This week did an okay job of providing some more separation in the SEC standings, but there are still quite a few teams in the top half of the league that can still easily play for the double-bye in the SEC Tournament.
Two of those teams, Ole Miss and Arkansas, are on four and six-game SEC winning streaks respectively, and find themselves shooting up my power rankings over the last two weeks. While Missouri and Tennessee still don’t look perfect, they’re both also capable of beating just about anyone in this league in any given game.
Auburn snapped their losing streak before starting another one when they once again couldn’t find a way to win in Rupp Arena. Things could be worse like they are for Mississippi State, who lost both games this week by a combined 35 points and fell dramatically in my power rankings this week as a result.
It’ll be interesting to see how many games the SEC is able to make up, but it’s looking more and more like there won’t even be a challenger for Alabama’s top spot. All of the action will have to come in the battle for the other high seeds.
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
The Aggies missed another week of action as they are still dealing with COVID issues within the program. Texas A&M was already looking like one of the worst teams in the league before their pause, but if it’s anything like South Carolina’s long pause, they could look even worse when they return to finish whatever games they can fit in before the SEC Tournament.
13. South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Week: Lost vs Alabama 78-81, Lost vs Ole Miss 74-81
South Carolina is still a potentially dangerous team in SEC play, but they just can’t seem to get wins. With two more losses this week to Alabama and Ole Miss, they have now lost three straight games, with all of them coming at home, after their big road win over Florida at the beginning of the month.
The Gamecocks are using their experience to keep them in games they probably shouldn’t be in, but they still lack the depth and overall talent to put them over the top and get wins over better teams without exceptional games from AJ Lawson or others.
12. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last Week: Lost vs LSU 80-94, Lost vs Vanderbilt 51-72
I had Mississippi State at sixth in my rankings last week but still wasn’t quite sure how good they were. They just seemed at the time to be ahead of the many teams that kept losing games despite their stats and metrics looking better than the Bulldogs.
However, this week didn’t leave a lot of room for positive reactions to Mississippi State’s play. The Bulldogs lost both of their home games this week by a combined 35 points including an embarrassing 21-point home loss to Vanderbilt who was coming off of a home loss of their own to Auburn.
Mississippi State has taken over carrying the banner as one of the worst offenses from their cross-state rival Ole Miss. The Bulldogs’ offensive rating has dropped to just 96.3, which is 13th in the SEC ahead of just Texas A&M. Their defense is pretty good with a rating of 100.6 in SEC play, but they are 11th in the league with a net rating of -4.33.
The Bulldogs lead the SEC in rebounding rate at 52.7%, but that’s because they have a lot of opportunities since they’re one of the less impressive shooting teams with an effective field goal percentage of 48.7% and a true shooting percentage of just 55.4%, which is 12th in the SEC.
11. Vanderbilt Commodores
Last Week: Lost vs Auburn 67-73, Won at Mississippi State 72-51
It’s been clear that Vanderbilt has a good enough offense, led by Scotty Pippen Jr., but their issue has been stopping other teams from scoring. They were able to put both together quite well against Mississippi State when they held the Bulldogs to just 51 points in a 21-point win on the road.
After this week, despite a head to head loss to Sharife Cooper in a game in which he also fouled out, Scotty Pippen Jr. is still holding onto the second overall spot in my SEC player rankings and is barely holding off Cameron Thomas, Colin Castleton, and Herbert Jones.
As the end of the game against Auburn showed, without Pippen Jr., it’s hard for Vanderbilt to generate offense on its own. Pippen is a dynamic scorer and is dishing out six assists per game in SEC play. Dylan Disu is also in the top-10 of my player rankings, but he’s not the same leader as Pippen Jr. and serves more as a secondary weapon for the Dores when they’re at their best.
Jerry Stackhouse had some bold claims about his coaching abilities this week, but on Saturday, his team at least started to back them up.
10. Auburn Tigers
Last Week: Won at Vanderbilt 73-67, Lost at Kentucky 80-82
Auburn has to be glad they held on to win in Memorial Gym, a place that hasn’t been kind to the Tigers, to avoid losing three straight games to Georgia, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt.
After that win though, Auburn still couldn’t manage to finish the win in Rupp Arena where they now have 50 losses with just two wins. A lot of that game came down to turnovers, and Sharife Cooper not being able to score, which is becoming a normal thing in Auburn losses, and sometimes even wins. The Tigers did have JT Thor and Allen Flanigan combine for 47 points against the Wildcats, and that’s a great sign since both players were in a bit of a slump over the last few weeks.
The defense still isn’t great for Auburn, but they do have the fourth-highest offensive rating in the SEC right now at 105.9 and are one of just seven teams in the league with a positive net rating, sitting in 6th at +2.01.
Auburn’s main weakness, which has been a problem all year, is holding onto the basketball. They are currently 11th in the SEC with a turnover rate of 21.7% and only steal the ball from other teams at a rate of 8.6%, which is dead last in the league.
