We are definitely reaching the point of the season where so many games are starting to blend together. With just one cancelation during the week and then another full Saturday slate of games, there was plenty of basketball to work from in updating these rankings.
Several teams went 2-0 this week including impressive turnarounds from Florida and Arkansas. Even Kentucky appeared to have an offense against LSU after losing their third straight game in the final seconds at Georgia.
Even through as many as eight games for some teams, it seems that the only things that are set in a pretty solid position are Alabama as the best team and Vanderbilt as the worst team. A lot of things changed this week, but those two teams held their spots.
This was the last Saturday of all-SEC matchups until two weeks from now as the league will try to earn more national recognition and good favor for the NCAA Tournament in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge next Saturday. A lot of the matchups look a little lopsided at this point, but that could benefit either league in different games.
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 vs Arkansas 71-92
After another week with the midweek game canceled, the Commodores still went into the Saturday game and got blown out, this time at home against Arkansas. The result and effort were bad enough this weekend that even their coach, Jerry Stackhouse, had some not-very-nice words for his team.
Vanderbilt is finding themselves at the bottom of the SEC standings without a win once again and things are starting to look bleak for them winning multiple games in conference play this season.
Giving up 92 points to Arkansas in just 74 possessions only worsened the Commodores last place SEC defense. Vanderbilt is now giving up over 1.2 points per possession through five SEC games this season. They also give up 85 points per game, which is only less than Georgia’s 85.6 per game while the Bulldogs average almost six more possessions per game.
After five SEC games, the Commodores have just two players that have consistently played well. Scotty Pippen Jr. and Dylan Disu each have +18.2 and +18.7 adjusted game scores, but no other player is in the positive double-digits.
Stackhouse trying to throw his team under the bus is certainly one way to try and get them motivated, but it once again looks like Vanderbilt is at a massive talent advantage against the rest of the league and they don’t have a coach to make up for that. I was giving Vanderbilt a chance earlier in this season, but I’m pretty much completely off that train at this point.
13. Texas A&M Aggies
Last Week: Lost at Ole Miss 50-61
Texas A&M had a slight lead towards the end of the first half against Ole Miss and was playing alright. Then Ole Miss closed the first half with a few shots and carried that momentum into the second half to pretty much put the game out of reach for a Texas A&M team that still really struggles to score.
The Aggies still have the worst offense in the SEC, and it’s not really close, scoring just 85.9 points per 100 possessions. Texas A&M has Emanuel Miller, who continues to do a lot for them but don’t have much outside of him.
Buzz Williams found a way to get two wins in SEC play earlier by slowing the game down and winning close games with tough defense. Now, even the defense is falling off in the SEC standings because if they don’t dramatically slow down the game, they let teams blow them out. Overall, Texas A&M is down to 11th in the SEC with a defensive rating of 104.8.
I predicted that the game against Ole Miss would be hard to watch given both teams’ offensive struggles, and Texas A&M definitely lived up to those expectations. You can win games with defense, but the way the league, and college basketball in general, is going, Williams is going to need to find some more weapons to at least be efficient with their offensive possessions.
12. South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Week: Lost at Missouri 70-81, Lost vs Auburn 86-109
I had South Carolina pretty high in my power rankings last week, and some of that was just because other teams had looked pretty concerning and the Gamecocks just didn’t have a lot to judge them on. They had also just played a very close game against LSU and I thought Frank Martin might have gotten his team to bounce back exceptionally well from their break.
Instead, this week seems to insist that South Carolina is more like we saw in the non-conference schedule. The Gamecocks have enough experience to keep games close for the most part, and if a player like AJ Lawson gets really hot, they can win some games. However, after the game against a bad Texas A&M offense, the defense seems to be slipping. South Carolina gave up 109 points to Auburn, which was the most the Tigers have scored on the road in the SEC, ever.
All is not lost for the Gamecocks, because they have two winnable games against Georgia and Vanderbilt coming up this week and Frank Martin is too good of a coach to just let his team stay at the bottom of the league for long.
Keyshawn Bryant is stepping up to assist AJ Lawson in the scoring department and actually leads the league in scoring at 23 points per game in SEC play. Since Lawson has also been scoring well, both guys will need to step up in other departments to make the team more complete. Bryant is averaging just 5.7 rebounds and Lawson has just 2.5 assists. Upping those numbers could take South Carolina from close losses to actual wins.
As a team, the Gamecocks are spreading the ball around well. They are currently second in the SEC with an assist rate of 55.7%. That number trails only Tennessee who is currently at 56.3% ahead of their game against Missouri at the time I’m writing this. It’s just four games, and the blowout win over Texas A&M might still be helping them too much, but South Carolina’s stats are not resembling a bottom-tier SEC team right now, so there is still hope for Frank Martin’s squad to climb back up into the middle of the pack.
11. Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: Won vs Kentucky 63-62, Lost vs Florida 84-92
Georgia made the most of their extra possessions at the end of the Kentucky game and a PJ Horne layup in the final seconds got them the win that snapped a 14-game losing streak against the Wildcats.
Then the Bulldogs followed the big win up with relatively poor performance against a better Florida team. Despite playing fast, Georgia hasn’t shown that they can rely on either side of the ball to carry them further up this rankings and get them consistent wins.
The Bulldogs are currently 12th in the SEC in net rating at -11.8 with an offensive rating of 100.5 (11th in the SEC) and a defensive rating of 112.3 (13th in the SEC).
Against Florida, Sahvir Wheeler had another double-double after going a while without one since his hot start to the season. Wheeler had 10 assists against the Gators and his being able to facilitate the offense will be key for Georgia going forward. There are a handful of candidates to step up and receive those assists to provide more scoring such as Justin Kier, Toumani Camara, KD Johnson, and Andrew Garcia, but one or two of those guys need to take a further step forward to give the Bulldogs a more consistent scoring threat.
Georgia has to go on the road to face South Carolina this week and then has Ole Miss at home on Saturday. Both of those games are winnable, and if Georgia can win both, they might be able to show me enough that they can start climbing further out of the SEC basement. Two losses to those teams, however, might force Georgia to stay down in my rankings for a while.
10. Ole Miss Rebels
Last Week: Won at Mississippi State 64-46, Won vs Texas A&M 61-50
The win on the road against Mississippi State was a very impressive win for Ole Miss, and to finish the week at 2-0 is even a better sign. Clearly, the defense is clicking and could lead to more wins in the future, and if it does, Ole Miss can continue to climb back to the middle of the pack where I thought they would be this season.
While this week was good for Kermit Davis’s team, it’s hard to move them up much further mostly because of the way other games went. Kentucky’s win over LSU kept them above Ole Miss and Mississippi State still seems like they have the higher ceiling as of now.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, they have to follow up this momentum-building week with two road trips, to Arkansas and Georgia, which won’t be easy games, especially with the Razorbacks starting to look like one of the better teams in the SEC again.
Devontae Shuler is continuing to play better as the season goes along and Jarkel Joiner has stepped up to help him produce most of the points. I still think Ole Miss needs one or two more consistent players to make their offense take the next step and capitalize on their great defense so far.
Through seven games, Ole Miss has a defensive rating of 98.0, but their offensive rating of just 96.9 still gives them a negative net rating that sits at 10th overall in the SEC.
9. Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: Lost at Georgia 62-63, Won vs LSU 82-69
Kentucky probably should have held on to the win in Athens, but at least the Wildcats found out that the solution to their offensive problems is just to play LSU with one of the worst defenses in the league and maybe even an even worse gameplan.
Brandon Boston Jr. is starting to show signs of what he was expected to be this season, but there’s still a long way to go. He had back-to-back games with 18 points this week, but he’ll likely need more than that, or have other guys step up to that offensive level for Kentucky to score enough points against defenses that put up more resistance.
The Wildcats don’t need to have a great offense, because their defense is good enough to keep games close, but they do need to continue to show that they can run a successful halfcourt offense. Kentucky can’t always rely on excellent shooting games or easy transition points if they’re going to beat some of the better teams in the SEC, especially away from Rupp Arena.
Kentucky does have the third-best rebounding rate in the SEC at 51% and leads all other SEC teams with a block rate of 17.3%. Both of those contribute to the Wildcats’ ability to get out and run, and if they can continue to do so, that will help solve some of the offensive issues and might give them hope of moving back closer to the top where they are used to being in this league.
8. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last Week: Lost vs Ole Miss 46-64, Lost at Alabama 73-81
I’m still not totally sold where Mississippi State is supposed to be. They definitely should not have been beaten by 18 points at home against Ole Miss, but rivalry games always have the chance of being weird.
The biggest concern for Mississippi State is that they can’t close games. They hung around with Alabama for most of the day on Saturday, but in the end, Alabama made the big plays and the Bulldogs couldn’t. Now keeping it close against Alabama is a good sign in and of itself, but that wasn’t the first game where the Bulldogs couldn’t close it out. If Mississippi State could finish games, they’d probably have at least two more wins in SEC play.
With two more losses this week, the numbers continue to slip for Mississippi State. Their offensive and defensive ratings are almost equal at 101.6 and 101.7 respectively, which are eighth and sixth in the SEC currently. Their net rating puts them even lower at ninth overall.
DJ Stewart Jr. had a big game against Alabama with 27 points and he and Iverson Molinar continue to pull the weight of Mississippi State’s offense. While Tolu Smith and Abdul Ado are playing well in the frontcourt, Ado especially will need to score a little bit more for this offense to take the next step and add a little bit more consistency.
