Whether it was the additional schedule craziness that the winter storm added, or just that each of the matchups seemed too straightforward on paper, there was quite the wild week on the SEC basketball courts, especially on Saturday.
Mississippi State and Kentucky both pulled off pretty big upsets and teams like Georgia and Vanderbilt came fairly close to getting their own.
While the league was appearing to clearly separate into a few tiers the last couple of weeks, it seems like things are more up in the air again. Alabama might have some challengers at the top (in terms of how they’re playing now, not really in the standings) with Arkansas and LSU both looking really good right now.
Kentucky made a big statement against Tennessee to extend their current winning streak to three games and pull their SEC record back to an even 7-7. It appears that the Wildcats will be a team everyone wants to avoid at the SEC Tournament, but are they peaking too early after digging too large of a hole for an at-large bid?
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
Another week and another set of delayed games for the Aggies. This time it was due to a devastating winter storm that hit Texas this week. Without power, water, and clear roadways for most of the week here in Texas, missing two games for the Aggies seems like a small issue this week.
13. South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Week: Lost at Tennessee 73-93, Lost vs Missouri 78-93
South Carolina gave up back-to-back 93-point games and what was an “up-and-down” year is quickly turning into just a down year for the Gamecocks. While they lost to two of the better teams in SEC play, neither team is playing at their best, which makes the losses just a slight highlight of the week for both teams and not a good sign for South Carolina.
The Gamecocks continue to slip in the SEC standings and their stats don’t help them out either. South Carolina is down to the 10th best offense at just barely above 1 point per possession and their defense is 11th in SEC play and is giving up 1.066 points per possession. AJ Lawson cannot keep the Gamecocks alive if other players are not able to step up. Frank Martin is trying other starting line-ups, including Keyshawn Bryant, but it’s not making a big difference for the Gamecocks.
I counted on Frank Martin to figure things out a little too much this year and it seems that he just doesn’t have the talent to keep up with the other SEC teams. There seem to be a few other people mentioning that he might not last at South Carolina, but I can’t think of anyone that would be better in his position. His issue will be recruiting better players to keep up with the rest of the rise in talent in the SEC while managing to stick to his type of guy and continuing to out-coach other guys in the SEC.
12. Vanderbilt Commodores
Last Week: Lost vs Kentucky 78-82, Lost at Alabama 78-82
As I feel like I’ve said most of the year, Vanderbilt looks much better than their record shows, but they just can’t manage to actually get wins.
Dylan Disu has stepped up even more lately and gives the Commodores a good inside-outside combo along with Scotty Pippen Jr. The issue is that there is a pretty big drop-off from the few good guys on the roster to the rest of the team. They can keep Vanderbilt in most games, but down the stretch, if a team figures out how to limit the go-to options, Vanderbilt can’t find a way to get the win.
Giving up 82 points twice this week caused the defense to slip back into last place in the SEC with a rating of 110.5. The offense is still decent as the sixth-most efficient in SEC play, scoring 1.038 points per possession, but a team has to make some stops if they’re going to actually get wins and move up my power rankings.
11. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last Week: Won at Ole Miss 66-56
With their midweek game against Auburn getting delayed and then further delayed to later in the season, Mississippi State had extra time to prepare for their rivalry game against Ole Miss and it seems the extra preparation paid off as they were able to get revenge and return the favor on Ole Miss’s own floor.
The main three players for Mississippi State, DJ Stewart Jr., Iverson Molinar, and Tolu Smith, each scored in double-figures, shot over 45% from the field, and were a combined 11-13 from the free throw line. In a low possession game, the efficiency was especially helpful.
10. Auburn Tigers
Last Week: Lost at LSU 80-104
Without being able to see Auburn against a team like Mississippi State this week, it’s hard to tell just how bad the defense is because while it looked terrible against LSU, those Tigers have the best offense in the SEC and had an exceptionally good night shooting the ball on top of it.
