The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

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.

Women’s Basketball SEC Power Rankings: New and familiar contenders

Following the inaugural ACC-SEC Women’s Challenge, the Hustler ranked where all 14 teams stand four weeks into the season.
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Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt ahead of its game against NC State on Nov. 29, 2023. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

For the first time, the entire SEC took part in a nonconference women’s basketball challenge against the ACC, coinciding with the men’s ACC-SEC Challenge also happening this week. The result was a tie, with both conferences winning seven of the 14 games. With strong teams and NCAA Tournament contenders all throughout the league nearly a month into the season, the Hustler took the opportunity to rank where all 14 teams stand right now.

1. South Carolina Gamecocks (6-0)

The Gamecocks are the unanimous No. 1 team in the country in this week’s AP rankings, and it’s not hard to see why. They’ve pounded five of the six teams they’ve played so far by at least 29 points, including two ranked teams. Dawn Staley’s team crushed Mississippi Valley State 101-19. South Carolina currently has five players who are averaging more than 10 points per game, something that was too much for its Thursday opponent North Carolina to handle, as the Gamecocks beat the Tar Heels 65-58.South Carolina is the National Championship favorite until somebody else proves otherwise. Even in a loaded SEC, the Gamecocks are head and shoulders above the rest.

2. LSU Tigers (8-1)

The defending national champions are off to a fine start despite losing their season opener to No. 20 Colorado. However, it’s hard not to be distracted by the drama involving superstar Angel Reese. Just a few months after Reese was named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, the junior was benched in the first half of LSU’s Nov. 14 game against Kent State and missed four games after that. She didn’t even travel for LSU’s participation in the Cayman Islands Classic over Thanksgiving. Charismatic head coach Kim Mulkey has been opaque about Reese’s conspicuous absence, attributing it to “locker room issues.” For her part, Reese has also been mostly silent, except for a brief statement on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Please don’t believe everything you read,” Reese said.

However, Reese did return in LSU’s Thursday win over No. 9 Virginia Tech, posting 19 points and 9 rebounds in the 82-64 victory.

3. Ole Miss Rebels (6-2)

The Rebels had won five straight games No. 19 spot in the AP rankings, including wins over Howard, Michigan and Arizona at the Battle4Atlantis in the Bahamas. However, Ole Miss fell at home Wednesday night to No. 22 Louisville 64-58. The Rebels are a balanced team, with Marquesha Davis, Snudda Collins, Madison Scott and KK Deans all averaging between 9 and 12 points per game. While there is a pretty clear gap between the top two in the SEC and everyone else at the moment, Ole Miss is one of the deepest teams in the conference and could be a serious contender down the line.

4. Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-1)

Mississippi State has been one of the two most positive surprises in the SEC so far along with Vanderbilt: both had their undefeated starts ended Wednesday night. Mississippi State fell 74-68 to Miami in Starkville. The Bulldogs’ success has been led by senior guard Jerkaila Jordan, who’s averaging 17.2 points and shooting 47.2% from the field. Fellow guard Lauren Park-Lane has been running the point, and has recorded 10 assists in three of the Bulldogs’ last four games. Now in the second season of head coach Sam Purcell, the Bulldogs are looking for a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance after previously not making the dance since 2019.

5. Arkansas Razorbacks (7-1)

Arkansas won its first six games before dropping a Nov. 25 contest to Marquette 74-58. The Razorbacks’ scoring is led by star freshman Taliah Scott, one of the top national prospects in the 2023 recruiting class and the Florida Gatorade Player of the Year in high school. Scott got off to a flying start to her college career, scoring over 20 points in five of her eight games so far while averaging 23.2, the most in the SEC. In one of the biggest results of the ACC-SEC Challenge, the Razorbacks knocked off No. 15 Florida State 71-58 in Tallahassee Thursday night.

6. Tennessee Lady Volunteers (4-3)

The Lady Vols have played one of the toughest schedules in the conference so far, but still are the second team in the SEC to reach three losses. Tennessee blew a 15-point halftime lead Wednesday against No. 18 Notre Dame at home. The Lady Vols have also lost ranked matchups to Florida State and Indiana, but did pick up a win over No. 22 Oklahoma. Tennessee committed an abysmal 17 turnovers Wednesday, leading to its collapse in the second half. With yet another ranked matchup with No. 16 Ohio State coming up on Dec. 3, the Lady Vols have one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the country. For now, it’s too early to say whether these losses will make Tennessee stronger in the long run or just weaken its NCAA Tournament resume.

7. Alabama Crimson Tide (7-2)

The Crimson Tide have started out the season hot, winning seven of their first nine, including a gritty win over No. 22 Louisville. Despite being unranked, the Crimson Tide have built a strong early-season resume and received votes for this week’s AP Poll. Alabama has been led by guard Sarah Ashlee Barker, who has averaged 15.6 points per game at the head of Alabama’s offense. Shooting nearly 60% from the field on the season, Barker is a bigger guard who has used her size and craftiness to get high-percentage shots. Despite the hot start, the Crimson Tide have shown a weakness in moving the ball: they average 11.6 assists per game as a team, the third-worst mark in the SEC. Starting to get everyone involved will be crucial as the Crimson Tide round the corner and head for conference play.

