The SEC got a useful win in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge this week, which could help determine the number of teams that the league can send to the NCAA Tournament this season. Florida and Tennessee got the biggest wins while Arkansas and LSU at least looked competitive in their games against ranked teams from the Big 12.
There isn’t a ton of movement in my rankings this week because a lot of games went about as I expected, and therefore I feel more confident in my current opinions of teams. It’s also harder to compare the results of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge games so I’m sort of working off a game or game-and-a-half this week.
While there wasn’t a lot of movement in my rankings this week, I think the league is starting to shift into two distinct halves. There is a bottom group of teams that probably consists of spots 14 through 10, and then there is a top half that goes down to about 7. Alabama still has a slight lead at the top, but they’ve looked more vulnerable over the past week-and-a-half.
It’s still hard to totally place Kentucky and Mississippi State, so they are probably sitting right between the two other groups with a chance to move into either one based on how they play 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. Texas A&M Aggies
Last Week: Lost vs LSU 66-78, Won at Kansas State 68-61
Texas A&M almost caused enough havoc against LSU to get the win until the Tigers woke up and pulled away at the end. The Aggies then followed that up by getting a key win in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge by handling the Big 12’s worst team, and one of the worst power conference teams in the country, Kansas State.
While Texas A&M had two straight games scoring more than 60 points this week, they still didn’t hit 70 and I’d like to see it happen against someone other than LSU and Kansas State.
It’ll continue to be hard for Texas A&M to get wins if their offense is this bad and the defense is not good enough to really win games. The Aggies might have the best chances to win in the next week and a half with home games against Vanderbilt and Georgia, but both teams are looking slightly better at the moment, so the homecourt advantage will have to help Texas A&M get it done.
13. South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Week: Won vs Georgia 83-59, Lost at Vanderbilt 81-93
Winning by 20+ against Georgia and then losing by 20 late in the game against Vanderbilt made it hard to decide where each team would be ranked this week. I’ll lean more towards the loss because it lines up more with what South Carolina looked like before the Georgia win as well.
The Gamecocks can still be a dangerous team, but it will require both AJ Lawson and Keyshawn Bryant to have big scoring games. Justin Minaya has not been as consistent as South Carolina needs and they ideally need at least one other player to step up consistently if they want to climb out of the basement and beat other good teams in the league.
12. Vanderbilt Commodores
Last Week: Lost at Florida 71-78, Won vs South Carolina 93-81
Vanderbilt showed some fight at the end of the Florida game to cut it to single digits, but it was yet another close loss to move the Commodores to 0-6 in the league. Then, while all of the attention was on the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, Vanderbilt carried over their late momentum from the Florida game to open up a big early lead against South Carolina.
The Commodores were able to hold on and extend the lead until South Carolina made it a little closer at the end. Scotty Pippen Jr. continues to be one of the best guards in the SEC and he got some scoring help from Maxwell Evans who had 29 against the Gamecocks.
I had started to give up on Vanderbilt lately because they just couldn’t finish the job, but this win again shows that they have a pretty good offense. They probably need to rely on a bad night for the other teams’ offense because their defense is still not good enough to get a lot of stops on their own, but it’s a recipe for wins going forward.
If Evans can continue to be a third option along with Pippen Jr. and Dylan Disu, Vanderbilt can at least be an annoying team to play and defend.
11. Ole Miss Rebels
Last Week: Lost at Arkansas 59-74, Lost at Georgia 61-71
Ole Miss had a rough road trip this week with back-to-back losses, both by double-digits.
I knew that Ole Miss’s offense was bad, but it was concerning to see the Rebels give up more than 70 points in both games this week while still keeping the number of possessions low to suit their style of play.
These games both show that even though the Aggies forced two fast-paced teams to play at their tempo, they still couldn’t score enough or really slow down their opponents. If the Aggies aren’t winning games when they dictate the style of play like they were earlier in SEC play, it could be a bad sign for the rest of the conference schedule.
Maybe it’s just Georgia having Ole Miss’s number this year, but for now, I have more concerns about Kermit Davis’s squad.
10. Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: Lost at South Carolina 83-59, Won vs Ole Miss 71-61
Georgia bounced back well to get a win over Ole Miss after getting trounced by South Carolina. That’s a good sign that this mix of young guys and experienced transfers aren’t just going to give up when things are looking bleak.
