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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 Women’s Basketball Power Rankings: Women’s Basketball meets the gridiron

For this week’s edition of Power Rankings, The Hustler matched each SEC team to the 14 teams in this year’s NFL playoffs.
Vince Lin
Madison Greene lets the ball roll out of bound, as photographed on Nov. 12, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Vince Lin)

As the season has worn on, more and more SEC teams continue to throw their hats in the ring of potential contenders in March. The Gamecocks look as dominant as ever, but LSU and Vanderbilt both suffered their first losses in conference play this past week. After slow starts to their SEC schedules, Auburn, Arkansas and Mississippi State will look to build momentum after impressive victories over the weekend. As we’re reminded every week in this conference, nothing stays the same for too long. On the heels of an exciting Super Wild Card Weekend in the NFL, let’s give every SEC team their playoff football counterpart.

1. South Carolina (16-0, 4-0)

NFL Comparison: Baltimore Ravens

While both South Carolina’s and Baltimore’s opponents have shown cracks in recent weeks, both of these teams seem to get better and better as the season goes on. As Lamar Jackson and the Ravens used this week to get healthy ahead of a Super Bowl push, Dawn Staley and the Gamecocks continued to obliterate every team on their schedule. After winning their first three conference games by an average of 22 points, South Carolina earned its fourth straight victory on Sunday over Kentucky, winning 98-36. It was the fifth game this season they’ve won by 50 or more points. It’s laughable how good this team is. Led by double-double machine Kamilla Cardoso and boasting the league’s best defense, it’s hard to see any team unseating South Carolina at any point this season. 

2. LSU (16-2, 3-1)

NFL Comparison: San Francisco 49ers

After both teams faced adversity earlier in the season, it seems as if the offenses of the star-studded Niners and Tigers are playing their best ball at the right time. Despite a loss to Auburn in its last game, LSU has largely dominated its SEC opponents so far, earning a 3-1 conference record and the No. 10 spot in the AP Poll. Led by arguably the best player in the conference in Angel Reese (20.1 PPG, 11.5 RPG), the Tigers have three players averaging over 15 points per game and have proven to be the offensive juggernaut they were thought to be in the preseason. Both squads will need continued stellar play from their facilitators, G Hailey Van Lith and QB Brock Purdy, if they are to raise a championship banner at the end of their runs. 

3. Vanderbilt (15-2, 3-1)

NFL Comparison: Houston Texans

The new kids on the block. Despite the Commodores maybe being a bit higher ranked than CJ Stroud’s Texans, both of these teams have climbed out of miserable circumstances last year and proven to be amongst the best in their respective conferences. After a perfect start in SEC play, Vanderbilt suffered its second loss of the season on Sunday in a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Missouri. Regardless, Vanderbilt has shown its resolve through the first half of its season, winning multiple games from behind and fighting through injuries, much like Stroud’s Texans. These teams may not end up on top of their conference at the end of the season, but both have proven that they are here to stay. 

4. Tennessee (10-6, 3-1)

NFL Comparison: Buffalo Bills

Both of these teams are playing their best ball as of late. After rough starts, the Bills and the Lady Volunteers have done a fantastic job of recovering and performing in recent weeks. In fairness to both, their early season schedules weren’t exactly cakewalks; the Lady Volunteers have already faced off against five ranked opponents, the most in the SEC. After winning its first three conference games, Tennessee came up short against Texas A&M on the road on a brutal shooting night. Regardless, with both teams finding their form at the right time, expect the Bills and Lady Volunteers to go far in their upcoming postseason runs. 

5. Texas A&M (14-3, 2-2)

NFL Comparison: Kansas City Chiefs

While the Aggies are not necessarily the defending champions, there are some similarities in how they win games with this year’s Kansas City Chiefs. For one, there’s no one way they get it done on offense. With the slight regression of TE Travis Kelce this year, the Chiefs have relied on WR Rashee Rice and RB Isiah Pacheco to help carry the load on offense. Regardless of who has led the way, the Chiefs have remained consistent, as have the Aggies who have dropped just three games thus far. With four players averaging double digit points per game, the Aggies should continue to rack up wins on the back of a balanced attack. 

6. Mississippi State (14-4, 2-2)

NFL Comparison: Detroit Lions

After solid seasons last year for both programs, the Bulldogs and Lions have both taken leaps to be considered amongst the best in their respective conferences. In both cases, their success this season has been the result of a multi-year rebuild. Mississippi State has gotten better in each of the last three seasons. Similar to the Lions, the Bulldogs have every reason to believe that they can compete for a conference championship with an offensive powerhouse spearheaded by G Jerkaila Jordan (17.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG). The Bulldogs will take on the Lady Volunteers in their next game, hoping to capture their third SEC victory in a row.

7. Alabama (15-4, 2-2)

NFL Comparison: Green Bay Packers

For both the Packers and the Crimson Tide, it’s been an up-and-down season so far. Despite an impressive 15 wins thus far for Alabama, a deeper look at their record shows a team that has beat down on mid-major and G5 opponents but has failed to consistently come out on top versus Power 5 competition. In their last game, they scored just 59 points and fell to Arkansas by nearly 20 points. While the Crimson Tide have had no issues scoring the ball this season, they have represented one of the SEC’s worst outfits on the boards and on defense. For Alabama and the Packers to make a run down the stretch, they will need continued excellent play from their facilitators, G Sarah Ashlee Barker and QB Jordan Love. 

