With conference play well underway, it’s time to unveil our first batch of conference power rankings.
The SEC’s depth has been on display during the early stretch of conference play. The typical power, Kentucky, has shown numerous chinks in its usually invincible armor, while up-and-comers Texas A&M and South Carolina have been the conference’s strongest teams thus far. Six teams are 3-2 or better in the standings and another five teams are bunched up at 2-3.
Even some of the worst teams in the SEC have come to play. Alabama knocked off South Carolina to ruin the Gamecocks’ perfect season. Mississippi State is in the SEC’s cellar, but has lost three of its last four games by single digits.
Without further ado, here’s the first batch of our SEC Country power rankings:
1. Texas A&M (15-2, 5-0)
Last week’s results: Beat Florida 71-68, beat Georgia 79-45
Texas A&M is the class of the SEC at the moment. After winning their last three conference games by single-digit margins, the Aggies thumped Georgia by 34 points on the road. The beauty of Texas A&M is its depth. Three Aggies led the team with 12 points and 11 players made at least one basket against the Bulldogs. Alex Caruso, Jalen Jones and Danuel House represent the SEC’s “Big Three.”
2. South Carolina (16-1, 3-1)
Last week’s results: Lost to Alabama 73-50, beat Missouri 81-72
South Carolina suffered its first defeat this season in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Wednesday, but bounced back nicely with a routine victory over Missouri. The Gamecocks don’t possess much flash, but they can grind opponents out. South Carolina has allowed an average of 69.8 points in four conference games. This upcoming week features two stiff road tests against Ole Miss and Tennessee.
3. Kentucky (13-4, 3-2)
Last week’s results: Beat Mississippi State 80-74, lost to Auburn 75-70
The road seems to be Kentucky’s kryptonite. The Wildcats have dropped three of their four true road games this season. The latest loss came against an Auburn team that lost by 18 points to Vanderbilt four nights prior. Kentucky shot 34.7 percent from the floor and allowed Auburn to make 12 3-pointers. Sophomore guard Tyler Ulis had a legendary performance, finishing just shy of a triple-double however, with 17 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
4. LSU (11-6, 4-1)
Last week’s results: Beat Ole Miss 90-81, beat Arkansas 76-74
LSU has turned it on after a lackluster non-conference performance. The Tigers are 7-2 with Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor Jr. in the lineup. LSU has shown signs of being the team many expected it to be throughout conference play and is second in the SEC with a 4-1 record. LSU will hit the road this week with a big game against Texas A&M followed by a possible trap game against Alabama.
5. Florida (11-6, 3-2)
Last week’s results: Lost to Texas A&M 71-68, beat Ole Miss 80-71
Florida quietly sits at 3-2 in the SEC and the Gators have been quite competitive throughout Mike White’s inaugural season. Florida played Texas A&M down to the wire in a losing effort before taking down Ole Miss in its second road game of the week. The Gators will need to find some more scoring if they hope to stay in the NCAA Tournament hunt, as they rank 11th in the conference with an average of 72.9 points per game.
6. Vanderbilt (10-7, 2-3)
Last week’s results: Beat Auburn 75-57, beat Alabama 71-63
The Commodores scored their first two conference victories of the year after starting with three consecutive losses. Once a team deemed by some experts as a Final Four sleeper, Vanderbilt has struggled to find consistency. The Commodores will get an opportunity to score their first victory over a ranked opponent when they travel to Lexington, Ky., to battle with Kentucky.
7. Arkansas (9-8, 3-2)
Last week’s results: Beat Missouri 94-61, lost to LSU 76-74
The Razorbacks ended their three-game winning streak in a nail-biter against LSU, but Arkansas has shown improvements in January. The Razorbacks lead the conference in scoring with an average of 83.8 points per game. They will play two games in three days this week starting with a visit from Kentucky.
8. Ole Miss (12-5, 2-3)
Last week’s results: Lost to LSU 90-81, lost to Florida 80-71
It was a rough week for Andy Kennedy’s squad with two losses against beatable opponents. The Rebels are led by the conference’s leading scorer, Stefan Moody, who is averaging 24.3 points per game. Ole Miss has a chance to get back on track when it welcomes South Carolina to Oxford, Miss., on Tuesday night.
9. Georgia (9-6, 2-3)
Last week’s results: Beat Tennessee 81-72, lost to Texas A&M 79-45
The Bulldogs were embarrassed at home by Texas A&M last weekend, but a win over Tennessee this week gives Georgia the ninth spot. Georgia has been offensively challenged at times this season and ranks 12th in the conference with an average of 70.1 points per game.
10. Auburn (8-8, 2-3)
Last week’s results: Lost to Vanderbilt 75-57, beat Kentucky 75-70
The Tigers snapped an 18-game losing streak to Kentucky at Auburn Arena on Saturday in what will probably be the team’s biggest victory of the season. It was a wild week for the Tigers, who were thumped by Vanderbilt before knocking off the Wildcats. Auburn will have a ton of momentum entering a rivalry game with Alabama.
11. Alabama (10-6, 1-3)
Last week’s results: Beat South Carolina 73-50, lost to Vanderbilt 71-63
The Crimson Tide scored its first SEC victory with style, knocking off previously-undefeated South Carolina at Coleman Coliseum. That momentum diminished quickly after Alabama couldn’t defeat Vanderbilt on the road over the weekend. Avery Johnson’s squad will play Auburn and LSU this week in a pair of crucial SEC West contests.
12. Tennessee (9-8, 2-3)
Last week’s results: Lost to Georgia 81-72, beat Mississippi State 80-75
Rick Barnes’ team finally earned its first road victory of the season against Mississippi State on Saturday. The Volunteers are third in the conference with an average of 79.6 points per game. The good news for Tennessee is that it will play two pivotal games at home against Vanderbilt and South Carolina this week.
13. Mississippi State (7-9, 0-4)
Last week’s results: Lost to Kentucky 80-74, lost to Tennessee 80-75
It’s been a tough start to conference play for Ben Howland’s group. The Bulldogs have been competitive in three of their four conference contests but cannot get over the hump. Mississippi State heads to Gainesville, Fla., on Tuesday to face Florida before hosting rival Ole Miss.
14. Missouri (8-9, 1-3)
Last week’s results: Lost to Arkansas 94-61, lost to South Carolina 81-72
The last week was a rough one for the Tigers. First, the program implemented a self-imposed postseason ban for this season following an NCAA investigation. Then, the Tigers followed it up by losing by 33 points on their home floor to Arkansas. The Tigers showed a bit more fight against South Carolina, but it was all in a losing effort. Things don’t get any easier for Mizzou as the Tigers will host Georgia before consecutive road games against Texas A&M this weekend and Kentucky the week after that.