There’s still not a high ceiling in my opinion, but that could change if Sahvir Wheeler and the Bulldogs can find a way to look competitive against Auburn and Sharife Cooper this week and then handle business against Vanderbilt.
I think there is starting to be a separation of the SEC into a bottom and a top with Georgia still being solidly in the bottom, but at least they’re at the top of the bottom and show some promise with Sahvir Wheeler, KD Johnson, and others.
Tom Crean needs to show quite a bit the rest of the way to prove that he’s can coach up this roster and start building for next season, or things could get even more uncomfortable for him going into next year.
9. Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: Lost at Alabama 59-70
Kentucky looked better playing at Alabama than they did when the Crimson Tide came to Rupp Arena. BJ Boston Jr. continues to look more like the player that people expected.
Unfortunately, the Wildcats are now dealing with COVID issues within their program and had to cancel their matchup with Texas in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. That might have been a blessing in disguise for Kentucky, or it could have been an opportunity to show that they can still show up for big games against nationally relevant teams.
The Wildcats can still work to improve this season, but I think it’s past time to give up on them being a tournament team or a real player with the other top teams in the SEC. Their defense will make them competitive, but I think they’re still a good bit away on a consistent offense.
8. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last Week: Lost at Tennessee 53-56, Won vs Iowa State 95-56
The Bulldogs, led by Iverson Molinar and DJ Stewart Jr. almost did enough to get the win in Knoxville over Tennessee, but then followed up that close loss with a huge win over Iowa State.
By scoring 95 points against the Cyclones, I’m slightly more optimistic about Mississippi State’s offense abilities outside of just Stewart Jr. and Molinar, but it was against a bad Iowa State team that is well outside of the top-100 in KenPom currently.
I feel like I’ve been saying this for a while, but it’s still really hard to tell what Mississippi State is and where they stand in the SEC. They’re clearly good with the potential to play a tough game against almost any team, but they also have games, like against Ole Miss, where they look to still have a low floor at times.
They’ll stay right outside of the top half for now, but another tough road trip at Arkansas and South Carolina this week could be a big opportunity to move up if they’re up for the challenge.
7. LSU Tigers
Last Week: Won at Texas A&M 78-66, Lost vs Texas Tech 71-76
LSU almost looked like they were in danger of losing their third-straight game when they started pretty slow and allowed Texas A&M to hang in the game until the last few minutes. Fortunately for LSU, they did have a late burst of scoring to pull away for the double-digit win, but the Tigers defense remains a problem.
Against Texas Tech, the Tigers again failed to close at the end as Texas Tech took the lead and then held on in the final seconds.
Trendon Watford had a poor game against Texas Tech and the Tigers also lost Darius Days for a few weeks from an injury he suffered early in that game despite playing very well before going down.
Javonte Smart seems to be stepping up more as a big scorer to go alongside Cameron Thomas, but if the Tigers can’t stop anyone, they’ll need even more offense.
While Watford certainly hasn’t been bad, I think he needs to get back to the SEC Player of the Year level if LSU is going to compete with the other good teams in the SEC.
6. Auburn Tigers
Last Week: Won vs Missouri 88-81, Lost at Baylor 72-84
Auburn is a better team, and probably even a good team, with Sharife Cooper. But until they beat more of the teams above them, it’s hard to forget the issues that they showed before Cooper was cleared as well as collapses in games like Arkansas and Missouri (even though they hung on to win).
The Missouri win was impressive and if it wasn’t for the bad start to the second half, the Tigers looked alight against the second-ranked Baylor team on the road.
The top half of these rankings are all really close. I’ve seen enough from Missouri and like how Tilmon and Pinson are playing, even though Pinson in particular was not very effective after dealing with fouls against Auburn, to keep them ahead of the Tigers. Arkansas has already beaten Auburn twice, so it’s also hard to move them above the Razorbacks.
I don’t think anyone in the league wants to face Auburn right now, but they’ll need to climb up the standings a little bit for me to move them much further in these rankings.
Auburn should be able to move up in the SEC standings with games against Georgia, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt coming up over the next week and a half.
5. Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: Won vs Ole Miss 74-59, Lost at Oklahoma State 77-81
Arkansas won their third-straight game against Ole Miss in the middle of the week and continue to look better statistically.
