It’s still a little difficult to make sense of the mess in the middle of the league, but I think some teams are starting to rise up while others fall. Not many teams have separated themselves, so pretty much everyone is still one good or bad week from making a big move.
Missouri is the latest team to be in the spot to challenge Alabama at the top of the standings, but even after handing the Crimson Tide their first loss in SEC play, the Tigers are still three games out of first place.
With another handful of games postponed this week due to COVID, it’s looking more and more like it will be difficult for every team to get a full 18-game schedule and that will cause some interesting seeding scenarios. Other than Alabama, there don’t seem to be any other locks for the double-bye in the SEC Tournament and there are at least nine teams still with a realistic shot.
Standings aside, I think Missouri has certainly moved into the top tier with Alabama after their head-to-head win, but the effort they went to almost giving the game away is concerning. After that, the next three teams are probably in the second tier followed by four to six teams in the next tier and just Texas A&M and Vanderbilt in the bottom tier.
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: No games played
While other teams in the bottom of the standings like Georgia, South Carolina, and Ole Miss got big wins this week, it’s hard for Texas A&M to even have a chance of moving up as they had to skip both games this week with a COVID pause in their program.
13. Vanderbilt Commodores
Last Week: Lost at Georgia 70-73
Vanderbilt missed out on their opportunity to play Texas A&M and then also barely lost to Georgia on the road which would have given them their second consecutive SEC win after starting 0-6 in league play.
The Commodores are developing offensive options outside of just Scotty Pippen Jr., but their defense still presents too big of a challenge for the offense to overcome. Without Pippen Jr. playing extremely well, it will be hard for them to get wins against anyone other than the bottom teams in the league.
The Commodores are keeping most games close and look better this year than they have in previous seasons, but I still don’t think they’re improving at the rate of the rest of the league, so it’ll still be hard for them to find wins the rest of the way. With how things went this week, hosting Auburn on Tuesday might be one of their best chances for the rest of the season.
12. South Carolina
Last Week: Won at Florida 72-66, Lost vs Mississippi State 59-75
South Carolina continues their insane roller coaster of alternating performances with a great upset on the road against Florida and then a 16-point loss to Mississippi State at home.
The ups and downs make it so hard to truly predict which South Carolina team is going to show up for any given game, but the safest bet might just be to pick them based on the alternating play. The Gamecocks might knock off Alabama on Tuesday and then follow it up with a big loss to a bad Ole Miss team.
Both Keyshawn Bryant and AJ Lawson are starting to slip in their individual performances, but both players still remain in my top-15 SEC player rankings and are capable of scoring enough to put South Carolina right in any game.
At this point, I just want to see South Carolina either win or lose back-to-back games. This big win followed by a bad loss pattern is getting weird.
11. Auburn Tigers
Last Week: Lost vs Georgia 86-91, Lost vs Ole Miss 84-86 OT
Last week, highlighted by a win over Missouri, it looked like Auburn was poised to go on a roll with three of the worst teams coming up and two of them at home. Instead, the Tigers’ defense looked even worse than it’s been and they dropped both home games.
Losing a close, high-scoring game to Georgia seemed to just be an Auburn team playing with little motivation and energy against another poor defensive team that played at a fast pace. But the loss to Ole Miss, especially with the Rebels scoring 86 points and over 1.1 points per possession, is not a good sign going forward for the Tigers.
Auburn’s offense is talented and pretty good on most nights, but it’s not good enough to overcome an almost complete lack of defense. The Tigers may be one of the best shot-blocking teams, but other than that, they let almost every other shot go uncontested at the basket.
There is still one more game at Vanderbilt that should be an opportunity for Auburn to get a win, but Vanderbilt’s offense isn’t going to be easy to stop and the Tigers have not typically had the best results in Memorial Gym.
It might be because this team is finally accepting that there isn’t anything to play for this season, or maybe there is just too much youth to put together a decent defense, but Auburn has certainly fallen from their high potential and even Sharife Cooper can’t magically make them play defense.
10. Ole Miss Rebels
Last Week: Won vs Tennessee 52-50, Won at Auburn 86-84
Ole Miss won a defensive slugfest on Tuesday against Tennessee and then turned around and managed to outscore Auburn on their home court.
The Rebels had one of the worst offenses going into the Auburn game, but a combined 56 points from Deveontae Shuler and Romello White is certainly a great way to get the offense going. This Ole Miss offense has always been capable when Shuler is playing well, but adding White at the same time might make them good enough to keep up with other good offensive teams.
While there is a possibility that Ole Miss’s offense is improving, I think most of the responsibility for their 86 points falls more on Auburn’s terrible defense, but there are still other bad defenses Ole Miss will face this year for the chance to show more promise on offense.
9. Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: Won at Auburn 91-86, Won vs Vanderbilt 73-70
Georgia gets an impressive 2-0 week and gets their first three-game winning streak in the SEC under Tom Crean. On Tuesday, Georgia came out with way more energy than Auburn and held on throughout the game to get a win over the Tigers despite losing the first matchup by almost 20 points.
The Bulldogs then held on at home against a Vanderbilt team that was also looking to have a rare winning streak. The defense is still a concern for Georgia, but surprisingly, in the game against Vanderbilt, who also has one of the worst defenses in the SEC, the final score was only in the 70’s.
Georgia could get their first four-game sEC regular-season winning streak since 2015 with a win at Texas A&M on Wednesday, but after that, the Bulldogs will have to also travel to Alabama. The team has turned things around and are playing above their talent level in my opinion, but I’m still not sure how high their ceiling can be.
Clearly, I’ve been wrong on the Bulldogs, so maybe they can keep winning games I don’t expect and finish in the top half of the league since it’s so wide open this season.
8. LSU Tigers
Last Week: Lost at Alabama 60-78
LSU kept it closer this time against Alabama, but they still couldn’t maintain a decent game into the second half. Maybe Alabama just has LSU’s number, but like Auburn, it seems like the defense is so bad that it will continue to hold the Tigers back, no matter how good their offense can be.
Each of the Tigers’ recent losses has been against pretty good teams, so maybe they can still turn it around a make a push to get back in the hunt for a double-bye in the SEC Tournament, but it’s not looking good now with them dropping four of their last five.
The luster of Cameron Thomas is wearing off and Trendon Watford just isn’t as effective as an SEC Player of the Year candidate should be. The defense has been an issue all year, but if the offense also doesn’t show up, and show up well, the Tigers aren’t going to be one of the better teams in the SEC and the postseason could still slip away from them.
7. Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: Lost at Missouri 70-75, Lost vs Tennessee 71-82
Kentucky is sitting in 11th place overall in the SEC standings, and while that’s certainly as low as they’ve ever been, they still are keeping games close and still hold wins over LSU, Florida, and Mississippi State (although those last two came at the very beginning of SEC play).
I know that the Wildcats aren’t good, but I’m more inclined to keep them above a team like LSU, and especially Georgia and Ole Miss because they don’t really get blown out and their defense can keep them in most games. They’re not showing signs of being able to close out those games, but they keep it close enough where a few shots finally going their way could make the difference.
I’m not sure why I keep expecting Calipari to finally figure things out, but maybe now that it’s even more obvious that the Wildcats won’t be playing in the postseason unless they win the SEC Tournament, he’ll start experimenting more with different lineups and schemes.
The Wildcats have too many good players where they can’t be this bad and there seem to be some lineups that could clearly work better than the ones that get a majority of the playing time.
6. Mississippi State
Last Week: Lost at Arkansas 45-61, Won at South Carolina 75-59
The Bulldogs split their road trip this week with one double-digit loss and one double-digit win. Arkansas is a good team that is playing really well right now, so the loss in Fayetteville is certainly not too concerning. The win over South Carolina doesn’t seem incredibly impressive, but the Gamecocks were coming off of a win at Florida and I have truly no clue what to make of South Carolina overall.
They’re not the most efficient scorers but DJ Stewart Jr. and Iverson Molinar are both still leading Mississippi State’s offense and averaging over 16 points per game in SEC play. Tolu Smith is also in double-digits at 11.3 points per game in SEC play.
Mississippi State’s real strength is proving more and more to be their defense and it also is starting to seem that defense is the answer this year in the SEC instead of offense. At least for teams that have one good side and one bad side, the teams that have better defenses seem to have the edge. The Bulldogs are now giving up just 96.5 points per 100 possessions in SEC play which is good enough for third overall in the league behind only Alabama and Tennessee.
5. Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: Lost at Ole Miss 50-52, Won at Kentucky 82-71
Tennessee’s ugly offense showed up again in their loss at Ole Miss which appeared to be one of the bigger upsets in the league. However, the Rebels also got a road win at Auburn in the same week, so clearly Tennessee caught them at a bad time.
The Volunteers also put some of the offensive worries to rest by putting up 82 points on the road at Kentucky where they also had 50 combined points from the 5-star freshman.
Jaden Springer’s missing games certainly played a part in Tennessee’s losses to Florida and Missouri, but him being back and he and Keon Johnson scoring as well as they did against Kentucky will allow this Tennessee team to stay relevant nationally.
The Kansas win looks less impressive given the Jayhawks continued concerns and a loss to Ole Miss isn’t great, but when Tennessee is playing their best basketball, they have enough pieces to beat most teams in the country. John Fulkerson needs to get going, but he didn’t have the opportunity to contribute much against the Wildcats since he dealt with foul trouble the entire game and played just ten minutes and didn’t score.