Going on the road to face Tennessee likely won’t be good for Mississippi State this week, but they do get to face Iowa State at home in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday and that game should be much more winnable.
7. LSU Tigers
Last Week: Lost vs Alabama 75-105, Lost at Kentucky 69-82
I was starting to buy into LSU before this week, because they had four key players that could score and do so much on offense, but also seemed to be having a defense that was coming around. Then they showed that progress might have just been a product of their competition because giving up 105 at home and then 82 to this year’s Kentucky team is the sign of some pretty big defensive issues.
In both of these games, their offense did a good job trying to climb back into the games, but even if the other team would go cold for a little bit, it wasn’t long before their defense couldn’t get enough stops for their offense to catch up.
Against Kentucky in particular, the offense went from four key guys to mostly just Trendon Watford and Cameron Thomas, who combined for 44 points. The downside to that was that they got their 44 points on 40 total shots, so not very efficient, especially from deep.
Trendon Watford and Cameron Thomas can still play their way to an SEC Player of the Year award (and certainly Freshman of the Year for Thomas), but no matter how well they play, if the LSU defense keeps losing games, it’ll be hard to win the awards if the Tigers keep falling further down the standings.
Lastly, no matter how good LSU’s players play, if Will Wade keeps setting them up to fail with bad game plans like leaving Alabama open on the arc and trying to press Kentucky, it’ll be an uphill battle for this team.
6. Auburn Tigers
Last Week: Lost at Arkansas 73-75, Won at South Carolina 109-86
If Auburn had been able to finish the Arkansas game like they played the first 15 minutes, the Tigers might have made a large jump this week. Instead, Auburn let Arkansas come back from down 19 and then couldn’t complete the comeback of their own when Sharife Cooper’s layup in the final seconds couldn’t go down through the contact.
After the Arkansas games, a few Auburn players said that they needed to learn to keep their foot on the gas when they got out to big leads. Well, they did just that against South Carolina where they jumped out to another fast start and just kept building on it until they had 109 points, the most points the Tigers had ever scored on the road in the SEC.
I still think that Arkansas showed the gameplan for beating Auburn that other teams will try to use. If a team can commit multiple players or a scheme to shut down Cooper, Auburn needs other players to step up and create their own shot and take off some of the pressure and allow Cooper to do what he normally does best. While Arkansas showed how to slow down Cooper (that’s a relative term, since he still finished with 25 points), South Carolina learned what the optimal scenario is for Auburn, where multiple guys like Allen Flanigan and Jaylin Williams score both on their own and on the receiving end of Cooper’s dimes.
While Auburn continues to learn and improve with Cooper in the lineup, they’ll have to keep learning fast with Missouri and Baylor coming up this week. Missouri is looking like one of the best teams in the SEC again, so the Tigers will need a homecourt advantage of some kind to get that game. Going on the road against Baylor will most likely just be about not letting it get too ugly. If Powell can finally make it back for that trip, Auburn might be able to make it interesting, but it still looks like Baylor and Gonzaga (who Auburn already played) are on a crash course for the National Championship.
Yes, Powell will make this Auburn offense even more fun to watch, but above all, hopefully, he can just make it through the head injury that has now kept him out for a handful of weeks.
5. Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: Lost at Florida 49-75, Lost vs Missouri 64-73
Jaden Springer might mean even more for Tennessee than I thought. Clearly, there are other issues, but in his absence, Tennessee lost just their second and third games of the year, and the first one against Florida was never really close.
Being without a player should not have been an excuse, especially against Florida, who won the game without Colin Castleton and Scottie Lewis who were out for different reasons. Against Florida, John Fulkerson was about the only guy that could get going, and he hasn’t been good enough this year to beat Florida by himself on the road.
Against Missouri, Tennessee looked better, especially in the second half, but they let Missouri throw the first punch, just like they did to the Tigers when they beat them by 20 in Columbia at the start of SEC play. Missouri and Florida both were able to take advantage of size advantages against the Vols and that might be something that can be taken advantage of by other teams on Tennessee’s schedule.
Tennessee’s defense should still be good enough to keep their floor pretty high compared to other SEC teams, but the offense is once again a pretty big concern. Maybe a lot of that was due to Jaden Springer being out, but it was an issue even with him in the lineup as well.
The Volunteers now get a home game against Mississippi State and then face a Kansas team at home that has been struggling even more than Tennessee this week.
4. Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: Won vs Auburn 75-73, Won at Vanderbilt 92-71
The effort issues that Arkansas has last week appeared like they were continuing early against Auburn, but then the Razorback flipped a switch towards the end of that first half and found their shot and got to the rim at will. That easily carried over against Vanderbilt as Justin Smith looks to be fully back from his injury and contributing significantly again.
