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: Turn up the music

With March upon us, some teams are aiming to finish strong, whereas others are fighting for a ticket to the Big Dance.
Miguel Beristain
Ezra Manjon drives the ball down the court, as photographed on Feb. 21, 2024. (Hustler Photography/Miguel Beristain)

March is here. As the flowers bloom and the weather brightens, the fun of spring is brought about through music festivals, picnics and even nice walks through campus. However, most importantly, March means madness is coming. The NCAA Tournament, otherwise known as The Big Dance, is set to begin in just a few weeks, with Selection Sunday being on Mar. 17, and what’s a Big Dance without some tunes? For this edition of power rankings, the Hustler ranks the SEC alongside their musical counterparts.

  1. Tennessee 23-6 (13-3)

Musical Comparison: Queen

One of the many keys to rocking a stage and reaching the pinnacle of the music world is starpower. In that same vein, especially in an era of one-and-dones, starpower can make or break a team’s tournament aspirations. Thankfully for both Queen and Tennessee, stars have been born. Freddie Mercury revolutionized performance and catapulted Queen to its immortalized state. In Rocky Top, Dalton Knecht is aiming to do the same by leading the Volunteers to their first ever national championship. If a 39-point outing against No.11 Auburn says anything, Knecht has the ability to take this team to the promised land. A “Sheer Heart Attack” lies in wait for whoever has to face Knecht on his best night. 

  1. Alabama 20-9 (12-4)

Musical Comparison: The Rolling Stones

Alabama and Tennessee are both SEC powerhouses. The margin between the two teams is razor thin, with some slight glaring issues holding the Crimson Tide back. The Rolling Stones, like Alabama, are a staple of excellence but have given way to the rising stars of their respective domains. Queen is much more versatile and complete than their elder counterpart, a vibe reminiscent in the analysis of Tennessee and Alabama. While Alabama’s offense is electrifying with Mark Sears at the helm, the team defense is slacking behind, a possible Achilles’ heel for a program with major aspirations. Still, just as how the Rolling Stones have been an enduring icon for seven decades, Alabama has become a consistent force under Nate Oats. The Tide can still assert themselves down the stretch this season, and everyone should be quite afraid to play them.

  1. Auburn 22-7 (11-5)

Musical Comparison: ABBA

Everyone loves a revival tour, and Auburn’s giving us one for the ages right now. One could argue they’ve been on this tour since 2018, when they finally made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years. Like ABBA, Auburn somewhat turned things off in the eighties, but came back together in the late 2010s, and has been on a great run since. “Gimme Gimme Gimme” a run after midnight.

  1. Kentucky 21-8 (11-5)

Musical Comparison: U2

U2, UK, it just makes sense. They have never left the picture. What can’t Kentucky do? This is a school that just produces hit after hit. John Wall, Anthony Davis, Devin Booker, De’aaron Fox — we can list names for a whole page, and that still won’t do this program justice. U2 doesn’t have as many hits per se, but they do have the same longevity. The band’s been around since 1976, and shows no signs of going anywhere. Kentucky’s consistent stream of talent has kept it above water all these years as well. Kentucky has no obvious best man this year, with Rob Dillingham, Reed Sheppard and Antonio Reeves all taking turns having incredible games. While there’s no clear Bono here, each of these amazing players has just as much talent, and two of them (Reeves and Dillingham) are likely lottery picks, which has become the norm from this outstanding program.

  1. South Carolina 24-5 (12-4)

Musical Comparison: Gotye

This one’s new. South Carolina was bad last year, like most years. If it wasn’t Lamont Paris’s first year, he’d be a goner. At a more prestigious basketball program, he may have been fired regardless. Luckily, for South Carolina, they kept Paris on board, and it’s a great thing they did. For the first time in seven seasons, we’re looking at a ranked South Carolina Men’s Basketball team. Lamont Paris, like Gotye, finally has a hit on his hands. There’s one big concern though. Kenpom ranks USC as the third luckiest team in all of D1. How far USC makes it in the postseason might be entirely dependent on that luck. Furthermore, that luck probably won’t stay with them for next season. This is a team on one-hit-wonder watch and we’d hate to see them turn into somebody that we used to know.

  1. Florida 20-9 (10-6)

Musical Comparison: Maroon Five

Florida is, historically, the number two in SEC basketball. The Gators have their own big names, like Bradley Beal and Al Horford, but they’re still no Kentucky. It wouldn’t be nice to call Maroon Five a lesser version of U2. However, we’re not here to be nice, and they should have tried harder to avoid that title. They have longevity, they have hits, they even have a super bowl, but they lack one key thing: respect. Respect is something built over time, and while Maroon Five is certainly out of time, the Florida Gators still have as long as they need to reach Kentucky levels of reverence. For now, the Gators should be happy with their performance this season, as they’d need to lose out their next three to miss the NCAA tournament.

  1. Mississippi State 19-10 (8-8)

Musical Comparison: The Cure

After spending some time this season in tourney limbo, Mississippi State is seemingly on the good side of the bubble, thanks to a five-game win streak. Even though that win-streak just ended, it ended with a two point loss to Kentucky in arguably the best game of the college basketball season so far. The Bulldogs’ next two games could throw them back in the bubble though, as they just lost to Auburn by 15 and still must face Texas A&M and South Carolina. If they pull through, the Bulldogs hope to improve upon their performance last year, which ended in a brutal two-point loss to Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Just like the Cure, the Bulldogs are back on their own little revival tour and it’s hard not to love these guys.

