Going into the final game of the night, South Carolina vs LSU, I thought I had a good idea of what my power rankings would look like. I expected LSU to just come out and easily handle a South Carolina team that was coming off their third COVID pause of the season.
Instead, South Carolina looked just as good as they did in the one game they played before going on pause against Texas A&M. I need to stop thinking South Carolina will be anything other than a problem in the SEC while Frank Martin is the coach, but I’m still not sure.
Even with South Carolina being a wildcard, the rest of the league seems to be a big glob in the middle. I think Vanderbilt is bad. I know Alabama and Tennessee are good. After that, I still have a lot of questions as teams like Georgia and Texas A&M showed that they can still beat people on one night but look awful on other nights.
It was helpful to see all the SEC teams play in one day for the first time this season. Hopefully, teams can continue to stay healthy and we can get more quality basketball and a little more clarification over the next few weeks.
With all that said, enjoy my updated SEC basketball power rankings. As always, if you’d like to discuss them or have a disagreement, the best place to reach out is on Twitter. Thanks for reading.
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. Vanderbilt Commodores
Last Week: Lost at Tennessee 61-81
I’ve been trying to keep Vanderbilt out of this last place, where most people have had them, but just keeping games close won’t cut it as they remain the only team in the SEC without a conference win.
Scotty Pippen Jr. is worth watching and he continues to be one of the best individual players in the league, but as a team, there’s still an overall talent deficit that’s keeping them from truly competing in the SEC.
With home games against Texas A&M and a struggling Arkansas team, maybe next week will be the opportunity for Vanderbilt to get their first SEC win of the year. But until then, I’ll have to keep them below all the others that have won, no matter how bad some of them look at times.
13. Ole Miss Rebels
Last Week: Lost at Florida 63-72, Lost vs Georgia 74-78
Ole Miss was staying out of the true bottom of my power rankings because they had that one win over Auburn and had looked competitive against other teams. They still have been in each of the last two games they played against Florida and Georgia, but with the Bulldogs getting the win in Oxford and Florida struggling outside of that game, Ole Miss just might be bad.
Devontae Shuler is starting to get things going, but he still doesn’t have near enough to make this team good.
The Rebels will have to continue to rely on Kermit Davis’s gameplans, but if they’re not specially prepared for teams, there aren’t many games they will be favored in the SEC this season based on what I’ve seen so far.
12. Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: Lost vs Auburn 77-95, Won at Ole Miss 78-74
KD Johnson getting cleared has given Tom Crean another quality piece, but the Bulldogs are still going to need to vastly improve on both sides of the ball to climb much higher in my power rankings.
I expected Georgia to keep it close against Ole Miss and didn’t like the lines that I saw people giving the Rebels, but I didn’t see Georgia pulling it out. The fact that they did gave me some hope for this team going forward.
There are pieces there, especially with KD Johnson now cleared, but guys like Toumani Camara, Sahvir Wheeler, and even Tye Fagan will have to keep playing well on the offensive end if Georgia is going to score enough points to outpace all the points they give up.
After back-to-back beat downs to Auburn and Arkansas, Georgia fans weren’t very happy with where Tom Crean has the program. A win at Ole Miss will quiet that a little bit, but the overall success at Georgia is still lacking for the big name.
11. Texas A&M Aggies
Last Week: Won at Mississippi State 56-55, Lost vs Missouri 52-68
While I’m truly impressed that A&M was able to win another game that they probably shouldn’t have when they came back to beat Mississippi State, it’s more on the Bulldogs for the collapse in that one.
The Aggies continue to have an abysmal offense that revolves around just one or two guys. Their defense is good but mostly relies on keeping the game to a minimal amount of possessions and hoping that the tempo and their different looks can keep other teams in the low scoring figures that they’re only capable of putting up.
When I flipped my SEC player rankings over from full-season stats to just SEC stats, Emanuel Miller, Texas A&M’s best player, fell all the way to 18th. He’s still the only Aggie inside the top-50, and that shows with their poor offensive performances.
Texas A&M has scored 56 points or less in every SEC game except for the 68 points they scored against Auburn. Their offensive rating of 87.3 is last in the SEC and almost 7 points lower than the next best team.
10. Florida Gators
Last Week: Won vs Ole Miss 72-63, Lost at Mississippi State 69-72
This might be the floor for Florida, and a lot of that is due to them not having Scottie Lewis in their last few games. The Gators don’t feel this bad and have looked decent in most games, but they’re not near the top like they were to start the SEC season.
The big loss to Kentucky at home looks even worse now that the Wildcats followed it up with two losses of their own. A win over Ole Miss at home is nothing special and while the Gators made the game close down the stretch yesterday, they still lost to a Mississippi State team that also just lost to Texas A&M.