Based on how Arkansas played this week, I’m willing to lean towards their losses being more a result of the competition they were playing instead of them taking a major step back. The effort issues could still pose some problems down the road, but Eric Musselman has too many good players on his team for any guys to take it easy and not immediately have someone else step up and take their minutes.
The Hogs will have a seemingly easier game against Ole Miss on Wednesday, but that defense could give them problems. After Ole Miss, Arkansas will have to go on the road and face an Oklahoma State team that is currently right next to them in KenPom and should be able to give them plenty to handle, especially if Cade Cunningham is able to play.
After Alabama, the next group of teams is all pretty similar, so it’s just a matter of who is hot on any given week. Arkansas was certainly hot for 80% of this week and they’ll look to keep that up to stay in the top-5 of my power rankings.
3. Florida Gators
Last Week: Won vs Tennessee 75-49, Won at Georgia 92-84
With two wins this week, including a huge win over Tennessee without Colin Castleton and Scottie Lewis, Florida makes the largest jump this week and the largest jump all season in my power rankings. Maybe 10th was a little too low for the Gators last week, but now with these two wins, and they still not being at full strength with Scottie Lewis back, Florida looks like a contender again.
Tre Mann, Tyree Appleby, and even Anthony Duruji are stepping up to help Castleton and with more good players turning into goto guys, the Gators are able to produce enough to beat good teams, as they showed against Tennessee.
The Gator offense is up to second in the league at 108.6 points per 100 possessions, and that also makes their net rating second in the league at +5.33. To produce that offense, Florida has the second-best effective field goal percentage at 53.5% and their creating extra shots with the second-best rebounding rate at 51.4%.
Having a player out is always a question mark because when Scottie Lewis comes back, it’s not always a guarantee that he’ll make the team even better. Whether they get better with him back or not, Mike White has clearly figured out what works with this team and they seem to have worked their way back to where they were expected to be, even without Keyontae Johnson.
Playing at West Virginia will not be easy, but in the SEC, the Gators just have Vanderbilt and South Carolina next, both at home. Florida is currently second in the SEC standings but will need to keep winning several games if they want to close the three-game buffer that Alabama currently has at the top of the league.
2. Missouri Tigers
Last Week: Won vs South Carolina 81-70, Won at Tennessee 73-64
Missouri slipped back in my power rankings after the big loss to Tennessee and then another big loss to Mississippi State. But now they’ve won three games in a row, including a revenge game over Tennessee in Knoxville.
Jeremiah Tilmon continues to dominate in SEC play, but Xavier Pinson and others are starting to pick it up offensively as well, which will be the key for this Missouri team continuing to be at their best. The defense makes things happen for the Tigers, but there are enough weapons on offense that if they continue to bring their best every night, I think they can stay as one of the top-4 teams in the SEC.
There have been a few teams that have tried to hold this number two spot behind Alabama and each one seems to have taken a slight step back now. Missouri will have to go and face Auburn on the road on Tuesday and then just have TCU at home for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday.
The Xavier Pinson versus Sharife Cooper matchup will be fun to watch and could establish who is the best point guard in the SEC currently. Missouri shot the ball well against Tennessee, with Pinson going 10-14 from the field and 3-3 from deep. If he and the team can keep that up, this Tigers team can be really good.
Missouri currently has one of the best shots to catch Alabama, but to do so, they’ll need to keep their win streak going for two more weeks and then take down Alabama in Columbia on February 6th. We’ve seen a few “one versus two” matchups so far, but for now, that looks like the next opportunity as long as both teams hold their spots, which is a big ask for everyone but Alabama so far.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: Won at LSU 105-75, Won vs Mississippi State 81-73
At this point, I’m just waiting to see if Alabama can get to the top of the standings in just about every stat category I’ve been tracking. The Crimson Tide are already first in net rating, offensive rating, defensive rating, three-point rate, effective field goal percentage, and true shooting percentage. They’re also second in possessions per game and third in steal rate.
About the only thing that Alabama hasn’t done well is getting to the free throw line, but even when they do get there, they’re shooting over 71% as a team in SEC play which is up from 69.9% when you include non-conference games.
Even on a relatively slow night against Mississippi State, Alabama still showed that they can make the big shots when they need them at the end, just like they did against Auburn earlier. The downside to blowing out everyone is it leaves the possibility of being unprepared in close games when they do come, but based on the Auburn and now Mississippi State game, Alabama seems to have those covered too.
I think it is highly unlikely that Alabama will finish the SEC slate undefeated, but they’re definitely far and away better than everyone else in the league. The Crimson Tide went 8-0 against the hardest part of their schedule and everything should mostly be downhill from here. They just need to continue to develop some of the bench and role guys and get ready for what they hope will be a long post-season run this year.