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.

SEC Women’s Basketball Power Rankings: 3, 2, 1, Go!

Ole Miss climbs five spots while Vanderbilt drops three. Will anyone beat South Carolina? All of these questions are answered while paying homage to a classic video game.
Jordyn+Cambridge+goes+for+a+layup%2C+as+photographed+on+Jan.+7%2C+2023.+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FVince+Lin%29
Vince Lin
Jordyn Cambridge goes for a layup, as photographed on Jan. 7, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Vince Lin)

SEC play has really shaken up the rankings, as dominant victories and upsets galore have made it impossible to figure out which teams are better than others. We also took an opportunity to shout out some of the best (and worst) characters from a classic video game: Mario Kart Wii. “Why Wii,” you ask? While Mario Kart 8 is fun, Mario Kart Wii is objectively the best in the series, and the one our generation holds most close to our hearts. Pick up a Wiimote, get your Wii Wheel and prepare for the race of your life as we break down what’s going on in the SEC.

1. South Carolina (19-0, 7-0)

Character Comparison: Funky Kong

South Carolina is simply the best college basketball team in the nation. The Gamecocks are 19-0 and haven’t needed to worry about a single game. South Carolina has beaten Mississippi State 85-66 and Kentucky 98-36. Those are massive margins of victory against conference opponents. South Carolina has had one win within ten points, and that was a six-point win against No. 9 LSU. On top of that, six players are averaging over 9 points, with senior center Kamilla Cardoso averaging a double-double. The Gamecocks can flat-out ball. Their sheer dominance can only be rivaled by one man (or ape): Funky Kong. Funky Kong is the definitive best character in Mario Kart Wii. This isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact. Any competitive Mario Kart Wii space, whether that be worldwides or tournaments, is overrun by Funky Kong on the Flame Runner (or Bowser Bike if you’re outside the US). Not only is Funky Kong the best character stat-wise, he’s just cool. Whether it’s the surfboard, the shades or the bandana, Funky Kong is an expressive character with a fantastic vibe. He was so popular that he was finally added back into the Mario Kart universe in the final wave of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s Booster Course Pass, which turned the Mario Kart community upside down. Being the best character in the best rendition of Mario Kart, in my opinion, makes you the definitive GOAT. And Funky Kong is the definitive GOAT. South Carolina has all the rumblings of being the Funky Kong of college basketball, but nothing’s guaranteed without the hardware. We’ll see if the Gamecocks can continue their dominance throughout March.

2. LSU (18-4, 5-3)

Character Comparison: Daisy

After dominating the entire country last year in March Madness, LSU has had a shaky start to conference play. Led by SEC leading scorer and NIL superstar Angel Reese, the Tigers have already surrendered conference  games to Auburn, Mississippi State and South Carolina. Despite this, their losses to Auburn and Mississippi State resulted from the other team playing out of their mind rather than LSU’s poor performance. The Tigers have only lost one nonconference game to #6 Colorado, and their loss to #1 South Carolina was the Gamecocks’ closest loss of the season. Currently ranked 9th in the country according to the AP Poll, LSU’s Mario Kart comparison is Daisy. Alongside Funky Kong, Daisy is the consensus top choice for competitive Mario Kart. Daisy on her Mach Bike is smooth, fast and reliable. Regardless of her short-term performance, professionals still trust Daisy to deliver results. Despite some recent ups and downs, LSU will look to prove it is still one of the top teams in the nation against Florida this weekend and Vanderbilt next week.