Florida has to host Tennessee this week, but then they also get two games against Georgia and Vanderbilt which should allow them to get back in a rhythm, especially if Scottie Lewis can get back in the games.
Colin Castleton is still a major piece for the Gators, but if he’ll be pretty easy for teams to key in on and he’s going to need more help from Appleby, Mann, and even Locke if Lewis isn’t back.
9. Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: Lost vs Alabama 65-85, Lost at Auburn 59-66
After appearing to be an improved team in SEC play, Kentucky is back to looking like the same team that struggled through their non-conference schedule after suffering back-to-back losses to the two teams from Alabama this week.
Yes, Alabama has made a lot of teams look bad recently, but when Kentucky got blown out in Rupp Arena, it really exposed how stubborn and outdated John Calipari’s system is, especially this year where the level of talent Kentucky is used to just doesn’t appear to be there.
I think a lot of people, myself included, started to think Kentucky was figuring things out because Dontaie Allen got to play and seemed to solve a lot of the Wildcats shooting problems. Outside of Allen, Kentucky just can’t generate much offense, and unless they are lucky enough to have an opponent shoot poorly as well, or can slow the game down and have other teams try to score inside, the Wildcats just don’t look like they’ll beat many teams this year.
The level of talent is rising all around the SEC and John Calipari can’t just run five 5-stars onto the court and hope they just bully other teams anymore. He’ll probably continue to give excuses, take the blame in some cases, throw his players under the bus in others, but more and more people are starting to have questions.
Big Blue Nation has high expectations, but when others outside the fanbase start to see that something is up, it’s not a good sign in Lexington.
8. Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: Lost at LSU 76-92, Lost at Alabama 59-90
I want to chalk these both up to a lack of effort and had to keep reminding myself that while Arkansas shouldn’t lose by 20+ back-to-back, they at least came against two of the top three teams in the SEC right now and the two best offenses.
Arkansas got behind and then both of these teams are fully capable of burying anyone if they get a slight edge.
Justin Smith is back for Arkansas, but his debut in the beatdown at Alabama doesn’t really tell me much about if he can get back to being a key piece for the Hogs or if they were just overrated based on the weak non-conference schedule.
After two tough road games, Arkansas will now get a chance to host Auburn. I have Auburn one spot ahead in these rankings, but the Hogs did beat Auburn before Sharife Cooper was cleared in Auburn Arena.
I want to think that Arkansas still has the talent to beat Auburn, but if they come out with little effort like the last two games, Auburn will take advantage and there will be even bigger concerns for the Razorbacks.
7. Auburn Tigers
Last Week: Won at Georgia 95-77, Won vs Kentucky 66-59
Dan Dakich said that Sharife Cooper would drop off after his big debut last weekend against Alabama. He instead took a step even further forward against Georgia scoring 28 points and adding 12 assists.
You might be able to say he took a step back against Kentucky, but it was still double-digit scoring and 8 assists and he made up for the poor closing against Alabama and made big plays for himself and teammates to seal the second straight win for Auburn.
Justin Powell’s head injury seems to be more serious than expected, so Auburn still hasn’t had the opportunity to show what they look like at full strength this season.
When Powell is able to return, I’m sure he’ll be just like the rest of Sharife Cooper’s teammates and be freed up to take another step and build on his impressive start from earlier in the year.
Struggling against Kentucky, especially in the first half, tampered my expectations for Auburn again, but I also keep thinking that the 4-point loss to Alabama might be a better indicator of how good this team can be, especially as the Tide continue to just dominate everyone else.
Alabama has won all of their games, including against Auburn, by an average of 16 points, and Auburn lost by just 4 with a chance to win that game had Sharife Cooper not taken a few ill-advised shots in the final minute of his collegiate debut.
6. South Carolina
Last Week: Lost at LSU 80-85
South Carolina has been the wildcard all season, because they’ve had three separate pauses for COVID, and also look different in just about every game.
I picked LSU to handle the Gamecocks easily, but South Carolina gave them all they could handle instead and led for most of the game. A cold streak for South Carolina at the end ultimately gave LSU the win, but the Gamecocks showed me that the blowout of Texas A&M might not have been a fluke.
It’s still just two games for South Carolina, but clearly, AJ Lawson, Justin Minaya, and now Keyshawn Bryant are all players that can do big things for the Gamecocks.
It’s a smaller sample size than the rest of the league, but through two games for Lawson and one game for Keyshawn Bryant, they sit in 1st and 2nd in my SEC player rankings for the moment. Then Justin Minaya is at 7th. Lawson and Bryant are leading in scoring at 26 points per game each in SEC play while Minaya leads the league with 9 rebounds per game over his two games in SEC play.
