The Big 12/SEC Challenge was this week, which served as a nice break from the normal SEC matchups. It also gave the SEC a chance to prove themselves a little bit as a few teams got wins that most didn’t expect and the conference tied with the Big 12 to make this the first year that the SEC has not lost the challenge.
Before the challenge, there was even more excitement with Tennessee knocking off Kentucky which ended up being a sign of both team’s fortunes in the Big 12/SEC Challenge as well. The Volunteers are certainly peaking at the right time and they have a decent road trip this week at Auburn and at Mississippi State to really prove if they’re legit. For now, they sit right at the top of the second tier in the SEC.
1. Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: L at Tennessee (80-82), L vs Kansas (73-79)
Yes, the Wildcats suffered two losses this week, but I don’t think anyone could argue that they’re not still the best team in the conference. The loss to Tennessee was just a good game where the Vols played their absolute best and finally got the ending they needed. The Kansas loss on the other hand was a little bit more concerning. Kentucky should have been able to take care of the Jayhawks depleted roster, especially playing at home.
2. South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Week: W vs Auburn (98-69), W at Missouri (63-53)
Home court seemed to make a great difference for the Gamecocks this week. South Carolina got hot shooting from both Duane Notice and Sindarius Thornwell along with their normal excellent defense to completely dominate Auburn. To follow that up, the Gamecocks struggled comparatively on the road against Missouri, but still left Columbia with a double digit win.
3. Florida Gators
Last Week: W at LSU (106-71), W at Oklahoma (84-52)
The Florida Gators had what everyone would call a very successful road trip this week. The Gators traveled to both Baton Rouge and Norman and came back with two massive wins. Neither of these wins are surprising or impressive really, but the fashion in which Florida got the wins should be a fair warning to the rest of their opponents going forward.
4. Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: W vs Kentucky (82-80), W vs Kansas State (70-58)
Thompson Boling Arena sure did serve the Vols well this week as they got two very impressive wins in front of the home crowd. In both games, Tennessee was in control or not far from it for both complete games. After a major upset like beating Kentucky, it was good to see the young Vols team follow it up with another big win over a Kansas State team that was on the verge of my Top 25 last week. Now the Volunteers will hit the road to see if they can keep up their momentum this week.
5. Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: W at Georgia (80-60), W vs Mississippi State (71-62)
After an ugly showing in the second half against their rival, Alabama bounced back with a dominating win on the road at Georgia. This may have started a nosedive for the Georgia Bulldogs, but Alabama still deserves all the credit for that game. The game with Mississippi State was closer, but to hold off a young, athletic team at home was enough to put the Crimson Tide back in discussion as one of the most consistent teams in the conference so far this season and that’s saying quite a bit.
6. Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: W at Vanderbilt (71-70), L at Oklahoma State (71-99)
Arkansas, led mostly by Dusty Hannahs, put on an impressive comeback in the final minutes against Vanderbilt, on the road. Unfortunately, there was not comeback in site when the Hogs then went to Stillwater and got beaten from the tip to the buzzer against the Cowboys. Oklahoma State isn’t a loss to be too concerning for Arkansas, but the Razorbacks can’t let any games get that out of hand the rest of the way if they stand any chance of making the Tournament.
7. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last Week: W vs Missouri (89-74), L at Alabama (62-71)
A home win over Missouri isn’t anything to write home about, and they followed it up with a loss to Alabama, but I still think the Bulldogs can put together a few more wins this season. It was certainly an average week, but an average week was better than the bad weeks some SEC teams had.
8. Vanderbilt Commodores
Last Week: L vs Arkansas (70-71), W vs Iowa State (84-78)
I really can’t figure out this Vanderbilt team and I don’t think many others can either. After a big road win over Florida last week, the Commodores then went and had a pretty big meltdown to lose to Arkansas. Vanderbilt then continued the rollercoaster by handing a talented Iowa State team a solid loss in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. With games against Texas A&M and Ole Miss this week, maybe we’ll be able to tell what type of team Vandy actually is by this time next week.
9. Auburn Tigers
Last Week: L at South Carolina (69-98), W at TCU (88-80)
The defense certainly looked lost against South Carolina, but it’s hard to fault the Tigers too much for dropping a game to ranked South Carolina team on the road. It’s even easier to forgive them when they followed it up with a pretty convincing win on the road against TCU where they played much better defense, especially in the second half. It would have been better if Auburn held on to their 20 point lead all the way through the game, but they certainly have a chance to build more momentum over the next two weeks before Florida comes to town.
10. Texas A&M Aggies
Last Week: W at Ole Miss (80-76), L at West Virginia (77-81)
The Aggies were more impressive this week than they’ve been in awhile. Yes, a win over Ole Miss isn’t something crazy impressive in it’s own right, but to follow it up by keeping it fairly close with West Virginia on the road is something Texas A&M can build on. Guard play is still an issue, but if Tyler Davis can play like he did against West Virginia, the Aggies should certainly be able to pick up even more SEC wins.
11. Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: L vs Alabama (60-80), W vs Texas (59-57)
I might have been a little high on Georgia last week mostly because I trusted Frazier and Maten over some of the more inconsistent SEC teams, but boy did the Bulldogs disappoint this week. After getting completely beat by Alabama on their own home court, Georgia nearly lost to a struggling Texas team as well. Things certainly won’t get better soon as the Bulldogs now have to face Kentucky, South Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee with just the Florida game being at home. Unless something shocking happens, Georgia might be saying goodbye to any chance they had at making the NCAA Tournament.
12. Ole Miss Rebels
Last Week: L vs Texas A&M (76-80), L vs Baylor (75-78)
Ole Miss deserves credit for showing up and putting Baylor on upset alert, but the Rebels also massively failed to close out the game. Add that to another home loss against a Texas A&M team that hasn’t been very good in SEC play and the Rebels find themselves towards the bottom of the conference. They’re in no means in the same tier as LSU and Missouri, but I can’t name many other teams that I would pick the Rebels over right now.
13. LSU Tigers
Last Week: L vs Florida (71-106), L at Texas Tech (64-77)
The LSU Tigers are very bad and they seem to make other teams that beat them even better.
14. Missouri Tigers
Last Week: L at Mississippi State (74-89), L vs South Carolina (53-63)
Missouri is even worse than LSU, but at least they’re making some games competitive. Now at 192 in KenPom, the Tigers are inching even closer to the magic 200. It’s a really good thing that these Tigers didn’t have to represent the SEC in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
A few people were debating whether the Big 12/SEC Challenge was good or not in the middle of conference play like it has been the past two years. Personally, I love the break from normal conference games and the opportunity it provides for both conferences to prove their worth after teams have had even more time to figure out rotations and other things. The SEC impressed even me by tying with the Big 12, but it sure is ironic that Kentucky ended up being the one to lose the challenge for the SEC. No one should fault the Wildcats too much though because they’ve done more than their fair share of carrying the torch for the league.