3. Mississippi State (17-5, 4-3)

Character Comparison: Toad

In the past two weeks, Mississippi State has had two huge home wins against LSU and Ole Miss. In Mario Kart, the trip down to Toad’s home track, Mushroom Gorge, is nothing short of terrifying. Currently, Mississippi State’s home court, Humphrey Coliseum, is the Mushroom Gorge of SEC arenas. In their victory against LSU, the place was a zoo. However, Mississippi State has not had a perfect start to SEC play. Since the new year, Mississippi State has lost to Tennessee by double digits and Vanderbilt by five. There is a legitimate argument for this team at any spot between 2-6. We have them at three because of their ceiling. Driven by the Senior-led backcourt, featuring all-conference scorer JerKaila Jordan (17.4 PPG) and all-conference facilitator Lauren Park-Lane (6 APG), Mississippi State lacks size (just like Toad) but makes up for it with a versatile offensive attack. They move the ball really well and knock down their shots at a high rate. Against LSU, they shot 53% from beyond the arc and put up 77 points. With a mix of great wins and bad losses, Mississippi State is a team that could come out and beat anyone in the conference but lose to anyone just as easily. Just like Toad, this squad is often overlooked, but can quickly pull it together to compete with the best.

4. Ole Miss (15-5, 5-2)

Character Comparison: Mario

With back-to-back trips to March Madness and a Sweet 16 appearance last year, Ole Miss has developed a level of consistency that is hard to find amongst the constantly shifting SEC standings. Led by the Senior trio of Marquesha Davis, Snudda Collins and Madison Scott, Ole Miss wins the games they are expected to win and loses games that they are expected to lose. The Rebels’ predictability makes Mario the perfect comparison. For someone who knows nothing about Mario Kart, it is safe to assume that Mario is going to get the job done. The same thing can be said for Ole Miss. They are a dependable, defensive-minded and fundamental team. Shooting less than 25% from three this season, Ole Miss is certainly not a flashy team. Despite this, they make the right decisions and execute when needed, just like Mario. Coming off of a very solid win against Tennessee, Ole Miss looks to beat a Vanderbilt squad on Thursday night that has had a tumultuous past few weeks.

5. Tennessee (12-7, 5-2)

Character Comparison: Waluigi

For one of the most fun and expressive characters in the Mushroom Kingdom, Waluigi always has the worst luck. Despite fans begging for Waluigi to return in the last two Super Smash Bros., his exclusion feels like a slap in the face. Tennessee, similarly, is just a product of unfortunate luck. Two games into the season, the Lady Vols suffered the loss of leading scorer Rickea Jackson. In eight games without Jackson, Tennessee was 4-4, with three of those losses suffered against ranked opponents. Since Jackson’s return, Tennessee has gone 7-2 with wins against Auburn, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. For the Waluigi fans who played Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, you felt a sense of vindication when Waluigi became the meta character. It was like all that misfortune, bad luck and disrespect from Nintendo was wiped clean away, finally giving Waluigi the spotlight. Tennessee is in the same boat. The Lady Vols have fought through adversity and are finally being rewarded with a dominant stretch of basketball. Let’s hope Tennessee doesn’t face the same fate as Waluigi and can keep its momentum going.

6. Vanderbilt (17-4, 4-3)

Character Comparison: Rosalina

With 17 wins, this season officially marks the highest win total in the Shea Ralph era, and there’s still nine games left. Outside of the last four games, where the Commodores have gone 1-3, they’ve looked wonderful. After the Mizzou loss, though, Vanderbilt just looks broken. A fourth quarter collapse against Mizzou, a scary two-point victory over Auburn, and another collapse against Tennessee. The Commodores are the new kids on the block, not yet used to the success that they’ve rightfully earned. Rosalina was the new kid on the block as well. A character introduced in Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart Wii was her second appearance in a Mario game ever. She was a wonderful addition to the roster, but her freshness just kept her out of being a top character. With time, Rosalina became a staple of the Mario games, with inclusion as a playable character in Mario Party: Superstars and even Mario 3D World. I think with time, Vanderbilt will adjust to its new spotlight in the college basketball world, rise to the occasion and compete. 