Frank Martin has always gotten his South Carolina teams to play above their expectations in SEC play, no matter how bad they look in the non-conference. It seems that this year might not be any different. Hopefully, the Gamecocks are here to stay for a while, because I certainly want to see them play more.
Last Week: Won at Texas A&M 68-52
The good Missouri team showed up this weekend and got the 16-point win on the road over Texas A&M.
While I’m still concerned that there is a good and bad Missouri team depending on the game, it seems that the good Missouri team is still a pretty good team. The rest of the league, outside of the top two or three teams, has been all over the place as well.
I think that there is a gap forming between the top tier and the second tier, but Missouri still seems like they should be near the top of the second tier. If they can get back to how they were playing in the non-conference schedule, they might still make it back into the first tier.
Missouri winning will be good for SEC’s hope at putting as many teams in the NCAA Tournament as they can since the Tigers hold one of the most impressive non-conference resumes in the country.
4. Mississippi State
Last Week: Lost at Texas A&M 55-56, Won vs Florida 72-69
This ranking feels wrong, but while I think Mississippi State needs to improve on their ability to close games, they still are just a few points away from being undefeated in SEC play.
Like I said for Missouri, it’s hard to decide what teams occupy these second-tier spots, so I’m going to leave Mississippi State here for now.
Tolu Smith had a very good game against Florida, so that gives the Bulldogs yet another weapon that can help them out in big ways.
The Bulldogs have the 4th best offense in SEC play and 6th best defense. They’re also 2nd in the league with a rebounding rate of 55.1%. The record is good enough, but the numbers point to Mississippi State being an overlooked team if they can figure out how to put things together for a full 40 minutes (or more).
Last Week: Won vs Arkansas 92-77, Won vs South Carolina 85-80
There is no doubt that LSU has one of, if not the best offense in the SEC and one of the best in the country. But while their defense has been seemingly improved this year, South Carolina showed that it’s definitely still a concern.
LSU has a big opportunity to host Alabama this week, but for now, their defense is what keeps them slightly below Alabama and Tennessee as the best teams in the SEC.
Cameron Thomas can still score whenever he wants, Trendon Watford does just about everything well, and then Darius Days and Javonte Smart have both been stepping up to complete the big four for LSU.
While Tennessee has improved their offense and Alabama has been much better on defense, I still think LSU has a long way to go to improve their weakness if their offensive strength is going to continue to be enough.
2. Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: Won vs Vanderbilt 81-61
Tennessee only got to play one of their games against Vanderbilt this week after the first was postponed for COVID but the Vols still pulled away for a 20-point win to keep their spot as the team trailing Alabama the closest.
The Volunteers are getting better on offense while keeping up the very impressive defensive effort. Their offense is up to the 3rd best in the league at 1.076 points per possession and the defense is also 3rd behind just Alabama and South Carolina.
John Fulkerson, who I thought would be an SEC Player of the Year candidate this year is quietly putting up more noticeable stats. Like a lot of the players on Alabama, he might not move too high in my SEC player rankings, but it’s mostly because there are so many good players around him and Tennessee is just winning with their abundance of talent this season.
Tennessee has a three-game stretch coming up at Florida, versus Missouri, and then versus Mississippi State that could prove to be tricky. Florida has been dropping after this last week, but if Scottie Lewis comes back, they could still give Tennessee trouble. Missouri and Mississippi State are also two teams that are trying to hover in my second tier ahead of the rest of the league.
Lastly, shout out to Rick Barnes for getting his 719th career win to tie Phog Allen for 20th all-time.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: Won at Kentucky 85-65, Won vs Arkansas 90-59
Not only did Alabama remain at the top of the league standings, but they did so in dominant fashion by handing Kentucky their first SEC loss, in Rupp no less, and then just destroyed Arkansas at home.
The Crimson Tide lost Herbert Jones to a finger/hand injury early in the Kentucky game and then also lost Jordan Bruner with a knee injury later in the same game. Jones was somehow able to be right back in the starting lineup against Arkansas and Alabama didn’t seem to miss Bruner at all as they still beat Arkansas, who got Justin Smith back, by 31.
Yes, Alabama’s offense is special and Nate Oats has gotten his guys to fully understand the modern optimal strategy of threes, layups, and free throws, but Tide’s defense is really what continues to take them to the next level. After holding Arkansas to just 0.753 points per possession, Alabama’s defensive rating is down to 89.3 in the SEC, which is the best mark in the conference.
Their offense, at 1.102 points per possession trails only LSU, and they’ve overtaken the top spot with an effective field goal percentage of 53%.
The game in Baton Rouge against LSU this week will be another tough test for Alabama, but so far they’ve passed all other tests with flying colors. If Alabama runs through LSU as they have against everyone other than Auburn, then I’m not sure when they’ll lose.