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.

Men’s Basketball SEC Power Rankings: What teams are worth a binge watch?

With SEC play in the early stages, we take a look at how the field is shaping up, while also providing some show recommendations in the process.
Kadyn Lee
Ven Allen-Lubin shoots against San Francisco, as photographed on Dec. 6, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Ophelia Lu)

With a new semester upon us, some students are realizing that their schedule was a lot easier than expected and thus, have a lot more free time to dedicate to the greatest genre of modern cinema: the network sitcom. So with all this free time, we at the Hustler have kindly curated some recommendations for what to watch, while also recapping the events that have transpired across SEC men’s basketball.

One disclaimer before we start, these are comparisons, not rankings. We’re well aware that some not-so-great shows are above some timeless classics and are in no way saying one show is better than the other. We’re just detailing some aspects we found similar between our picks. And for all The Office fans, we apologize for its omission. If we could’ve found a place to include it, we would’ve.  

1. Auburn 13-2 (2-0)

Network Sitcom Comparison: “M*A*S*H”

The 13-2 Auburn Tigers do everything right. Well, almost everything other than losing to Appalachian State. Following a successful 2021-22 season, the Tigers underperformed in the 2022-23 season. While only being ranked 16th by the AP Poll this week, KenPom considers Auburn the fourth-best team in the nation, with a top-15 offense and defense. Not only that, but the Tigers have extreme depth, with seven players averaging over seven points a game. The team protects the ball well, limits opponents’ field goal percentages and gets consistently good looks on offense. Auburn is a blueprint for how a college basketball team should run, just like “M*A*S*H” is a blueprint for how a sitcom should be made. For all the young bucks who have Hulu, binge “M*A*S*H” as soon as possible. A sitcom that follows an army hospital during the Korean War, this 1970s dramedy features an illustrious cast that performs some of the best comedic and dramatic writing in television history. If you haven’t heard of “M*A*S*H,” this is your motivation to experience it yourself. Auburn and “M*A*S*H” are well-rounded with a deep cast of talented performers that is currently underrated in the scope of their respective fields. They both do all the right things and should be considered as one of the best in their class, even if the casual fan isn’t paying them any attention. But while “M*A*S*H” has nothing left to prove, Auburn is just starting its journey in the SEC. With, in my opinion, a less-than-stellar non-conference schedule, Auburn’s toughest opponents have yet to be faced and if they’re able to continue their dominance until March, they’re an easy final-four pick for my bracket. With a light next few games against LSU, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss; look for Auburn’s matchup against Alabama on Jan. 24th as a true test of their championship hopes this season. 

2. Kentucky 12-2 (2-0)

Network Sitcom Comparison: “The Simpsons”

“The Simpsons’” unprecedented 33-year run as an elite network sitcom is truly remarkable. Homer and Co. certainly have their fair share of haters, but no one can deny their greatness. There are many fans and analysts who despise Kentucky and their tendency to favor the “One and Done” formula, but all John Calipari does is just churn out top 10 teams year after year. This edition of the Wildcats is no different, as they are currently ranked No. 6 in the country and are coming off of a thrilling 87-85 win over the Florida Gators. Kentucky was pushed to the brink by a very good Gators squad, but balanced scoring (five players had double figures) and clutch shooting from Reed Sheppard were just enough to come out with the win. 

This game was par for the course in an offense-heavy and turbulent season for the Wildcats, as they have scored at least 80 points in all but one game this season. Of course, that one loss was at home to UNC Wilmington in arguably the biggest upset of the year so far. Credit goes to the Wildcats for bouncing back after that disaster of a loss, as they have reeled off five straight victories. Despite featuring their usual plethora of NBA-bound freshmen, headlined by the sharp-shooting Reed Sheppard, the Wildcats are surprisingly led by fifth year seniors Antonio Reeves and Tre Mitchell. Reeves is among the best shooters in the country, while the West Virginia transfer Mitchell provides the highly-coveted size and athleticism combo. Mitchell is especially needed on the defensive end, where Kentucky has been one of the worst teams in college basketball this year. With upcoming games against lowly Missouri and struggling Texas A&M, Kentucky has a golden opportunity to iron out their defensive woes. If they are able to achieve even a slight defensive upgrade, this is a national championship favorite. However, if they fail to do so, the Wildcats will be a poor shooting night away from losing to any team in the SEC.