7. Auburn (14-6, 3-4)

Character Comparison: Dry Bones

The Commodores barely beat auburn when the two teams faced off. Between JaMya Mingo-Young’s defense and Honesty Scott-Grayson’s killer instinct as a scorer, the Auburn Tigers are a fun team to watch whether or not they win the game. It’s like using Dry Bones in Mario Kart Wii. He’s not the best character statistically, but he has that flair that just makes him fun to play with. He’s a character you’re drawn to, even if you know you’re gonna rage a bit while playing with him. Auburn is equally as fun to watch, even if it’s not leading to the results you want. The SEC schedule hasn’t been kind to Auburn as the Tigers lost their first three conference matchups. However, the big bad Bowser (or Funky in this article) of South Carolina looms ahead on Thursday, Feb. 1st. The Tigers already beat LSU, The Hustler’s second ranked team. Who says they can’t knock out the No. 1?

8. Arkansas (16-6, 4-3)

Character Comparison: King Boo

Arkansas’s is one of those teams you can’t quite put your finger on. Outside of the loss to AR-Pine Bluff, the Razorbacks seem to do alright. The team split against Kentucky but then annihilated Alabama. Then, when it couldn’t get any weirder for Arkansas, leading scorer Taliah Scott goes out with a back injury and the Razorbacks still manage to go 3-1 without her. If there’s one thing that can be said about Arkansas, it gets the job done, albeit very messy. The same can be said about King Boo. Anyone who plays as King Boo is there to have fun, but they’re also pretty dang good at the game. They’re the type of players to wait at the starting line for a full lap and still come in first. Either that or they’re absolutely horrendous at the game and you know what, Arkansas can look horrendous at times too. Arkansas has an SEC-worst 11.2 assists per game, and an even worse 38.3% field goal percentage, Arkansas needs to focus up because lap three is approaching quickly. With news emerging of Taliah Scott’s return, it seems like the Razorbacks have a star in their inventory ready to use to catch back up to the pack.

9. Alabama (16-6, 3-4)

Character Comparison: Baby Mario

Alabama has been nothing special this season as it has lost to good teams and beaten bad teams. In the SEC, the Crimson Tide are 3-4 with wins against the bottom three teams. They have also seen bad losses at the hands of Arkansas and Auburn. Despite its very poor league play, Alabama performed relatively well in the nonconference games of November. Led by the SEC’s seventh leading scorer, Sarah Ashlee Barker (16.6 PPG), Alabama took down Louisville (ranked 16th in the country) and kept it close with nationally ranked Syracuse and Gonzaga. Averaging 74.5 points per game, Alabama has played well on the offensive side of the floor, but opposing teams have learned to exploit their mere 39 rebounds per game and defensive struggles. This team identity lines them up with Baby Mario. One of the more well-known characters, Baby Mario is known for his speed, but suffers from his weak stature. Alabama’s struggles on the defensive boards remind me of playing with Baby Mario and getting constantly pushed out of the way by Bowser. Alabama must figure out how to compete on both sides of the ball if they want to make a run this year.

10. Texas A&M (15-5, 3-4)

Character Comparison: Koopa Troopa

Texas A&M has been very much up and down to start league play. The Aggies have an impressive 22-point win over Auburn and a surprising 15-point win over Tennessee under their belts. A four-point loss to Georgia and 12-point recent loss to Florida solidify the Aggies in the lower-tier of the SEC. Texas A&M has four top-40 scorers in the SEC. As of late, it seems they are waiting for someone to step up. None of their top-40 scorers are top-20, and in both of their bad losses they went without a 20 point scorer. This brings the comparison to Koopa Troopa. Despite his potential, you frequently see Koopa hanging around the middle of the pack getting pushed around. Koopa just needs to tap into his killer instinct to break through the threshold of mediocrity, but this is a rare occurrence. We’ll see if anyone can step up for the Aggies this weekend in a tough matchup against Mississippi State.

