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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

SEC men’s basketball power rankings: week of Jan. 23

Blake Dover
January 10, 2017 – Coach Bryce Drew argues with a ref during the Commodores’ 87-81 loss to Kentucky in Memorial Gym.

We’re closing in on the halfway point in SEC play, and much remains the same from our last rankings: Kentucky is running away with the title, the middle of the league is a mess and Missouri is terrible. Here’s how the teams stack up.

1. Kentucky (17-2, 7-0 SEC)

Kentucky is so much better than the rest of the SEC that it just beat the second-best team by 16 at home in a game that was closer than it should have been. South Carolina’s P.J. Dozier missed what has to count as one of the league’s “showcase” games (yuck) on Saturday, but it’s unlikely his presence would have made much of a difference. Here’s my hot take of the day: Kentucky will go undefeated in SEC regular-season play, then will fail to make the Final Four.

2. South Carolina (15-4, 5-1)

The Gamecocks’ loss to Kentucky was their first with star guard Sindarius Thornwell in the lineup; the other three losses came with Thornwell suspended. I’ll be interested to see whether the NCAA tournament committee gives USC some leeway for those losses (like it would in the case of an injury) or not. South Carolina should cruise until a February 1 home game with Georgia, but its only remaining chance for another signature win before the SEC tournament comes at Florida on February 21.

3. Florida (14-5, 5-2)

It’s time to sound the alarm bells for Florida. The Gators have a nice road win over Arkansas, and that’s about it. Now that they’ve lost a questionable game to Vanderbilt at home, the lack of quality wins becomes a concern. Since Florida still has two games against Kentucky, it will be tough for it to catch South Carolina for second place.

4. Arkansas (15-4, 4-3)

Road games against Vanderbilt and Oklahoma State this week for Arkansas will be huge. Both opponents rank in the top 100 in both RPI and KenPom ratings, and winning either game would represent a nice addition to the resume. If the Hogs can win both, they will start to approach “lock” status when it comes to the NCAA tournament. Knowing Arkansas’ traditionally poor play on the road, however, a 2-0 week is unlikely.

5. Georgia (12-7, 4-3)

Poor Georgia. The Dawgs got (in my opinion) cheated out of a last-second shot opportunity at Texas A&M due to a clock malfunction. UGA has not beaten an NCAA tournament team and has a bad loss at Oakland. It’s looking like another year of hosting the NIT in Athens, which is unfortunate, because Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier certainly are not NIT players. Too bad head coach Mark Fox has failed to put a good roster around his two stars.

6. Tennessee (10-9, 3-4)

A 10-9 team at No. 6, you say? Yep, that’s the SEC for you. Tennessee does rank just outside the top 50 in both RPI and KenPom, however, so the Volunteers are plenty better than their record. I was tempted to say UT’s home game against Kentucky on Tuesday could be interesting, but imagining Bam Adebayo against the undersized Volunteer front line made me rethink that.

7. Mississippi State (12-6, 3-3)

I still don’t really have anything to say about Mississippi State. MSU’s offense and defense are equally mediocre, and I already talked about Quinndary Weatherspoon last time. Moving on…

8. Vanderbilt (9-10, 3-4)

Vanderbilt’s two-game win streak at Florida represents enough of a reason for me to link you to this beautiful video. The block, the shot, the popcorn… It’s all perfect. I think the ‘Dores will split their two tough home games against Arkansas and Iowa State this week (with ISU likely doing it big for the Big 12, as former Baylor savant Taurean Prince once said), so of course that means Vanderbilt will either go 2-0 or 0-2. In the meantime, I’ll use this medium to point out that Nolan Cressler is having an outstanding season. All of Cressler’s offensive statistics are good (57 percent from two, 42 percent from three, low turnover numbers and nice assist numbers for an off-guard), plus he’s done a capable job rebounding the ball when Bryce Drew plays him at power forward. Cressler’s a bit limited defensively, but overall he’s excelled in his role.

9. Ole Miss (12-7, 3-4)

Ole Miss is somehow tied with Missouri for the worst offense in conference play. The Rebels’ home game against Baylor and its elite defense on Saturday looks like a mismatch. But I’ve heard the new arena in Oxford has a Steak ‘n’ Shake in it, so major points for that.

10. Texas A&M (10-8, 2-5)

The Aggies can’t hit threes, turn the ball over like crazy and miss their foul shots to boot. Freshman big man Robert Williams is a fun player to watch if you haven’t yet, but, unfortunately for A&M, he’ll probably be off to the NBA at the end of the year. Maybe the Aggies can convince their coaches to let them get Steak ‘n’ Shake after their game at Ole Miss on Wednesday.

11. Alabama (11-7, 4-2)

Yes, I know Alabama just got blown out at Auburn on Saturday. But too bad; these are my power rankings, and I make the rules. Alabama beat Vanderbilt, which blew out Auburn toward the beginning of conference play, and the whole season counts. Similarly, Alabama ranks higher in KenPom and has a defined strength: its defense. The Tide have played the easiest schedule in the conference so far, so the 4-2 record is misleading. I still say they’re better than Auburn, though.

12. Auburn (13-6, 3-4)

Neither Auburn’s offense nor its defense stand out, and its 13-6 record was mostly built off of wins against bad teams. There’s a very high likelihood that the Tigers will go 0-2 this week in road games against South Carolina and TCU, and that should help justify this ranking.

13. LSU (9-9, 1-6)

LSU almost beat Auburn last week on the road, but it’s lost five straight. If it weren’t for the SEC’s unnecessary decision to take all 14 teams for its conference tournament, LSU wouldn’t even be heading to Nashville in March.

14. Mizzow (5-13, 0-6)

Missouri is 6-36 in its last 42 SEC games. Ouch.

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Blake Dover, Author

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