It seems weird with both games coming so late in the season, but Auburn will have their first and only matchups with both Mississippi State and LSU this week. Both teams are on the opposite ends of the league when it comes to offense, so it will be an interesting week for gauging where Auburn’s defense really stands.
9. Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: Lost at Tennessee 81-89, Lost at Alabama 82-115
Statistically, Georgia is still one of the worst teams in the SEC, but they make up for it by playing hard and not giving up. That was best shown in their upset of Auburn last week, but they also managed to hang around with Tennessee and only lose by 8 on the road. The Bulldogs were keeping it sort of close against Alabama until the Crimson Tide pulled away down the stretch after an incredible shooting day once again.
Size is clearly an issue for the Bulldogs as they are 13th in the SEC in rebounding rate at just 48% and are also dead last in block rate where they block only 5.6% of opponents shots within the arc. Against teams with not as much size either, Toumani Camara is able to be more productive, like he was against Alabama, but it’s not enough to really move the needed for Georgia this late in the season.
I’m leaving Georgia ahead of Auburn again this week because I still think I trust them to show up and play hard more than the Tigers. Auburn is a much more talented team, and statistically is seven spots ahead of the Bulldogs in net rating, but Georgia won the most recent matchup and Auburn still hasn’t had enough convincing wins to move back ahead for now.
8. Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: Lost vs Arkansas 80-81, Won vs Auburn 82-80
Kentucky is still bad, but they did finally manage to start finding their shot from deep and even managed to close out a game against Auburn even after suggesting that they might be even worse in those situations where they allowed Arkansas to escape Rupp Arena with a 1-point victory.
The loss to Arkansas again shows that Kentucky has been close in so many games, and the win against Auburn might show that they’ve turned a slight corner and can start to close the games that they keep close. This season is still likely over for Kentucky in terms of a postseason, but this is a good time for Calipari to test things out and potentially use them next year when a larger-than-usual number of Wildcats might return for more in Lexington.
The Wildcats’ defense is slipping a little bit as they’re now just seventh in the SEC giving up 101.8 points per 100 possessions, but they are second in the SEC in block rate swatting 16.4% of opponents’ two-point attempts. Led by Isaiah Jackson, Kentucky swatted ten shots against Auburn, who still has the only block rate higher than Kentucky’s at 16.6%.
7. Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: Won vs Georgia 89-81, Lost at LSU 65-78
The offense for the Volunteers was looking much better in their two games since the Ole Miss loss, but the defense also slipped and ultimately allowed them to lose by double-digits on the road against LSU. Giving up 78 points to LSU’s offense, especially when all four of their main guys are playing well, isn’t a terrible performance, but the Tigers were playing poorly as of late and a win would have kept Tennessee in the second spot of the league standings.
A major bright spot for Tennessee as they try to prepare for the postseason is Jaden Springer really figuring his offense out and contributing in a major way. The 5-star freshman has at least 21 points in each of his last three games and scored a total of 74 in that span that made the Volunteers’ offense look much better than it has been at times.
Despite a slip on the defensive end, Tennessee still has the second-best defense in the SEC and is giving up just 96.5 points per 100 possessions. Along with the improving offense, that also gives them the fifth-best net rating in the league at +2.79.
6. Missouri Tigers
Last Week: Lost at Ole Miss 59-80, Lost vs Arkansas 81-86 OT
As I mentioned last week, Missouri was a better finish away from establishing themselves as the new team at the top of my power rankings for the first time in a while. Instead, it appears that the near-collapse against Alabama carried over into the Ole Miss game where the Tigers got completely run out of the gym.
I thought the Tigers bounced back well against Arkansas, especially with Jeremiah Tilmon unfortunately having to miss the game to deal with a death in his family. Missouri still allowed Arkansas to leave Columbia with a win after forcing overtime, so they did finish this week 0-2 after cracking the top-10 for the first time since 201.
When Tilmon comes back, Missouri will need to regroup around him and hope that Xavier Pinson and the Smiths also continue to step up. Missouri still hasn’t been a great statistical team, and a big loss to Ole Miss didn’t help that, but they have proven that they can beat some of the best teams in the country and will always be a threat in both the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament next month.
5. Ole Miss Rebels
Last Week: Won vs Missouri 80-59, Won at South Carolina 81-74
Speaking of Ole Miss’s big win over Missouri, the Rebels are playing like one of the best teams in the SEC and that’s mostly behind Devontae Shuler’s senior leadership. Shuler has been on a tear and scored 87 points total across Ole Miss’s four-game win streak against Tennessee, Auburn, Missouri, and South Carolina.
Two of those wins were home games against teams that previously appeared to be much better than the Rebels and were both ranked in the top-10 at the time. The other two were key road wins that came down to the wire in Auburn and then almost got interesting late against South Carolina. While Ole Miss dug themselves quite a hole with their non-conference losses, the Rebels had an almost perfect last two weeks and are keeping their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
Unlike Missouri, the analytics have always been better than the record for Ole Miss, and that could be helpful if they continue to win. Ole Miss has another big game at Missouri, but otherwise, they’ll just need to avoid losses to lesser teams like Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and probably Kentucky if they want to stay on the bubble and have a shot to end on the right side.
