SEC play is more than halfway over, and the middle of the league stays average. Read on for this week’s SEC men’s basketball power rankings, where Auburn jumps Bama (War Damn Eagle!) and Missouri gets a pat on the back.
1. Kentucky (18-5, 8-2 SEC)
With De’Aaron Fox in the lineup and healthy, Kentucky is pretty easily the SEC’s best team. Without him, the Wildcats are probably the third best. I’m not particularly concerned about their three losses in four games, both because Fox has been bothered by an ankle injury and because I never considered Kentucky an especially strong national title contender in the first place.
2. South Carolina (19-4, 9-1)
This might not be a popular pick after Florida’s demolition of Kentucky this weekend, but South Carolina still has only lost one game all season with star Sindarius Thornwell in the lineup. Plus, the Gamecocks beat Florida in the teams’ only meeting so far this season. Florida has a case to be No. 2 based on its No. 7 ranking in Ken Pomeroy’s team ratings, but South Carolina would be higher if Thornwell hadn’t been suspended. Also, I think the idea that Florida is the nation’s seventh-best team is completely bogus.
3. Florida (18-5, 8-2)
The Gators’ strong non-conference schedule has them in position to claim a nice seed in the NCAA Tournament, especially if coach Mike White’s crew can pick up two more wins over South Carolina and/or Kentucky over the season’s last six weeks. Florida has both the SEC’s second-ranked offense and defense in terms of KenPom.com’s schedule-adjusted efficiencies.
4. Arkansas (17-6, 6-4)
Arkansas committed a big no-no this weekend for a team anywhere near the NCAA Tournament bubble: It lost to Missouri. The Tigers were previously winless in the SEC and now rank 246th in RPI. Losing to them is no way to build a Tournament resume, and Arkansas’ lack of top-end wins means it’s almost a lock to be seeded far lower than what one would typically expect for an SEC team with such a good record.
5. Tennessee (13-10, 5-5)
There isn’t much separation between No. 5 and No. 11 on this list. Tennessee had snuck onto bracketologists’ bubble lists, but a bad loss at Mississippi State takes the Volunteers out of that conversation for now. Compared to the teams below it here, Tennessee has the highest RPI and KenPom rankings and the best wins (Kentucky, Kansas State, at Vanderbilt, at Auburn and at Texas A&M). As a result UT beats out UGA here.
6. Georgia (13-10, 4-6)
UGA missed a pair of great opportunities over the past week at Kentucky and at South Carolina, falling in overtime to the Wildcats and by two points to the Gamecocks. Georgia’s tough schedule means it could be a candidate to make the Tournament with 13 losses, but it doesn’t have much margin for error.
7. Vanderbilt (11-12, 4-6)
Obviously Vanderbilt just lost to Ole Miss at home, but I think the Commodores probably have the better team, and they’ve got infinitely better wins. The Rebels’ best wins are at Vanderbilt and at home against Tennessee; the ‘Dores won at Florida and beat Iowa State (which just broke Kansas’ 54-game home win streak). Vanderbilt needs to at least split road games this week at Arkansas and Missouri to keep from moving down.
8. Ole Miss (14-9, 5-5)
Ole Miss needs to get some good wins. It still has chances at Arkansas, at Tennessee this week, at Arkansas and at home against South Carolina. Head coach Andy Kennedy should get significantly more credit than he does, however, because Ole Miss doesn’t seem like an easy place to win due to factors like location and support for basketball.
9. Auburn (15-8, 4-6)
As reward for sweeping Alabama for the first time since 2009, Auburn gets to jump its in-state rival in the Hustler’s power rankings. Somebody send Bruce Pearl a commemorative plaque.
10. Alabama (13-9, 6-4)
Alabama has played by far the weakest conference schedule, as it hasn’t faced any of the top three teams and has played four games combined against Mississippi State, LSU and Missouri. I imagine Arkansas would be pretty excited to see the Tide in the No. 4-vs.-No. 5 SEC Tournament quarterfinal matchup in a few weeks.
11. Mississippi State (14-8, 5-5)
It’s a shame that we couldn’t get a Ben Howland-Jamie Dixon former Pitt coach matchup between MSU and TCU in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Maybe next year.
12. Texas A&M (12-10, 4-6)
The Aggies have a relatively light finish to their conference slate, aside from matchups against Florida and Kentucky. With their poor outside shooting, however, a .500 league record is unlikely.
13. LSU (9-13, 1-9)
LSU now owns the SEC’s longest losing streak, having lost eight straight conference games going back to a road win over Mizzou on January 4. The Tigers rank 256th nationally in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com, despite having three players standing 6’10” or taller to (theoretically) protect the paint.
14. Missouri (6-16, 1-9)
Congratulations to Missouri for earning its first SEC win of the year over Arkansas this weekend!