While Sharife Cooper continues to be exceptional, the gap between him and the rest of Auburn’s production seems to be widening. Against LSU, Cooper had to carry almost the entire load in the scoring department and finished with just two assists, a season-low. The offense as a whole was still pretty good and managed to score over 1 point per possession against LSU, which moved Auburn up to the third-best offensive rating in SEC play. The defense is the obvious issue for Auburn, but more consistency from at least one other offensive weapon could also help the Tigers.
With no postseason to look forward to or use as motivation, it’s hard to see Auburn turning things around in this final stretch against good teams in Florida, Tennessee, and Alabama. Maybe playing at home will help against Florida and Tennessee or Bruce Pearl will beat the Volunteers again this year to at least bring some normalcy to a down year for the Tigers, but it seems like a rescheduled game against Mississippi State is the best bet for Auburn to get one final win this season.
9. Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: Won vs Missouri 80-70, Lost at Florida 63-70
Georgia made the most of their opportunity to face Missouri without Jeremiah Tilmon and came away with another great win. A really slow start against Florida proved to be too much, but Sahvir Wheeler almost willed them out of that game as well.
Wheeler started the year off as one of the best point guards in the league, but over time, he started to regress a little bit as Sharife Cooper and others took the spotlight. There aren’t enough games left this season for Wheeler to really take back that top spot as the best point guard in the league, but he’s certainly setting himself up to be the frontrunner going into next season.
The Bulldogs are still having issues with rebounding and turnovers, but when the offense is on, it’s almost enough to make up for their still struggling defense. A poor defensive performance from Vanderbilt at least allowed Georgia to give up their claim to the worst defensive rating in the SEC, at least currently.
8. Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: Won vs South Carolina 93-73, Lost vs Kentucky 55-70
The big loss to Kentucky was just a perfect sign of how Tennessee’s season has gone. After getting a road win over the Wildcats just a few weeks ago, the offense could barely do anything at home and Kentucky got revenge in a large way.
Just as Tennessee was riding the high scoring of Jaden Springer, his bad game led to another awful performance from the offense as a whole. Playing without Josiah-Jordan James also didn’t do the Volunteers any favors. If Tennessee is going to rally and make a run down the stretch and into the postseason, they are going to need to get more out of their very talented and experienced roster.
There is still time to salvage the season, but barring a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, this team just seems like they will fall way short of their big expectations coming into the season.
7. Ole Miss Rebels
Last Week: Lost vs Mississippi State 56-66
A home loss to Mississippi State might have been a final blow to Ole Miss’s chances at making it into the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid. Ole Miss was just starting to seriously climb into the conversation, but this loss most likely erases all of that progress that was built over their previous four-game win streak.
Similar to Tennessee, just as Jaden Springer’s bad game doomed the Volunteers, Devontae Shuler’s horrible shooting night caused the Ole Miss offense to return to its poor form from earlier in the season. The Rebels got the slow, low possession game that they usually like, but Mississippi State enjoys that style of play just as much and was able to make more shots to take advantage of it.
Rivalry games can lead to seemingly odd results like this, so it might not be too bad of a sign for Ole Miss, but it’s still a bad loss that won’t go away, no matter how good their numbers look otherwise. With another game against Missouri as well as a trip to Vanderbilt this next week, Ole Miss will need to bounce back quickly or they can fall down my power rankings and the SEC standings just as fast as they rose up both.
6. Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: Won at Vanderbilt 82-78, Won at Tennessee 70-55
The close wins over Auburn and Vanderbilt still left room for questions about how much better Kentucky has gotten, but the big win on the road over Tennessee made it clear that the Wildcats are now likely at the top of every other team’s list of teams they don’t want to face right now.
Kentucky is starting to get more even contributions from multiple guys on the team and that is what seems to be making their offense click while the defense can still step up and shut a team down as they did against the Volunteers. It’s hard to say who is the best player for Kentucky right now and that’s a good problem to have. At times recently it was Brandon Boston Jr. stepping up and other times it was Keion Brooks Jr., but now Calipari seems to be able to rely on the likes of Olivier Sarr, Davion Mintz, and Isaiah Jackson even more.
It still seems like the only way Kentucky will make it to the NCAA Tournament is by winning the SEC Tournament, but if they keep this up, that might become a pretty realistic possibility, especially since the Wildcats have a pretty good track record in Nashville.
