With Ole Miss and Tennessee both getting two games in this week, we have finally had the chance to see all SEC teams play this season. With teams playing anywhere from two to six games, and a very different level of competition amongst those games, it’s still really difficult for me to confidently rank teams, which is why these power rankings will probably continue to have a lot of movement.
If I’m sticking to the tier concept from the preseason rankings I think the tiers are as follows for now:
Tier 1: 1, 2, 3
Tier 2: 4, 5
Tier 3: 6, 7, 8, 9
Tier 4: 10, 11, 12, 13, 14
Anyway, here is where I think each SEC team stands, right now, as well as my general thoughts about the teams based on the small sample size that I have seen from each. If you’d like to discuss these rankings, the best place to start a conversation is on Twitter. For this week, I am a few beers in while writing these, so I apologize in advance for even more grammatical errors than I usually make and don’t even have an editor other than my less than reliable spell checker in my code editor. You’ve been warned, and I will use this as an excuse for bad reasoning as well, even though I mostly ranked these teams before hitting the beer fridge.
My method for power rankings is whom I think will win a game between two teams on a neutral court if the game was played at the time of the rankings. For instance, I would pick the number one team to beat every team ranked below it on a neutral court and the fourth-ranked team would be favored over everyone other than the top three teams. I consider the entire season as a basis for how good I think the team is, but if a team is missing key players or is in a slump, that can weigh more in my current power rankings, even if a team is better overall for the season.
14. Texas A&M Aggies
Last Week: Lost vs TCU 55-73
The last few weeks I’ve tried to brush off the fairly close games with pretty bad teams such as Tarleton State and UTRGV, but after getting dominated by TCU on a neutral court (closer to Fort Worth), I’m not giving Buzz William’s team as much benefit of the doubt. I still have confidence that he can turn it around with this squad to at least compete in the SEC, but for now, the Aggies are probably at the bottom of the league. TCU is still a better team than most of the other “bottom tier” teams have faced, but until we have more even schedules, the Aggies get to hold the bottom spot.
13. South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Week: No games played
South Carolina is now one of the SEC teams on COVID pause, so they didn’t play a game in this last week, but with a decent win and close, double-overtime loss to Dayton, I’m going to give Mississippi State the bump over the Gamecocks. South Carolina has still played one of the more difficult schedules in the SEC, but with the win over Tulsa getting worse, Frank Martin can’t just rely on losses to good teams with an SEC league that is supposed to be one of the best conferences in the country.
12. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last Week: Won vs Jackson State 82-59, Lost vs Dayton 82-85 2OT
I’m still not going to forget the Liberty loss for Mississippi State, which is why they’ll stay in the bottom tier for a while, but a win over any team, even if it’s Jackson State and then taking a pretty decent Dayton team to double-overtime is worth the Bulldogs getting out of the cellar.
Iverson Molinar is currently one of the best players in the SEC after his delayed start to the season and that could make a major difference for the Bulldogs. If he keeps it up and continues to get help from Tolu Stith, DJ Stewart, and others, Mississippi State might be able to get out of the bottom tier of teams.
11. Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: Won vs Montana 63-70, Won vs Samford 79-75
The win against Montana was the best team that Georgia has played this season and a close game against a sub-250 Samford team is more evidence that this Georgia team is undefeated mostly because they haven’t played a team higher than 162 in KenPom.
Next Saturday against Cincinnati will tell me a lot about this Georgia team. If they’re still undefeated after that game, they might make a decent jump, but if they lose, especially if it’s not close, it will only confirm my belief that Georgia is only undefeated because they’ve played a very week non-conference schedule so far.
10. Vanderbilt Commodores
Last Week: Won vs Mississippi Valley State 84-41
Yes, everyone beats Mississippi Valley state, but through two games, Vanderbilt has some decent performances. They haven’t played anyone good, but I like this Vanderbilt and have more faith in Jerry Stackhouse. Dylan Disu and Scotty Pippen Jr. are both showing that they can be good players against bad teams, but I think at least Pippen Jr. will carry that throughout the season.
The Dores play Richmond this week, which will be their first major test. Mississippi Valley State served as a perfect return game after the COVID pause, but Richmond is coming off of a big loss on the road to West Virginia, so I expect them to come out strong trying to prove they’re actually worthy of a top-25 ranking.
9. Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: Lost vs Notre Dame 63-64
Okay, Kentucky is definitely not good so far this season. Through five games, I can’t look at what we’ve seen as just keep relying on the “John Calipari will figure it out” line. Yes, I believe that Kentucky will not be the 9th place team in the SEC at the end of the year, but it’s very clear that there a more concerns this season for the Wildcats and the lack of exhibitions and a weaker schedule has had a major impact on the development for Kentucky so far.
I unfortunately didn’t get to see the closer second half against Notre Dame, but with a 1-4 record so far this season, Kentucky is ranked 13th in the SEC when taking the average of both normal team statistics such as points per game, rebounds, and shooting as well as advanced metrics such as offensive rating, true shooting percentage, and steal percentage.
John Calipari has a lot to figure out, and until he does, I will keep Kentucky where they belong when you don’t consider high school recruiting rankings and the name on the front of the jersey.