Along with Devontae Shuler, Jarkel Joiner and Romello White are also stepping up as additional scoring options besides the senior.
4. LSU Tigers
Last Week: Won at Mississippi State 94-80, Won vs Tennessee 78-65
I was beginning to get worried about LSU as they seemed to be letting games slip away and their defense was causing more problems than their great offense could solve. Instead, LSU bounced back fairly well this week and got a boost from Darius Days return.
Cameron Thomas is still playing like one of the best freshmen in the SEC, could be a potential SEC Player of the Year candidate, and maintains his top spot in the race for the SEC scoring title at over 22 points a game. He’s still not very efficient with his shooting, but he is narrowly ahead of both Sharife Cooper and Scotty Pippen Jr. in both offensive rating and effective field goal percentage, which could make a difference if those two slip in the last few games.
The Tigers are now tied for second in the SEC, but they’re still 3.5 games behind Alabama and would need to be completed ahead of the Crimson Tide since they have already been swept and would not hold any tiebreakers if it came to that. With the main four players LSU has, Thomas, Days, Trendon Watford, and Javonte Smart, they’ll always be a hard team to stop, but I’m afraid their defense will always hold them back at some point.
3. Florida Gators
Last Week: No games played
Florida still didn’t get to play any games this week, but I went ahead and moved the Gators up one spot just because Missouri lost twice and I didn’t think LSU has proven they’re good enough to move over Florida at this time. The Gators also still hold the head-to-head victory over LSU from way back at the beginning of conference play.
Supposedly Florida has still been able to practice during their break since the games were canceled due to other teams, but even with the ability to practice, the Gators will have to be ready to jump back into league play quickly, because they can’t afford to drop many games if they want to stay in the hunt for a double-bye in the SEC Tournament.
Another reason I’m moving the Gators up to the third spot despite not playing this week is their numbers are still some of the best in the SEC, especially on offense. Florida now has the third-best offensive rating in SEC play at 107.2 and combined with their eighth-best defensive rating of 102.8, they are the second-best team in net rating at +4.40.
Colin Castleton is currently one of a few players I’m considering for SEC Player of the Year and he’ll need to get right back to the impressive performances he was producing before this pause. Castleton alone won’t be enough to make the Gators fully capable of being a top SEC team, but guys like Tre Mann, Tyree Appleby, and Scottie Lewis should be able to step up as well.
2. Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: Won at Kentucky 81-80, Won at Missouri 86-81 OT
I don’t think as many people realized how hot Arkansas was playing last week, but hopefully, most people are paying attention now after two more wins this week to extend their SEC win streak to six games. The Razorbacks are tied for second in the SEC and their four losses came to Missouri, Tennessee, LSU, and Alabama, with those last three being on the road.
If I had just put a little more value in the analytics, I could have figured the wins were eventually going to come for Arkansas, but I think I was still a little burned by the weak non-conference schedule and losses to other top teams. I shouldn’t doubt anymore as Arkansas backed up my belief for stats and analytics when they survived in overtime to knock off Missouri who is on the other side of the coin where they have good wins and a great resume, but just weren’t showing the same thing on the stat sheets.
Moses Moody is still the best overall player for Arkansas and sits at 15th in my SEC player rankings, but he’s getting a lot of help around him from guys like Justin Smith, Desi Sills, Jalen Tate, and Connor Vanover. The more the Razorbacks win, the crazier Eric Musselman will probably get, but I think his team is feeding off of his energy and it will give them that extra bit of motivation he has so many unique ways to bring out.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: Won at South Carolina 81-78, Won vs Georgia 115-82
In case there was any worry that Alabama might be slipping when they lost to Missouri, they shut them down pretty quickly with another massive offensive performance against Georgia where they scored over 1.4 points per possession and scored a season-high in SEC play at 115, their second triple-digit game of league play.
Another slight concern last week was Herbert Jones’s slower play that was clearly caused by an ongoing injury. He also put a lot of those concerns behind when he had another fantastic game individually against Georgia. The do-it-all leader for Alabama once again did it all and finds himself right back in the top-5 of my SEC player rankings where he belongs.
Having Jones playing and looking better, even if he never actually sat out like I thought would have helped, Alabama is once again a very capable team on both sides of the ball. They’re up to the number-one defense in KenPom and still have an over 6 point gap between their defense and the second-best SEC defense, Tennessee, who is giving up 96.5 points per 100 possessions.
With a dominant defense that can still keep up in a fast-paced game and an offense that has the ability to score in creative ways or just shoot a team out of the gym on some nights, Alabama is going to be a very scary team in the postseason. A 1-seed might still be in play for the Crimson Tide, but after coming in at 7th in the first preview of the NCAA Tournament seed list, they are definitely in a great position to just finish out SEC play and at least secure a 2-seed.