  1. Texas A&M 16-13 (7-9)

Musical Comparison: Blink-182

Texas A&M has delivered an utterly bizarre but interesting season. Currently floating around the bubble, the Aggies have had amazing wins against No. 4 Tennessee, No. 8 Iowa State, No. 16 Kentucky and No. 24 Florida but have also had terrible losses against Vanderbilt, LSU, and Arkansas twice. A&M can get shocking wins but never compile them into a truly magnificent season. Blink-182 has tons of great singles, from “All the Small Things” to “I Miss You” but for some reason lack that iconic classic album that many other bands can garner. While the singles stick out immensely, the albums don’t hold up in relation, a style that can be evident for the Aggies as well. During some contests, they look to be a formidable opponent but other times they just fall flat.

  1. LSU 16-13 (8-8)

Musical Comparison: Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O’Neal has been making music the past few years, both under his own name and under the alias Diesel. It’s an interesting development to say the least, but more importantly it’s a fun one. LSU this year has also been interesting and fun. They’re playing better than usual, even if they’ve lost their shot at making the NCAA tournament without a crazy SEC tournament run. Just like Shaq’s music career, LSU’s Men’s Basketball team is more of a side project to the school’s main gigs: football and the women’s basketball. Still, they’re a very fun team to watch and they’ve handed losses to some good teams, beating South Carolina in Columbia and Kentucky back home in Baton Rouge a few days later. Like Shaq, their most famous alumni, it’s impossible not to cheer for these guys, because they’re just so fun to watch.

  1. Ole Miss 20-9 (7-9)

Musical Comparison: The Smiths

Ole Miss started the season hot. They also had what some professionals would call a “cupcake schedule.” Their most impressive win before SEC play was against Memphis, a team which snuck its way into the rankings by winning an incredible number of close games. Ole Miss has now found itself on the outside looking in, with its only shot at making the tournament coming from winning out its conference. Like The Smiths, Ole Miss hasn’t strayed from controversy. Last season, Ole Miss controversially hired Chris Beard as their new head coach right after Texas fired him. It’s hard to root for Ole Miss, who earned all their clout this season beating bad teams, and lost it all by failing to perform in conference play. Mississippi State lacks all of Ole Miss’ controversy, and plays better basketball, in the same way that The Cure lack all of The Smiths’ controversy, and made better music.

  1. Georgia 15-14 (5-11)

Musical Comparison: The Foo Fighters

The University of Georgia, like Dave Grohl, has a much better project in its name. Maybe we’re biased as Nirvana fans, but Nirvana is a lot better than the Foo Fighters, and Georgia’s football program is a lot better than their men’s basketball team. This team has just been pretty boring, with no good wins or bad losses on their schedule. The most interesting thing about this Georgia team has been its series with LSU, in which they won 68-66 and lost 67-66. Maybe there’s something we just don’t understand about the appeal of Georgia Basketball, but it’s hard to care when Georgia football is just so dang good. Maybe there’s something we just don’t understand about the appeal of the Foo Fighters, but it’s hard to care when Nirvana is just so dang good.

  1. Arkansas 14-15 (5-11)

Musical Comparison: Smash Mouth

Somebody once told me that Arkansas was a real contender in the conference. After three straight tournament appearances, two of which ended up with the Razorbacks in the Elite Eight, the preseason notion was that Arkansas was a true threat. Tramon Mark and Khalif Battle were posed to be stars, and the Fayetteville faithful would be thrilled with what was to come. A notable upset win came against No. 10 Duke early on this season, but from there, it has been a downward spiral, most recently emphasized by a deflating loss to Vanderbilt. Smash Mouth themselves are well known for “All Star” but other than that, there is nothing to show, just like how Arkansas will have nothing to display for this season but untapped potential and one dazzling win. 

  1. Vanderbilt 8-21 (3-13)

Musical Comparison: Imagine Dragons

Upon reflection, what genre are the Imagine Dragons? Are they rock? Pop? Alt-rock? Electropop? The world may never know. Just like Imagine Dragons’ creative direction outside of just trying to churn out radio hits, Vanderbilt’s trajectory is questionable. The program is at a crossroads and with tournament hopes long gone, there is more time for contemplation on what the future will hold for Vanderbilt. The team has some hits this year with considerably good performances against Texas A&M and Arkansas. Still, will the Commodores keep aiming for momentary glory or actually put together something that leaves a lasting impression going forward?

  1. Missouri 8-21 (0-16)

Musical Comparison: Nickelback

What bigger source of jokes lie in the music world than from Nickelback? Sure, maybe Chad Kroeger and Co. have a decent song or two, but the reputation of Nickelback is now forever rooted in comedy. The only thing as meme worthy in the SEC this season has been Missouri head coach Dennis Gates due to his fiery sideline antics and one unusually rash post game presser. In their first season under Gates, the Tigers went 25-10 and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Now, they are 8-21 and 0-16 in the conference, staring ridicule in the eye. Although it may not always be the Nickelback of the SEC, for now, Missouri is forced to bear this burden.

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About the Contributors
David Hernandez
David Hernandez, Lead Sports Analyst
David Hernandez (‘26) is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences double majoring in political science and law, history and society with a minor in communication studies. Outside of writing for The Hustler, you can find him playing basketball, catching up on his favorite shows and mourning the tragedy that is New York sports. He can be reached at [email protected].
Noah Sosinsky
Noah Sosinsky, Staff Writer
Noah Sosinsky (‘27) is majoring in public policy and mathematics and minoring in data science in the College of Arts and Science. He's a big fan of Vanderbilt sports, and can be caught in the front row of the student section at almost every basketball game. He can be reached at [email protected].
Miguel Beristain
Miguel Beristain, Senior Staff Photographer
Miguel Beristain (’24) is a philosophy and cellular and molecular biology double major in the College of Arts and Science from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. When not shooting for The Hustler, he can usually be found playing Magic the Gathering, exploring new restaurants or practicing guitar. He can be reached at .
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