4. Florida Gators
Last Week: Lost vs South Carolina 66-72
Coming off of their best win of the season against West Virginia, the Gators also had probably their worst loss of the year with a 6-point home loss to South Carolina.
Florida didn’t have an opportunity to show that they could immediately bounce back because their second game of the week against LSU was postponed due to COVID, so now the Gators will have to really bounce back when they travel to Knoxville to face a Tennessee team that will certainly be looking for revenge after Florida beat them by 26 in the first matchup.
Foul trouble hurt the Gators against South Carolina but Scottie Lewis also had just 1 point and clearly hasn’t been the same level of effectiveness since returning from his absence and not returning to the starting lineup.
The loss to South Carolina is concerning, but Florida should still be poised to compete at the top of the SEC as long as they can maintain the quality offensive play that had them on a four-game win streak before the South Carolina loss.
3. Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: Won vs Mississippi State 61-45
Hopefully, the pause doesn’t throw Arkansas off too much since they’re currently on a four-game winning streak in SEC play with their only loss since a trip to Tuscaloosa being a close loss in a trip to Stillwater last weekend.
The Razorbacks are playing better defense over the course of their win streak and they’re up to the fifth-best defense in the SEC giving up just 98.2 points per 100 possessions. They’re also as high as 19th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings.
Connor Vanover is getting back to the level of play he showed in the non-conference schedule, and other weapons such as Moses Moody and Justin Smith are also playing some of their best basketball.
Davonte Davis stepping up for Arkansas will only be yet another option they have on offense which will continue to be a matchup problem for most teams. Arkansas has such great depth and so many choices on offense that if their defense plays as Eric Musselman wants, they can remain one of the best teams in the SEC.
2. Missouri Tigers
Last Week: Won vs Kentucky 75-70, Won vs Alabama 68-65
Up until the final five minutes of the game, Missouri was poised to get a big win over Alabama and likely enough to have them finally dethrone Alabama at the top of my power rankings. Then the Tigers let off the gas on offense and allowed Alabama to come storming back and cut it to as little as a 1-point game in the final minute.
Missouri’s defense ultimately held on and played well against Alabama all game, but the Tigers can’t take that next step if they don’t learn to put teams away. Despite being 13-3 overall, Missouri has just five double-digit wins on the season and that includes games against teams like Oral Roberts, Liberty, Bradley, and Texas A&M.
As Jonathon Warriner pointed out on Twitter, these kinds of performances are what will likely keep Missouri from holding a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament. Missouri has one of, if not the best, resumes in the country, but their inability to blow teams out or play complete games has them sitting lower down in efficiency metrics like KenPom and the NET. Up 20 for long stretches of this game, the Tigers had the perfect opportunity to slam the door shut and pick up a big boost in those rankings with a blowout of a top-10 Alabama team. Instead, they almost gave up the win entirely and will continue to have skeptics.
The Tigers’ defense continues to keep them in just about every game, but the offense needs to keep building on the momentum it has been building over the last few weeks instead of taking a step back. Not many teams will have an answer for Jeremiah Tilmon, but others have to continue to step up for Missouri to have their best shot at a deep run in March. All three Smiths had a good game against Alabama and Pinson remains the Tigers’ third-leading scorer in SEC play, but they might need to start making more threes, or at least shooting a better percentage behind the arc, to have their offense take the next step.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: Won vs LSU 78-60, Lost at Missouri 65-68
After another comfortable win over LSU, it was also another slow early start for Alabama on the road against Missouri and after the loss at Oklahoma snapped Alabama’s 10-game winning steak overall, this loss also snapped their 10-game SEC winning streak and the perfect record in league play.
Despite the loss, with the game being on the road, and Alabama once again showing how difficult it is to count them out of any game, they hold onto the top spot in my power rankings. Herb Jones dealt with foul trouble, Alabama couldn’t buy a basket inside the arc, and the Tide had single-digit threes, but still managed to only lose by three on the road to the second-best team in the SEC.
Alabama did a good job containing Tilmon for the most part, but they’re still clearly missing the presence of Jordan Bruner inside. Alex Reese has been stepping up in a big way, but it’s clear that injuries could be what brings Alabama back down to a level where other teams in the SEC can compete. Because of this, and because the undefeated SEC regular season is now off the table, I think it is in the best interest of Alabama’s post-season aspirations that Herb Jones also gets fully rested up.
Jones showed he was one of the toughest players in the SEC last season and he’s only doubled-down on it this year. But with easier games against South Carolina and Georgia coming up plus a 3-game lead in the SEC standings, now is a good time for Jones to let his lingering injuries fully heal. Alabama will be better when Bruner comes back, but they’ll definitely need Herb Jones at full strength if they want to make the deep post-season run that they are capable of.