5. Missouri Tigers
Last Week: Lost vs Georgia 70-80, Won at South Carolina 93-78
Missouri worried me with their three-game losing streak against SEC opponents, but the win on the road against South Carolina gives me a good indication that Missouri may not be in too much trouble,
With Jeremiah Tilmon back in the lineup, Missouri might not have as much to worry about, but if he has to suddenly miss time, I’m not sure how much value Missouri has. The Tigers are a good team with a lot of experience, but they aren’t the most favored units in terms of enhancement.
The non-conference schedule will be plenty to carry the Tigers to the postseason, but outside of a close win over Alabama in SEC play, Missouri leaves a lot to be desired as far as the conference schedule is concerned.
4. Florida Gators
Last Week: Loss at Arkansas 64-75, Win vs Georgia 70-63
Florida went just 1-1 this week, but with a loss to a team in second-place in my power rankings and a win over just the ninth-place team in my rankings, the Florida Gators are safe in the fourth spot.
The Gators are doing well statistically at fourth overall in offensive rating at 1.045 points per possession along with just the seventh-overall defense at 1.013 points per possession which gives the fourth-best net rating of +3.17 points per game.
Florida’s go-to player may just be Colin Castleton for now, but the Gators still have plenty of talent and offensive power to make a run at the SEC Tournament Championship if they’re not able to cut into Alabama’s large lead in the SEC championship debate.
3. LSU Tigers
Last Week: Win vs Auburn 104-80
It’s a shame that LSU wasn’t able to face Ole Miss again, but based on the results of each of their games, it might not have been as good as I expected.
LSU instead had an incredible shooting performance against a bad Auburn defense and managed to get the 24-point win along with hitting triple-digits. The big four for LSU continue to step up and as long as all of them are playing well, the Tigers are a team to reckon with in the SEC. Also, when LSU makes three-pointers as they did against Auburn, I’m not sure many teams can beat the Tigers, especially at home.
If Cameron Thomas can continue to carry the point load for LSU and the other key players can play well, the Tigers will be a hard team to take down in SEC play and in the postseason. Thomas’s efficiency can still be a problem, but his overall scoring contribution is still enough to lead the SEC.
2. Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: Win vs Florida 75-64
Arkansas missed out on a presumed second win against Texas A&M on Saturday, but the Razorbacks still got a big win over Florida at home to extend their winning streak to seven games. Arkansas might have been able to use the game against Texas A&M as a nice warm-up, but their standing in my power rankings will ultimately come down to their performance against Alabama next Wednesday.
After all the games from this week, Arkansas still holds the fifth-best offense and third-best defense which balances out for the third-best net rating in SEC play so far. Arkansas is good and has plenty of weapons to keep their momentum pushing forward. I still think Alabama’s overall performance for the year is hard to pick against, but the way Arkansas is playing right now, they might have a slight advantage at home next week.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: Won vs Vanderbilt 82-78
After missing their game at Texas A&M this week, Alabama survived a scare from Vanderbilt on senior day with the 4-point win, but they weren’t able to clinch the SEC regular-season conference championship outright.
The Crimson Tide still has four more wins than anyone else in the league and with just one loss, they’re a game away from still clinching the SEC regular-season title. With LSU’s big win against Auburn and the off-shooting night against Vanderbilt, Alabama no longer holds claim to the best offense in SEC play. The Crimson Tide are still the best defense in the SEC giving up just 0.912 points per possession and are far-and-away the best team in net rating at +18.52 points per possession.
Jordan Bruner returned in limited minutes against Vanderbilt on senior day, but his return could be a big boost for Alabama. Even with his minimal production in the return, Bruner is still a top-15 player in my SEC player rankings and will be a key piece for Alabama if they are going to make a big postseason run.
Jaden Shackelford also had a big game against Vanderbilt while he and Jahvon Quinerly will be key pieces in determining the ceiling for Alabama. If Herbert Jones can stay out of foul trouble and John Petty Jr. is shooting well, the addition of Shackelford, Quinerly, Bruner, and even Alex Reese make Alabama the great team that they were through the first half of the SEC conference schedule.