Each week there are a few teams that I have to spend a little bit of time thinking about where they should sit, but for this week I legitimately had to sit for a few minutes just to place all of the teams from 4-11 in the conference. You could almost put 4-11 in any order and probably give me a good enough reason for those rankings. I have some reasoning for most of my picks, but some ultimately just came down to who I think would win on a neutral court if the game was played tonight.
I’m writing this currently just thinking of all the holes that people are surely going to be able to poke in my logic for this week and I’m just going to accept that there’s no avoiding it with the current status of the SEC. The middle of the pack in the SEC is just that unpredictable and teams almost don’t even look the same from week to week.
1. Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: W at Mississippi State (88-81), W vs South Carolina (85-69)
At least there is one constant the SEC and that is the Kentucky Wildcats. The Cats picks up two impressive wins this week by going on the road to snap Mississippi State’s little winning streak and then coming home and holding off South Carolina despite Sindarius Thornwell scoring 34 points. Kentucky has a nice warm up game at Tennessee this week before hosting Kansas in a top five matchup that might be their best chance to lose another game this season.
2. South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Week: W vs Florida (57-53), L at Kentucky (69-85)
Sindarius Thornwell continues to be excellent and the Gamecocks proved themselves as the clear second best team in the league after outlasting Florida in a horrendous, foul-ridden, offensive game. The good news is South Carolina has gotten their loss to Kentucky out of the way and could win every game on the rest of their schedule except for a return trip to Florida towards the end of February.
3. Florida Gators
Last Week: L at South Carolina (53-57), L vs Vanderbilt (66-68)
The loss to South Carolina doesn’t do much to Florida, but the loss to Vanderbilt at home made me shake my head quite a bit. I thought Vanderbilt had returned to their bad self after cooling down after their hot shooting start to SEC play. Instead Florida went 0-2 on the week and should honestly fall further in the rankings except for the fact that almost no other team is worthy of being in the top three at this moment.
4. Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: W at Texas A&M (62-60), W vs LSU (99-86)
Here’s where the real fun begins. A road win is impressive even if it is against a mightily struggling Texas A&M team and the Razorbacks did what they needed to against LSU so they’re moving into the fourth spot sort of by default. You could easily make a case that Georgia needs to remain in the 4th spot despite blowing a late lead in a loss to Texas A&M, but at this moment I think Arkansas would win by a few on a neutral court just because I think they could match up with Maten and Frazier and still have a few other players left over to get the win over the Dawgs.
5. Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: W vs Vanderbilt (76-68), L at Texas A&M (62-63)
So maybe Georgia really shouldn’t have loss to Texas A&M because of the clock mishap at the end of the game, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Bulldogs once again did not look great. Blowing a 10 point lead in the final minutes takes a serious meltdown, even on the road, but luckily for Georgia, almost everyone else in the SEC has other losses. Georgia still sits at 4-3 with two losses to top three teams and they still have two of the best players in the conference. Georgia should be okay, but they need to be careful or fans could start to have a legitimate case to get angry at Mark Fox.
6. Ole Miss Rebels
Last Week: W vs Tennessee (80-69), W at Missouri (75-71)
Ole Miss somehow managed to go 2-0 this week despite playing without their leading scorer DeAndre Burnett. The Rebels may be just 3-4 in SEC play, but their four losses have come to four of the five best teams in the league. They haven’t looked good, but almost no SEC team has at this point. I’ve got to reward the Rebels for playing well without one of their best players and that reward is getting put in a spot that literally could go to any of the teams in positions 6-11 in my rankings.
7. Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: L at Ole Miss (69-80), W vs Mississippi State (91-74)
Tennessee might be the most unpredictable team in the SEC along with Auburn. The Vols managed to lose to Ole Miss without their best scorer and then turn around and beat a Mississippi State team that has been playing really well by double digits. Tennessee has a bunch of young guys and when those guys are all playing well together, this could be a team capable of upsets on almost any given night.
8. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last Week: L vs Kentucky (81-88), L at Tennessee (74-91)
I’m just going to assume the bad loss at Tennessee was a way of recovering from hanging on with Kentucky in a great environment but still coming away with a loss. The Bulldogs still have a lot of young talent and should get back on track, but an 0-2 week doesn’t help things going forward. Fortunately, the Bulldogs get a real chance to regroup with a home game against Missouri before playing at Alabama on Saturday as the rest of the league plays in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
9. Vanderbilt Commodores
Last Week: L at Georgia (68-76), W at Florida (68-66)
Vanderbilt still doesn’t seem like they’ll return to their hot start that they had at the very beginning of SEC play, but they were still good enough to get one of the best wins this year by taking down Florida on the road. The Dores need to build on this win and hopefully put on good performances when they host both Arkansas and Iowa State at home this week. Vanderbilt could vault themselves back up into the top half of the league with two key home wins this week.
10. Auburn Tigers
Last Week: W vs LSU (78-74), W vs Alabama (84-64)
Auburn finally got a chance to get back on track with two home games with students back in Auburn. The home environment certainly helped and the return of Danjel Purifoy should make a big difference as well. Austin Wiley had his breakthrough game against Alabama and if Auburn can run an offense based around him as the centerpiece like they did in the second half against Alabama they should be in good shape going forward. 30+ minutes into the game against Alabama I still wasn’t convinced that Auburn was better than the Crimson Tide overall but man did they take over (along with an Alabama collapse) in the final minutes to pick up a nice 20 points rivalry win right before a tough week on the road.
11. Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: W vs Missouri (68-56), L at Auburn (64-84)
Maybe I overreacted a little bit by having Alabama at five last week, but the Crimson Tide showed that their four wins might have come as a result of bad competition and not necessarily them being a good team. Alabama really was in position to hang in there with Auburn an probably not fall below the Tigers if they hadn’t collapsed under pressure in a hostile environment. Alabama still needs a go to scorer and without one, they were just left with Braxton Key jacking up air-balls as the deficit grew quickly against Austin Wiley and Alabama. The worst part is the Crimson Tide revealed a major weakness that any SEC teams with capable big men will surely try to exploit going forward.
12. Texas A&M Aggies
Last Week: L vs Arkansas (60-62), W vs Georgia (63-62)
The Aggies didn’t look good once again despite a nice two game home stand. Texas A&M does get to walk away with their second conference win thanks to a convenient clock malfunction and a pretty big collapse from Georgia. The Aggies still don’t have anyone that can resemble a point guard and unless someone magically arises to the occasion, the Aggies will still be in trouble going forward, especially with teams that can at least match their skill down low.
13. LSU Tigers
Last Week: L at Auburn (74-78), L at Arkansas (86-99)
Two more wins and two more losses, but at least they were both on the road, right? Johnny Jones and LSU are in big trouble and one of the only bright spots is that Kim Anderson and Missouri are competing in the same conference. The Tigers might just have two more opportunities for wins, but if Tennessee and Auburn keep playing better it’s really starting to look like these Tigers will finish SEC play with just one win over the team at the very bottom of the league.
14. Missouri Tigers
Last Week: L at Alabama (56-68), L vs Ole Miss (71-75)
I said that last Wednesday was likely the last time I would ever see Johnny Jones in Auburn Arena and now with a 10 game losing steak and counting, I might not get to see Kim Anderson in Auburn Arena at all this season. The Tigers only have a few slim chances at wins the rest of the way and will likely finish with the worst record in SEC basketball history. I won’t be surprised if Kim Anderson doesn’t even make it to March with his job.
Like I said at the top, it was really difficult coming up with these rankings this week and it probably won’t get much easier going forward. I was so conflicted with some placings, especially in positions 6-11 that I changed up a few spots in the process of writing this. This week, like others, I’d love to hear other reasoning for why you think I have a team too high or too low. The best place to interact with me is certainly on Twitter and I’m always open for some good SEC basketball discussions.
For most teams there is just one SEC game this week, but that means that we should all get a nice break from the poor SEC officiating as well as hopefully a few shots at upsets in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. I’m going to try and get a Big 12/SEC Challenge preview post up later this week, but we’ll see how school goes for me the rest of the week.