11. Florida (11-8, 2-5)

Character Comparison: Bowser

This Florida team should by no means be overlooked. They have not seen the results they are capable of with close losses to Vandy, Tennessee, Miss. State, and Ole Miss. Despite several bad losses, Florida just beat A&M by 12 and is looking to turn their season around. The problem with the Gators is that they struggle with depth. With two of the top three scorers in the SEC, half of their points are coming from their starting backcourt. If teams are able to shut down Aliyah Matharu and Leilani Correa, odds are they will have a relatively easy time against Florida. This prompts the comparison of Bowser. If Florida’s top two scorers get going, they can compete with anyone. If Bowser avoids red and blue turtle shells, he is often able to power through his competition solely due to his power. One-dimensional, but effective. If Florida can get its scorers going every night, they will be dangerous later in the season.

12. Missouri (11-10, 2-6)

Character Comparison: Diddy Kong

Missouri came into SEC play at 9-4, without any notable wins or any notable losses. But as SEC play progressed, the Tigers sank to 2-6. Missouri has shown to be a middle-of-the-road team that plays a fundamental brand of basketball, which could work in a conference that’s not the SEC — just like picking Diddy Kong. If you wanted to use a middleweight character, you’d pick Daisy, Luigi or Yoshi. If you wanted to pick a monkey, you’d use Funky or Donkey. For everything that Diddy is, there’s a better version of it. Missouri shoots the ball at the third best rate in the SEC, but then attempts the third least field goals in the conference, putting their points per game at the exact middle. Even worse, the Tigers are fourth worst in opponent field goal attempts, and third worst in opponent points per game, which basically means just shooting more isn’t enough to compete. To all the Diddy Kong users out there, there are just better characters that have the same things you want— just choose someone else.

13. Kentucky (9-12, 2-5)

Character Comparison: Bowser Jr.

Record wise, Kentucky is clearly the worst team in the SEC this season. Additionally, no other SEC team has suffered more embarrassing losses than Kentucky this season. With several 25+ point losses throughout the season and a 62-point loss to South Carolina, this Kentucky team has not performed well. Despite the disappointing stats, they have been beginning to pull things together recently. With close wins against Missouri and Arkansas, Kentucky has proven that they aren’t just a free win. A balanced scoring attack led by forward Ajae Petty and guard Maddie Scherr has been the key to their few impressive wins. Their biggest problem this season has been putting points on the board and getting rebounds. They are currently 12th in the SEC in PPG and dead last in RPG. Kentucky needs to box out and focus on possession if they want to turn things around. Success on the boards will open up the offensive end. Kentucky’s comparison, Bowser Jr., has a flair that is hard to describe, but severely lacks in fundamentals. His biggest downfall is his immaturity. To pull things together, Kentucky needs to go back to the fundamentals and see defense and rebounding turn into offense.

14. Georgia (10-10, 1-6)

Character Comparison: Baby Peach

With a 1-6 SEC record and a plus/minus of -114 in SEC play, you could write off Georgia right now. Georgia is dead last in the conference in points per game and third-to-last in field goal percentage, three point percentage and free throw percentage. We wanted to find a clever comparison for Georgia, but after looking at its stats, their comparison is pretty simple: the worst character in Mario Kart Wii, Baby Peach. Who uses Baby Peach? If we wanted to use Peach, we’d use Peach. If we wanted to use a lightweight character, we’d use Dry Bones. All this to say that Baby Peach is just the dullest character in the game, with nothing inherently unique about her in both her stats and her vibe. Georgia’s the same way, with nothing inherently positive since the SEC schedule has begun. Maybe they will prove us wrong and beat South Carolina and in that case, we will play as Baby Peach every single time we boot up Mario Kart Wii. 

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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].
Ty Levine
Ty Levine, Staff Writer
Ty Levine (‘27) is from Westport, Conn., and studies economics, Spanish and film. A writer for the sports section, Ty spends his free time playing pickup basketball and watching "Survivor" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." You can reach him at [email protected].
Vince Lin
Vince Lin, Deputy Videography Editor
Vince Lin (‘27) is from Zanesville, Ohio, and is majoring in computer science. Vince also serves as a graphics and photography staffer. 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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