8. Auburn Tigers
Last Week: Won vs Memphis 74-71
After an eight-day break, Auburn got an impressive win over Memphis to become the only SEC team to get a win in the Holiday Hoopsgiving event in Atlanta. Justin Powell has gone from low ranked 3-star recruit to the best player on Auburn’s roster in just five games. Through his two starts, he’s even better.
Auburn’s ceiling is still dependent on when and if Sharife Cooper is cleared by the NCAA, but this young team is currently showing that they can play better than Kentucky so far, and as they should only get better, they might be able to make a run at the top of the SEC when league play gets going. The Tigers have three more games in their non-conference schedule against pretty bad teams so that will be the time to work out issues in the rotation and chemistry and truly get ready for a tough time against other teams in the SEC.
7. Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: Lost vs Clemson 56-64
The ten-day break might have not helped Alabama as they looked a little slow to start against Clemson and other than a late run in the second half, never looked like the better team in this game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Clemson has a really good squad this season, but Alabama still has some work to do to establish itself as one of the better teams in the SEC.
Nate Oats turned Alabama into one of the more exciting teams in the SEC last season and had a powerful offensive attack. This year the defense has gotten a little bit better, but the offense has taken a pretty large step back, especially considering that Alabama returned a lot of their weapons. The top four guys for Alabama haven’t been bad, at least all at the same time, but at least one of them will need to step up and play like a top player in the SEC if the Crimson Tide are truly going to challenge for an SEC regular-season championship this season.
6. Ole Miss Rebels
Last Week: Won vs Jackson State 80-45, Won vs UNC Wilmington 78-58
Getting two 20+ point wins is a great way to start the season, especially coming off of a two-week delay and shut down due to COVID. Many people were picking Ole Miss as one of the better teams in the SEC, and based on the small sample size we’ve seen so far, that seems to be a fair assessment.
The game next Saturday against Dayton will be more telling, but so far, the Rebels look to be a team with plenty of weapons to do some damage in the SEC under a good coach like Kermit Davis.
5. LSU Tigers
Last Week: No games played
LSU didn’t have any games this last week because they had to pause due to COVID. The Tigers still have probably the best player in the SEC in Trendon Watford and one of the best freshmen in Cameron Thomas. LSU has three more “warm-up” games this week against bad teams before facing VCU the next week and then starting SEC play.
4. Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: Won vs Southern 79-44, Won vs Central Arkansas 100-75
It stinks that Arkansas wasn’t able to play Tulsa this past week because I want to see Arkansas against a decent team. The Razorbacks are averaging more than 30 points per game than they’re giving up, but they have yet to play a top-100 KenPom team. They still won’t play a top-100 KenPom team until they face Auburn in their SEC opener.
Despite the poor competition, the consistency and distribution of talent for Arkansas are worth something in my eyes. The Razorbacks have four different players performing within the top-30 SEC players by my early stats, and that’s going to be worthwhile come SEC play. The fact that a freshman, Moses Moody, has been their best player so far, their ceiling might be even higher.
3. Florida Gators
Last Week: Lost at Florida State 71-83
First off, I want to extend well wishes and quick recovery to Florida’s Keyontae Johnson. Early in the game against Florida State, Johnson collapsed on the floor and has been in critical condition since. As of the time I’m writing this, Johnson is still in a Tallahassee hospital with his parents and coach Mike White, so his recovery is the only thing that matters in the SEC right now.
Trying to look past the Keyontae Johnson situation, Florida looked like the better team early against Florida State, but ultimately, when the game was continued, the distractions seemed to much and they ultimately made too many mistakes to overcome a great Florida State squad on the road in the rivalry game. While Florida played pretty well without Keyontae Johnson for the rest of the game, and I would expect them to play even better without the immediate shock of what happened, there’s no denying that Johnson is their best player and an early SEC Player of the Year candidate. I hope he makes a full recovery and Florida can compete at full strength.
I’m dropping Florida only because Missouri deserves to move ahead of them, not because the Gators necessarily looked worse.
2. Missouri Tigers
Last Week: Won vs Liberty 69-60, Won vs Illinois 81-78
Missouri got a massive win in their Braggin’ Rights game against Illinois on Saturday and the Tigers might officially be back. Win or lose, I thought that Missouri had done enough to warrant a top-25 national ranking, but with the win, the Tigers might be a top-15 team in the country.
I knew that Missouri’s veteran squad would make them one of the better teams early in the season, but even I didn’t expect them to have the only ranked wins in the SEC this season. Assuming Missouri can get two more easy wins against weaker teams and Tennessee can get through the rest of their easy non-conference schedule unscathed, we could be treated to a matchup between my top two teams to start the SEC slate.
1. Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: Won vs Colorado 56-47, Won vs Cincinnati 65-56
They weren’t the prettiest performances, but considering Tennessee was hitting the court for the first time this season, getting back to back nearly double-digit wins over two top-60 KenPom teams is fairly impressive for the Vols. It’s certainly enough to make me keep Tennessee at the top spot in my power rankings considering I still think they’re the most talented team in the SEC.
With four more teams outside of the KenPom top-150 left in their non-conference schedule, Tennessee should have plenty of opportunities to fine-tune their rotations and chemistry as they prepare for SEC play and hopefully a title run. They’ll start SEC play off with a tough stretch against Missouri, Alabama, and Arkansas, so a few games to get rolling could benefit them.