The Razorbacks then came just short of knocking of Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State on the road. I might be punishing them a little bit too much by knocking them down below Tennessee with that loss, but the Volunteers did go 2-0 this week and looked very good against Kansas.
Justin Smith being back for Arkansas makes them a better team once again and I think they’ll continue to raise their floor as they figure out how to win with any given player stepping up in each game. They won big against Ole Miss with Moses Moody having just 5 points, and that’s a good sign for the Razorbacks going forward.
With Mississippi State and Texas A&M at home this week, the Razorbacks could get right back on another winning streak and continue to stay at the top of my power rankings.
4. Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: Won vs Mississippi State 56-53, Won vs Kansas 80-61
The defense certainly got back on track this week for the Volunteers, but in the Mississippi State game, it looked like the offense was still going to be a pretty big problem.
Tennessee then got a big statement win over Kansas where the Vols were in control almost the entire game and showed that they can produce points with their offense on a good night, especially if Yves Pons is also contributing in the scoring department.
Kansas is not as big of a win as it would seem because the Jayhawks clearly have some issues and have lost four of their last five, but both teams were in a similar situation coming in and Tennessee’s big win is worth a lot for their confidence and at least keeps them in the national conversation.
The top half of the league is still pretty close to each other and they might all be getting back with Alabama if the Crimson Tide continues to look just good instead of great.
3. Missouri Tigers
Last Week: Lost at Auburn 81-88, Won vs TCU 102-98 OT
It was looking like it could be worse when Missouri traveled to Auburn, but the visiting Tigers played a much closer game after the fast start for Auburn. Plenty of fouls favored Sharife Cooper and the home team in the second half as they were able to capitalize on the FTs and hang on to the win.
Missouri then had another slow start against TCU where neither team was playing much defense and both teams shot incredibly well. It looked like the Tigers were going to take a pretty bad loss until Xavier Pinson closed the game with even more points and forced overtime, where Missouri then won, after being down 12 points in the final minutes.
I don’t think Missouri as a team looked very good this week, especially on the defensive side that should be their strength. But while their defense slipped, Jeremiah Tilmon continues to look unstoppable, and Xavier Pinson is playing really well right now and looks like a competent leader for this team along with Tilmon.
I’m leaving the Tigers in the top three for now because I think those two guys raise the floor and if the rest of the experienced roster plays as they can, the Tigers are still one of the best teams in the SEC.
2. Florida Gators
Last Week: Won vs Vanderbilt 78-71, Won at West Virginia 85-80
Florida handled their business against Vanderbilt, while the Commodores made a late run to make it look close like they’ve done in a few games this year.
Then the Gators went to Morgantown and got the biggest win of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge when they knocked off West Virginia.
Scottie Lewis is back and Florida continues to look like they’ve adjusted to playing without Keyontae Johnson and are once again one of the better teams in the league. Colin Castleton is leading the way, but Lewis, Tre Mann, and others are also stepping up in big ways, especially on offense.
Florida is up to the second-best offense in the SEC at 109.2 points per 100 possessions which also gives them the second-best net rating at +5.86.
The Gators still struggle on defense and play at a slower pace compared to the other SEC teams, but for now, they’re on a four-game winning streak and looking like one of the best teams in the SEC.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: Won vs Kentucky 70-59, Lost at Oklahoma 61-66
There appeared to be signs of Alabama slowing down last week with their close win over Mississippi State. While the Bulldogs are still hard to figure out, that was repeated against Kentucky where it took another good performance at the end for the Crimson Tide to pull away and get their tenth straight win.
Those concerns were all exposed even more when Alabama went to Norman and lost to Oklahoma, despite the Sooners playing without two starters, including their top scorer.
Nate Oats would have probably liked his team to wake up after the first two lesser performances, but the loss should definitely get the job done. For now, the Crimson Tide are still undefeated in SEC play and a full three games ahead of any other team in the league. They likely won’t drop in these rankings unless they finish next week still looking much worse than they were a few weeks ago.
A few weeks ago it looked like no one could even touch the Crimson Tide. Alabama has clearly come back down to earth, but I think their defense is still good enough to keep them in almost every game, and if they’re hitting shots not many teams in the country can beat them.