3. Tennessee 11-4 (1-1)

Network Sitcom Comparison: “Seinfeld”

When this article was pitched, Sports Editor Andrew Wilf gave me one stipulation, “Seinfeld” had to be in the top three. And while I agree that “Seinfeld” is an easy pick for the Mt. Rushmore of network sitcoms, I was eagerly prepared to purposely and spitefully go against the big boss. But after watching Tennessee play, I can’t help but draw the “Seinfeld” comparison. You’re welcome Andrew, “Seinfeld” barely sneaks in your precious top 3.

Now to talk about what we’re actually here to discuss: the 11-4 Tennessee Volunteers. When this article was pitched and we began drafting, Tennessee was our easy No. 1. Then they played Wednesday night and lost to Mississippi State 77-72, shooting an abysmal 27.6% from three on 29 attempts. Add that to the fact that Mississippi State led for most of the game and now you question whether or not you trust the Vols long-term. Of course, it’s one game and the true test of success is how the team bounces back against Georgia on Saturday but until then, there’s a cloud of doubt on what was once an undeniably fantastic start to the season. With the negatives out of the way, Tennessee still deserves to be talked about as one of the best. The Volunteers are a team that is well-coached and executes every possession. Like “Seinfeld,” Tennessee is fast-paced but meticulously methodical, allowing plays (and plots) to develop from beginning to end. And like the cast of “Seinfeld,” everyone’s contributing. While Northern Colorado transfer Dalton Knecht is the frontman (the Jerry, if you will) averaging 15.9 points a game—including a career-high 37 in a loss to UNC—he leaves room for his Georges, Elaines, Kramers and even Newmans to perform. Five different Volunteers have scored the team’s high in at least one game this season, all of whom have contributed to at least one win. With a 1-1 conference record, Tennessee needs a win against Georgia to gain some confidence before facing a tough test in Alabama and Florida back-to-back next week.

4. Alabama 10-5 (2-0)

Network Sitcom Comparison: “Friends”

“Friends” is arguably the fastest-paced show in existence, as the show introduces, develops and concludes mini-storylines in the short span of a 20-minute episode. Most of the time, this model works. Directors David Crane and Marta Kauffman are outstanding at creating funny stories and their star-studded crew of actors executes their parts hilariously. However, there have certainly been episodes over the years that have fallen flat on its face. It doesn’t happen often, but with the lack of a consistent storyline, the show is susceptible to an off-night.

The Alabama Crimson Tide are one of the fastest-paced teams in the country, as head coach Nate Oats aims to take advantage of the athleticism advantage that the Tide hold in every game that they play. Most of the time, this works. Led by senior guard Mark Sears, who averages a blistering 19.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, the Tide offense blows teams out of the water. However, when that offense falters even slightly, Alabama’s shocking defensive woes are revealed. This was shown in the Tide’s most recent game against Vanderbilt. Alabama was cruising for most of the first half, with its lead peaking at 18 points. With a few minutes to play in the half, the Tide had a few poor offensive possessions, turning the ball over and missing shots they normally nail. Vanderbilt took advantage of this and went on a massive run, scoring on virtually every possession and cutting the lead to four at halftime. The second half was back and forth, as the Tide just managed to hang on for a narrow 78-75 victory. With SEC play heating up fast, Alabama needs to find some consistency on offense and some sort of solution on defense.​ The Tide are a really good team, but if they aren’t able to survive a short offensive slump, Alabama fans are in for a long season.