8. Vanderbilt Commodores (7-1)

Fresh off two wins at the South Point Shootout in Las Vegas, Vanderbilt had its first loss Wednesday night at No. 5 NC State 70-62. Despite the defeat, there are way more positives than negatives right now in Nashville. The Commodores were named ESPN.com’s Team of the Week on Nov. 27 due to their best start since 2011-12. They played a fairly even game on the road against one of the best teams in the country Wednesday, winning the fourth quarter as well. Jordyn Cambridge has been a superstar for Vanderbilt, leading the SEC with an average of 4.5 steals per game while also averaging 14.8 points and 4.8 assists per game. The Commodores next host Louisiana Tech on Sunday, Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. CST at Memorial Gymnasium.

9. Texas A&M Aggies (6-1) 

If there’s one thing to know about the Aggies heading into conference play, it’s that they’re one of the most athletic, physical teams in the country. Through six games, the Aggies currently have three players — Lauren Ware, Janiah Barker and Aicha Coulibaly — averaging over seven rebounds per game. Defensively, Ware averages 2.9 blocks per game, a mark good for third-best in the SEC. The physicality has led to two wins of over 40 points thus far, and should make the Aggies one of the conference’s most exciting teams to watch this season.

10. Georgia Lady Bulldogs (5-2)

Similarly to most of their SEC counterparts, the Lady Bulldogs have started the season nearly flawlessly. After splitting their opening games versus NC A&T and Belmont, Georgia won four in a row before their Thursday loss to Duke, including a 36-point victory over Georgia Southern. Offensively, the Lady Bulldogs have been led by the trio of Javyn Nicholson, Zoesha Smith and former Commodore Demauri Flornoy. Now in her fifth year with the Bulldogs, Nicholson has established herself early on as one of the SEC’s premier post threats, averaging 16.1 points and 9.4 rebounds thus far from the low block. Though the Bulldogs have been rolling as of late, they have averaged the fourth-lowest points per game in the conference (69.2) early on. For Georgia to stay hot when conference play rolls around, coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson will need to find scoring outside of Georgia’s trio.

11. Florida Gators (6-1)

For better or worse, the Gators have shown a propensity to play to the level of their competition this season. Two weeks ago, this almost led to an upset of the No. 15 Florida State Seminoles, but the Gators fell narrowly, 79-75. On the flip side, this has led to the Gators squeaking by Columbia, Purdue and Georgia Tech in their last three games by a combined 15 points. It’s been guard Aliya Matharu who has done much of the heavy lifting for the Gators thus far, averaging 18.6 points per game, second-best in the SEC. The senior also paces the team in assists (3.3) and steals (2.7), truly representing a do-it-all force for the Gators. For head coach Kelly Rae Finley and Florida, finding the right combinations to surround Matharu will be key for the Gators to have success in the SEC.  

12. Missouri Tigers (5-3)

The Tigers have had a bumpy start to their season, winning five of their first eight matchups but falling to both St. Louis and Kent State and narrowly getting by Tennessee Tech in a one-point victory. Scoring has not been the issue thus far for the Tigers, with both forward Hayley Frank (18.2 PPG) and guard Ashton Judd (16.3 PPG) ranking in the conference’s top-ten. Rather, the Tigers’ problems have come on the defensive side, where they let up 70.5 points per game, the third-worst mark in the SEC. The Tigers have been scoring, but equally have not been able to slow team’s down. As they head towards conference play, figuring out their rotations to improve on that side of the ball – even if that comes at the expense of some of their top scorers – will be needed.

13. Auburn Tigers (5-2)

For the Tigers, momentum from a strong three-game winning streak to start the season was halted following two consecutive losses to California and UCF. However, the Auburn did respond with a 83-53 blowout win over Clemson Thursday night. Poor shooting has been this team’s achilles heel thus far; the Tigers rank bottom-four in the conference in field goal percentage, free throw percentage and three-point percentage. While they have looked solid elsewhere, specifically on the boards and defensively, the Tigers’ inability to consistently take advantage of their opportunities have held them back. On the bright side, Auburn will have the opportunity to see some shots fall in a few tune-up games before their SEC opener versus No. 20 Tennessee on Jan. 4.

14. Kentucky Wildcats (3-5)

As the only team in the conference with a losing record, the Wildcats’ season has been nothing but a disaster thus far. After two wins to start the season, Kentucky lost five games on the bounce, including a 29-point loss to No. 5 NC State and a 43-point loss to No. 7 Colorado before beating Boston College Thursday. While its schedule has not been kind early in the season, the Wildcats also failed to take advantage of matchups against Austin Peay and FGCU, falling in those matchups as well. There have not been many bright spots for Kentucky thus far, and its results thus far hint that not much has changed from last year’s 12-19 finish.

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About the Contributors
Frankie Sheehy, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Frankie Sheehy ('24) wrote for The Hustler Sports section and graduated from the College of Arts and Science with majors in economics and law, history and society. He was also the president of the Vanderbilt Chess Club and a superfan of the Chicago White Sox. You can reach him at [email protected].
Anish Mago, Deputy Sports Editor
Anish Mago ('24) is from West Windsor, N.J., and is studying economics and political science in the College of Arts and Science. He previously served as a staff writer for the Sports section. When not writing for The Hustler, Anish enjoys playing basketball and rooting for all Philly sports. He can be reached at .
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