8. Arkansas (14-5, 2-2)

NFL Comparison: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

So far this year, head coach Mike Neighbors and the Razorbacks have racked up many wins. However, the amount of wins betrays the quality of them. Arkansas has made a living beating up on bad teams, just as the Buccaneers were able to do this year. The Bucs were able to eke out a division title this past season by simply being more reliable than the terrible teams in their division. Although both are capable of good performances, such as Arkansas’ blowout win over Alabama or the Bucs’ win over the Eagles, both are still somewhat unproven. 

9. Ole Miss (11-6, 2-2)

NFL Comparison: Pittsburgh Steelers

For the past few decades, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been a solid, if not great team. Similarly, for the past few seasons, Ole Miss has been a truly reliable team. This year, despite a poor offense that puts up only around 66 points each game, their dominant defense has led the way by holding opponents to only 55 points every night. The Steelers live by a similar playstyle, with a strong defense supporting a middling, if at times bad, offense. Ole miss may only shoot 23% from three, but with their defense, they are able to stay in games, just as the Steelers often do. 

10. Auburn (12-5, 1-3)

NFL Comparison: Cleveland Browns

In the past, Auburn’s Women’s Basketball program doesn’t exactly have the greatest history, and neither does that of the Browns. Past seasons have seen the Tigers go winless in SEC play and the Browns struggle to win any games at all. However, both programs have seen this year be a different story. With a strong defense holding opponents to 56 points a night, in part due to the nearly 11 steals they force per game, Auburn has been able to put up some good performances this year, including a five point win over No. 10 LSU. However, their offense is likely too weak for them to do any major damage later this season. The Browns face a similar issue, with injuries being the downfall of their offense. Thus, though the team was still good enough to make the playoffs, they were not quite at the level they needed to be to make some real noise. Still, fans of both groups should be thankful for what they have seen this year.

11. Florida (10-6, 1-3)

NFL Comparison: Los Angeles Rams

The Florida Women’s Basketball team in years past has been serviceable, and after a brief downturn last year, they are back as a solid team. Similarly, after some time as a bottom feeder, the Rams are back to being a top team. In a similar vein to Sean McVey, young coach Kelly Rae Finley uses veteran talent to pave the way, much like Stafford on the Rams. Although their defense isn’t dominating, Florida’s ability to generate turnovers keeps them in games. This is similar to how the Ram’s defense is strong enough, with play wreckers like Aaron Donald, to keep them in contests. Though the cores of both programs are aging, they still are solid enough for the time being to be threats in their respective leagues. 

12. Georgia (10-7, 1-3)

NFL Comparison: Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys are a confusing team. On one hand, they have a decent enough defense, coupled with good quarterback play from Dak Prescott and great skill positions. On the other hand, they sometimes forget how to function as a football team. This past weekend, they lost to a young, unproven Packers team, which ended their season. Georgia similarly looks decent enough on paper, forcing turnovers and playing solid defense, but they sometimes collapse in on themselves like a dying star. Whether it be a one point defeat to Ball State or a 40 point loss to Arkansas, it’s hard to tell if Georgia or the Cowboys will bring the requisite effort to any particular game. 

13. Missouri (10-7, 1-3)

NFL Comparison: Miami Dolphins

Offense wins games. Missouri, though certainly not stomping out the competition, has been a solid team this year. This is primarily due to a strong offense with a plethora of shooting options, with the team clocking in at 37% from three on the year. Adding on its positive assist-to-turnover ratio, and you have a team that is set on the offensive end. So why don’t they obliterate anyone in their path? The answer is similar to what it was for the Miami Dolphins. Despite their supercharged offense this year, the Dolphins simply had a hard time stopping teams on the defensive end. Missouri faces a similar conundrum, struggling to keep opponents from scoring, allowing opponents to score nearly 70 points a game. While this is a recipe for short term success, both teams are not built to win. 

14. Kentucky (8-10, 1-3)

NFL Comparison: Philadelphia Eagles

This comparison isn’t really about a similarity in quality between these two teams, but rather a similarity in the kinds of losses each have had this season. The Eagles are undoubtedly a far better football team than Kentucky is a basketball team, and yet, both have a propensity to suffer humiliating losses. Losses on the scale of losing by 62 points to USC for Kentucky or getting blown out in the playoffs by an inferior team that the Eagles beat earlier this year. The list of bad losses goes on and on for both programs, something that proved to be the downfall of the Eagles this year and will likely cause similar results for Kentucky.

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About the Contributors
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 .
Cathal Malin, Staff Writer
Cathal Malin (‘27) is from Chapel Hill, N.C., and is studying economics and political science in the College of Arts and Science. Outside of writing for The Hustler’s Sports section, you can find him watching (or playing) basketball. You can reach him at [email protected].
Vince Lin, Staff Photographer and Graphics Staffer
Vince Lin (‘27) is from Zanesville, Ohio, and is majoring in computer science. Vince is a staff photographer and plans on covering sports and concerts. Outside of school, you can find him at the gym, rowing, lifting weights, playing games with friends or sleeping. You can reach him at [email protected].
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