5. Ole Miss 14-1 (1-1)

Network Sitcom Comparison: “The Big Bang Theory”

Ole Miss makes the biggest jump, up 7 spots since our last Power Rankings article. However,  that doesn’t take away from their downfalls. The formerly ranked and undefeated Rebels were manhandled this week by the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers 90-64, a loss that questions the legitimacy of Ole Miss’s undefeated non-conference run. Coming into the game at No. 22, Ole Miss has since slipped out of the top-25 of the AP Poll. And while Ole Miss is still considered a top-30 team by the voters, analysts have a different opinion. KenPom doesn’t see the Rebels as a top-30 or even top-50 team, ranking Ole Miss all the way down at 84. This is largely due to its strength of schedule, which KemPom ranked as the easiest in the SEC. As a team, Ole Miss shows it can score the ball. With four players averaging over double figures—and two over 15 points per game—Ole Miss knows how to put the ball in the basket. The team shoots the three ball very efficiently, 40.8% from deep, which is second in the conference and eighth in the nation. It’s had some key wins against NC State and No. 15 Memphis, so Ole Miss should gain some respect. With a strong win against Florida on Wednesday night, where the Rebels scored 103 points, including 59 in the second half, it starts to question if the Tennessee loss would just be considered a bad game. To me, Ole Miss is like “The Big Bang Theory”. You either really love it or you really hate it. Some just don’t know what to think. I believe when it comes to Ole Miss, the conference schedule is going to give us a clearer picture of whether or not the Rebels deserve to be talked about with Kentucky and Tennessee. A strong showing in SEC play could change its comparison from “The Big Bang Theory” to the more endearing and successful “Young Sheldon.”

6. Florida 10-5 (0-2)

Network Sitcom Comparison: “Modern Family

Modern Familyis undeniably a good show. It’s funny, has stayed popular for more than a decade and features many popular characters. However, the show has one major problem. Would you ever choose an episode of “Modern Family over any of the sitcoms ranked higher? Friends is funnier, The Simpsons has more longevity and Seinfeld has the more popular characters. Thus, “Modern Familyis good, but not elite. 

That phrase above is the definition of Gator sports: “Good, but not elite.” It’s like a broken record every year and this edition is certainly no different. Florida is 10-4 and has some solid wins, but what’s their record in their three games against Quad 1 opponents? You guessed it – 0-3. Their loss earlier this week in a thrilling 87-85 contest with Kentucky further drives home the motto. Florida was the better team for most of the day, carrying an eight point lead into halftime and managing to hold a 76-73 edge with 3:10 to play. They then proceeded to go on a two and a half minute scoreless streak in the most important stretch of the game, allowing Kentucky to take a five point lead. The Gators’ finally scored again with 30 seconds left to cut the Kentucky lead to two. It was too little too late, as Kentucky made all of their free throws down the stretch to pull out a victory from the jaws of defeat. Speaking of free throws, Florida also missed 11 of their 29 free throws throughout the contest. This game perfectly epitomizes Florida’s season so far, as they played like an elite team for most of the game, just for a few mistakes in crunch time to squander all of their work. 

Unfortunately for the Gators, their most recent 103-85 loss to Ole Miss possibly marks the start of a tailspin. This game was lost once again due to poor free throw shooting as well as a severe lack of interior defense. Florida can’t stop getting in their own way, which is causing them to severely underperform based on their talent level. With a matchup against Tennessee looming on Tuesday, Jan. 16, the Gators must find their consistency if they hope to defeat one of the SEC’s top teams.

7. Miss State 12-3 (1-1)

Network Sitcom Comparison: “The Middle

For those who aren’t huge sitcom fans, “The Middle blends in with the rest of the above-average sitcoms. It’s fairly funny, has some good characters and is fairly consistent with it’s episodes. However, when you take a deeper look into the main character, Frankie, “The Middle begins to rise above the rest. As the mother of a working-class family, Frankie is an ultra-relatable character who always finds herself as the underdog in life. She’s easy to root for and every once in a while she defies the odds by securing a massive win for her family.

