how “for real” this South Carolina team is.
4. Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: L vs South Carolina (61-67), W vs Missouri (71-66)
I thought about putting Arkansas in this spot but when it comes to a close spot like this I think about who would win on a neutral court right now and I still think I’d be willing to bet on J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten over Dusty Hannahs and Moses Kingsley at this point. That being said, Georgia can’t overlook opponents like Missouri anymore, especially if they aren’t going to take care of the ball.
5. Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: W at Tennessee (82-78), L at Kentucky (71-97)
Arkansas missed out on a big opportunity when they couldn’t manage to knock of Florida in Bud Walton Arena to start out SEC play. I still like the Razorbacks as one of the top teams in the SEC, but it won’t be easy with back to back road games against Tennessee and then Kentucky. Arkansas almost has to win at Tennessee because starting out 0-3 won’t be a good start to league play for the Razorbacks.
6. Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: W at Mississippi State (68-58), W vs Vanderbilt (59-56)
Alabama is off to a fantastic start to SEC play with a big win at Mississippi State where they were able to hold the Bulldogs’ second half comeback attempt off. They followed that up with another great defensive performance where they were able to shut down Vanderbilt’s previously hot shooting offense. The talent might not be the best in the league, but once again, Avery Johnson has his squad playing great defense and finding ways to get it done on the basketball court. The Crimson Tide have a huge game against Florida tonight on their home court.
7. Vanderbilt Commodores
Last Week: W vs Auburn (80-61), L at Alabama (56-59)
Vandy, and specifically Matthew Fisher-Davis, started the game against Auburn extremely hot from the floor. The Commodores went up 21-2 early in the game and then despite both teams playing even the rest of the way that’s all they needed to get a big 19 point win over the Tigers. Vanderbilt couldn’t finish up the sweep of the state of Alabama when they fell into the trap of the stellar Alabama defense in Tuscaloosa. Now as the Commodores get to host Kentucky, they might need more than a 21-2 lead in the beginning to have a shot at taking down the Wildcats.
8. Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: L vs Arkansas (78-82), L at Florida (70-83)
The Vols didn’t look bad in either loss, but an 0-2 week doesn’t look great, especially after the big SEC opening win over Texas A&M. At this point I’m not sure whether Tennessee will be able to go up or down from this spot. They’re certainly a young team with some upside, but it might not be enough to get over the higher teams in the SEC this year.
9. Ole Miss Rebels
Last Week: L at Florida (63-70), W at Auburn (88-85)
After dropping their first two games against the leagues top two teams, Ole Miss got a good rebound win on the road against a struggling Auburn team. Jared Harper and the Tigers made a valiant comeback in the final minute, but the free throw shooting for Ole Miss was good all night and even in a loud Auburn Arena down the stretch, the Rebels were able to hold on. Most importantly, they were able to win on the backs of several key contributors in a game where Auburn kept Sabastian Saiz in check for most of the first half.
10. Texas A&M Aggies
Last Week: L at Kentucky (58-100), L at South Carolina (68-79)
I picked the Aggies to finish second in the SEC this year and only lose 4 conference games. Well, the Aggies have already lost three of those games, so if they’re going to meet my expectations they’ll have to win 14 of their last 15 games and magically get outstanding play from one of their point guards. The only reason I have them above Auburn who is also 0-3 and doing far worse than expected, is they have losses to better competition even if they have a 42 point L under their belt.
11. Auburn Tigers
Last Week: L at Vanderbilt (61-80), L vs Ole Miss (85-88)
Auburn picked probably the worst time to reveal some of their biggest flaws. Their defense looked lost at the beginning of the Vanderbilt game and found themselves in a 21-2 hole that they never climbed out of. Then, with a chance to rebound with a very winnable home game against Ole Miss it looked too similar to the Georgia Game where Auburn was up most of the first half before giving up the lead in the second. At least they made a fighting effort towards the end this time, but now the Tigers will be playing the next few games potentially without Danjel Purifoy who leads the team in minutes played.
12. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last Week: L vs Alabama (58-68), W at LSU (95-78)
Mississippi State missed out on a good opportunity to start with a win when Quinndary Weatherspoon and the rest of the team had an extremely cold first half against the Tide. They rebounded and fought back in the second half but then let Alabama run away with it again. The Bulldogs rebounded with a pretty big win over LSU in another game where the Tigers looked absolutely hopeless.
13. LSU Tigers
Last Week: W at Missouri (88-77), L vs Mississippi State (78-95)
It’s not something to be too proud of, but at least LSU and Johnny Jones got an SEC win under their belt on the road at Missouri. Unfortunately, they returned home to lay an egg against another bottom SEC team. Johnny Jones is certainly coaching for his job this year and so far he’s not making a good case to even get considered for another chance.
14. Missouri Tigers
Last Week: L vs LSU (77-88), L at Georgia (66-71)
Until a fight right before halftime, Missouri was actually looking competitive against Georgia on the road. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs didn’t just keep giving the ball back to the Tigers in the second half and Mizzou finished another week with no wins. Who gets fired first, Johnny Jones of Kim Anderson? I’m guessing Jones but there’s not many signs of hope for Anderson or Missouri at this point.
Maybe it’s just the fact that most students aren’t back in school to really give teams a nice home court advantage, but road teams are still 11-8 so far this season. It’s not good for the home teams that might have been counting on home wins to get them going this year, but it’s certainly been more fun to watch. Hopefully this week brings us more movement in the league just like the past one.