Mississippi State is good enough to be the fun underdog, but are never a juggernaut that attracts hate. This year, it’s no different. Before yesterday, they were 11-3 with some solid wins over Power Five programs (ASU, Northwestern, Rutgers, Washington State) and a really bad loss to Southern. Then, on Wednesday, January 10th, they made their mark on this season with a shocking 77-72 upset of No. 5 Tennessee. Star forward Tolu Smith exploded for 23 points while Josh Hubbard, the Bulldogs’ outstanding freshman, erupted for 25 points with five three-pointers. This monumental win is the type of statement victory that can jumpstart a winning streak, but the Bulldogs will be hard-pressed to continue their success with matchups against Alabama and No. 6 Kentucky on tap. However, if the Bulldogs can manage to keep their foot on the gas against the Tide, the SEC better watch out.

8. Texas A&M 9-6 (0-2)

Network Sitcom Comparison: “Arrested Development”

Texas A&M is 0-2 in SEC play. That’s it. That’s the review.

Well, that’s not really the whole story. It’s worth noting that the loss to LSU was brutal, followed by losing to Auburn, which was expected but still a kick in the gut. The problem with A&M is that it’s losing the important games more than it’s winning them. Right now, the team is 9-6 and spiraling downward. It’s hitting the track that “Arrested Development” went through with Fox. It’s a good show that does many things right—its actors are great, its jokes are clever—but the show just does the wrong things right. It’s not a show meant for network television, which is why it had a resurgence on Netflix, where plots and jokes can be rewound and dissected. Similarly, the Aggies do the wrong things right. Texas A&M is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation—with the best offensive rebounding percentage in Division I, according to KenPom—that also protects the ball well and forces turnovers defensively. However, the team flat-out can’t score in key games. The Aggies are one of the worst shooting teams in the nation, especially from three at 26%. You can’t win if you can’t score and A&M isn’t scoring when it matters. If A&M continues on this downward path, it’s going to meet “Arrested Development’s fate: declining results until an inevitable collapse, one that even a late reskin and reboot can’t fix.

9. South Carolina 13-2 (1-1)

Network Sitcom Comparison: “The Honeymooners

The Honeymooners is recognized as one of the most influential of all time and is heavily underrated. At its peak in the 1950’s, it was one of the best sitcoms in the country and reeled off amazing episode after amazing episode. However, there’s two major reasons that the show finds itself at a ranking far lower than its peak merits. Firstly, the competition that the show faced was extremely lackluster. There were glaring holes in the sitcom world at the time, so Director Jackie Gleason took advantage of her opportunity. Secondly, “The Honeymoonersonly aired for two years. No one knows why the show was discontinued after its ultra-successful debut season, but alas, the decision was made. This means that very few people remember “The Honeymooners’ run at the top of the sitcom world.

For South Carolina Gamecock fans, that story rings far too true. On the back of stellar defense and superstar play from guard Meechie Johnson Jr., the Gamecocks exploded out of the gate for a scorching 14-1 start to the season. Heading into SEC play, U of SC found themselves near the top of the standings with higher expectations than even the most optimistic fan could have predicted. Unfortunately, digging deeper into their blistering start, a glaring hole was found. The Gamecocks played one of the worst schedules in the country, beating merely three Power Five opponents. Even worse, they were pushed to the wire by minnow opponents such as Grand Canyon University, East Carolina and Charleston. This was serious cause for concern and on Tuesday, Jan. 9, the Gamecocks had their bubble burst in a 74-47 loss to Alabama. Considering the Tide’s defense hadn’t held any of their previous seven Power Five opponents to under 75 points, this result is even more pathetic for the Gamecocks. With a tricky, but winnable, pair of games against Missouri and Georgia, South Carolina desperately needs to turn up the jets. If they fail to do so, they risk falling to the same fate as “The Honeymooners — a short-lived peak that is remembered by virtually nobody.

10. Georgia 12-3 (2-0)

Network Sitcom Comparison: “Cheers”

Georgia season’s started rocky, losing three of its first five games before blasting into the sky with a 10-game win streak, which is the longest current streak by a Power Five school. It took Georgia a second to find its footing, but the team found it. It’s almost like “Cheers,” which took about two seasons to really find its place before flourishing with the addition of Woody Harrelson to season four’s main cast. Jabari Abdur Rahim and Noah Thomasson act as the Bulldogs’ Sam and Diane, who are each averaging almost 13 points a game without dominating possessions. But also like “Cheers,” I expect Georgia’s success to take a deep dive. Whereas “Cheers” fell apart with Shelly Long’s departure to the big screen, Georgia’s downfall will be the SEC. With only one notable win against Wake Forest in the second game of the season, Georgia’s lack of competition in its non-conference schedule could leave the team ill-prepared for the talent ahead. Georgia doesn’t do anything particularly outstanding and, on almost all accounts, is an average team. Average teams don’t usually find success in the SEC. While Georgia currently sits at 12-3, expect the Bulldogs to slip just a bit in the rankings when the competition catches up. 

11. LSU 10-5 (2-0)

Network Sitcom Comparison: “Parks and Recreation”

After being at the bottom of the barrel in our last Power Rankings article, LSU has jumped up three spots to No. 11 and is making a case to be even higher on this list. Coach McMahon had a strange season in 2022-23, winning only two conference games in his first season with the Tigers. It looked like that losing trend would continue after losses against Nicholls State and Dayton in games two and three of the season, respectively, leading many to believe this was the same LSU program as last year. This is not the same LSU program we saw last year. An overtime win against Wake Forest in November and two straight SEC wins is putting a much-deserved spotlight on the 10-5 LSU Tigers. The best way I can explain LSU is with the beginning seasons of Parks and Rec. In the first season, we didn’t really know what to expect. It was a little bland and a little boring, but there were flashes of success. Then, in season two, the show decided to add some new pieces to the main cast. The additions of Ben Wyatt (portrayed by Adam Scott) and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) became the beacons of light that added the perfect flair to the show, transforming it into the success we see today. In Baton Rouge, the roles of Ben and Chris take shape in transfers Jalen Cook and Jordan Wright, the team’s two leading scorers. Like Scott and Lowe, Cook and Wright have been successful college players in their respective programs but once they donned the purple and gold, they rose to a new level. Wright has impressed, averaging a career-high in both field goal attempts and points. LSU is still in the early stages of its season, or the second season of its Parks and Rec cycle, where the team is doing everything right, but nothing spectacular just yet. With big matchups coming against Auburn and Ole Miss, LSU looks to shock the world with some major conference wins and rival the greatness of “Parks and Rec’s” memorable third season. 

12. Arkansas 9-6 (0-2)

Network Sitcom Comparison: “The Good Place

I want to say a lot of really great things about Arkansas and their performance this season, but let me first talk about the bad. Yes, they are No. 12 in our rankings. Yes, they don’t do anything spectacularly well. And yes, they did just lose by 30 to Auburn and then by 10 to Georgia right after. But you can’t deny this team is fun. 

The Razorbacks have been very solid this year, winning the games they should win and losing the ones they should lose, leaving them with a 9-6 record. The problem is that most of the Razorbacks’ non-conference games are nowhere near the talent they’ll face in the SEC. So if they par the course, they’re likely going to go on a long losing streak. KenPom predicts a 7-11 SEC finish, which is a large jump from the 9-4 non-conference stretch (which also includes beating Duke. Did I mention they beat Duke?). Arkansas reminds me of “The Good Place,” the four-season NBC sitcom starring Ted Danson and Kristen Bell. The problem with “The Good Place” is that its league is just too good. When you look at the rest of the sitcoms produced by Michael Schur (“The Office,” “Parks and Rec,” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), it just doesn’t compare. It’s not that “The Good Place” isn’t a good tv series—it’s wonderful, uplifting, heartfelt, funny and so many other amazing things—it’s just overshadowed by absolute masterpieces, which is what we see with Arkansas in the SEC. Even Arkansas’ team structure models that of “The Good Place.” The bulk of the weight is carried by their two studs, Tremon Mark and sixth-man Khalif Battle (Danson and Bell) with four strong contributors surrounding them in Kenyon Menifield Jr., Trevon Brazile and Davonte Davis (William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, Manny Jacinto). Then, surrounding those five is a solid group of role players that contribute to team success. Hopefully, like “The Good Place,” one of those role players—particularly starting center Jalen Graham—takes the jump to stardom that D’Arcy Carden took as Janet in the later seasons, which might get the team over the hump and up in the ranking. Either way, Arkansas basketball and “The Good Place” are a fun watch, even if they’re not at the top of their class.

13. Missouri 8-7 (0-2)

Network Sitcom Comparison: “Community”

Missouri has experienced a solid amount of success in recent years, making the tournament in two of its past three seasons and becoming a staple in the mid-tier of the SEC behind the star play of guard Kobe Brown. Entering this season, the expectation was for Missouri to take the next step forward and emerge as an SEC frontrunner. That is a very similar story to the sitcom “Community.” After debuting in 2009, director Dan Harmon ripped off three good seasons in a row, building boatloads of momentum to make the jump into stardom. Instead, the fourth season was an unmitigated disaster. Harmon was surprisingly kicked off the show before the season, meaning that it went in a totally new direction. The scripts were bad, the actors weren’t funny and ratings plummeted faster than was ever thought to be possible. Season Four was so bad that when Harmon (he was rehired almost immediately) wrote the first episode for Season Five, he made up an in-show “gas leak” to explain the character’s behavior in the prior season. 

Unfortunately for Missouri, they have followed this model virtually to the book. After losing Brown to the NBA, the Tigers have taken seven steps backwards this season, with one step for each loss they’ve endured in a brutal 8-7 start to the season. The low point came on November 19th, when they lost at home to Jackson State. With a winnable game against South Carolina on tap for Saturday, January 13th, the Tigers have to right the ship real fast. If they don’t, this season might devolve into their “gas leak season” in a flash.

14. Vanderbilt 5-10 (0-2)

Network Sitcom Comparison: “Joey”

When the iconic sitcom Friends came to its conclusion in 2004, there was a gaping hole in the world of sitcoms. Very quickly, a sitcom emerged that was expected to fill its hole — “Joey.” Featuring Joey Tribbiani, one of the key characters in Friends and a star-studded cast of supporting characters, the expectation was for the new sitcom to build off of the popularity of “Friends. Instead, the sitcom failed to find its own identity (despite the greatness of Joey), was ripped by critics and was discontinued after just two seasons.

For the Vanderbilt basketball program, the expectations for this season were high. They lost some of the stars from last season’s fast-improving team, but brought in what was seen as sufficient talent to replace them. Most importantly, the Commodores returned two outstanding and experienced guards in Ezra Monjon and Tyrin Lawrence. Unfortunately for Commodore fans, the team has not built off of last season, but rather fallen flat on their face. Manjon has still been phenomenal, but the team has been unable to find an identity. They do something well in almost every game, but have been unable to put it all together and win games. The result is a hideous 5-10 record with especially ugly losses to Presbyterian and West Carolina. Head coach Jerry Stackhouse has to find this team’s identity soon, or he is at risk of his contract being discontinued in the very near future.

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About the Contributors
Connor Campbell
Connor Campbell, Senior Staff Writer
Connor Campbell ('25) is a human and organizational development and cinema and media arts major from Staten Island, N.Y. Connor shares a strong love for both sports and film, leading to his interest in "The Ringer" and, consequently, his casual and quippy style of writing. Outside of The Hustler, Connor does freelance photography, runs the social media accounts for Vanderbilt Club Hockey and is the president of Vanderbilt Tap That. You can reach him at [email protected].
Adam Burns
Adam Burns, Staff Writer
Adam Burns (‘27) is from Scottsdale, Ariz., and studies human and organizational development, business and data science in Peabody College. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find him playing sports, spending time outdoors or exploring new places. He is also an extremely passionate Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Diamondbacks fan. You can reach him at [email protected].
Kadyn Lee
Kadyn Lee, Staff Photographer
Kadyn Lee ('26) is majoring in economics in the College of Arts and Science. She is from Atlanta, Georgia and loves photography, The Weeknd and spending time with friends. She can be reached at [email protected].
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