COVID has reared its ugly head again and is impacting college basketball games around the country. Tennessee had a game against Memphis canceled. Alabama had to scramble to find an opponent for Tuesday night. Kentucky played North Carolina instead of Ohio State in a showcase in Las Vegas.

But, the game goes on. And there were plenty of interesting results around the SEC last week.

As conference play draws ever closer, the weekend of nonconference action led to some major shakeups in the weekly power rankings.

Here’s a look at how the 14 SEC men’s hoops squads stack up as we approach Christmas:

14. Georgia (5-6 overall, Last week: 13)

This Bulldogs team is just way too thin to be consistently competitive without Jailyn Ingram. I predicted a couple of weeks ago that George Mason could be a problem for Georgia, and that was proven to be correct, as the Dawgs fell 80-67 at home before bouncing back against Western Carolina on Monday night. They should handle their business against ETSU on Wednesday, too, but don’t expect much from the Bulldogs in SEC play.

13. Mizzou (6-5, LW: 14)

Just when I was ready to completely write off the Tigers, they go and pull off a nice 83-75 win over a tough Utah team in Columbia. Big man Kobe Brown was sublime, scoring a career-high 27 points in only 25 minutes of game action. He also had career highs in free throw attempts (13) and free throws made (11). Brown was unstoppable in the paint:

Boogie Coleman, back in the mix after missing a couple of games, hit a huge 3 when it mattered the most:

That’s some major momentum for the Tigers as they enter Wednesday night’s Braggin’ Rights showdown against a tough Illinois squad in St. Louis. The Illini have been inconsistent this year, so we’ll see if Mizzou can pull off a rivalry game upset.

12. Vanderbilt (6-4, LW: 11)

Scotty Pippen Jr. scored his 1,000th point at Vanderbilt in a win over Austin Peay this past week. Picking up that win was good, because the Commodores face an intriguing game at Hawai’i on Wednesday night. Don’t be surprised if there are some struggles there for Jerry Stackhouse’s squad.

11. South Carolina (8-3, LW: 9)

It was disappointing to see the Gamecocks lose their momentum from a big win over Florida State by getting blown out at Clemson over the weekend, falling 70-56 to their rivals. This week, they should bounce back with a home game against Army, but beating Clemson would have taken this team from afterthought in the SEC to a team with an intriguing resume for the NCAA Tournament as league play begins.

10. Mississippi State (8-3, LW: 10)

The Bulldogs won both of their games last week, but a 69-66 home win over Furman isn’t exactly going to inspire a lot of confidence from me. It is interesting to see how Ben Howland is using big man Garrison Brooks recently, though. He’s been popping out to the perimeter and knocking down some 3s:

He’s 10-for-25 from long range (40%) this year, so we’ll see if that’s something the Bulldogs utilize more moving forward.

9. Ole Miss (8-3, LW: 12)

Welcome back, Daeshun Ruffin! The talented freshman returned from injury against Dayton and all he did was lead the Rebels with 19 points in their 76-68 victory. He is skilled at getting to the rim, even as a smaller guard:

If he’s able to play like that moving forward, he’s the X factor for Ole Miss. We’ll see if he can stay healthy as SEC play approaches.

8. Texas A&M (8-2, LW: 8)

Texas A&M picked up a nice road win at Oregon State on Saturday. Yes, Oregon State has collapsed this year after a deep NCAA Tournament run last year, but true road wins over major conference foes are never easy. Wade Taylor IV was electric, scoring a team-high 19 points and going 5-for-6 from 3-point range:

The Aggies are going to be an interesting team come SEC play. They’ll likely pull off a couple of unexpected upsets, but they’ll also feast on worse teams. We’ll see where they end up in the final standings.

7. Florida (8-3, LW: 7)

Florida continues to underwhelm after a hot start to the season. An 11-point win over USF on a neutral court didn’t do much to move the needle on this team in these power rankings. A Wednesday night home game against Stony Brook likely won’t teach us much, either. We’ll have to wait until SEC play starts next week to find out what this team is truly made of.

6. Arkansas (9-2, LW: 5)

Yikes. Arkansas fell 89-81 at home against Hofstra on Saturday evening. To make matters worse, Hofstra didn’t have its leading scorer, Zach Cooks, for the game. Even so, the Hofstra offense ran circles around the Razorbacks’ defense. Aaron Estrada and Jalen Ray each had 22 points. But this was a big game for former Arkansas Razorback Abayomi Iyiola, who finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds, an assist and a steal.

No matter how you slice it, though, this was an unacceptable loss for a team that made the Elite Eight last season. The Hogs need to get back on track against Elon this week before SEC play starts.

5. Kentucky (8-2, LW: 6)

Kentucky absolutely destroyed North Carolina in Las Vegas on Saturday. The Wildcats were supposed to play the Ohio State Buckeyes, but the Buckeyes had to call off the game due to COVID issues. Meanwhile, UCLA also had COVID issues, so UNC and Kentucky simply played each other instead. Easy fix.

And, easy win for the Wildcats, who cruised to a 98-69 victory. Sahvir Wheeler was electric, scoring 26 points and dishing out 8 assists. Kellan Grady also had a solid game, adding 18 points and making 5 of his 7 3-point attempts.

The key to the big win? Rebounding. Kentucky held a 44-26 advantage over the Tar Heels in that category. Possessions like these are absolutely deflating for opponents:

The Wildcats still have a lot of work to do to be truly elite, but this was a big step in the right direction.

4. Tennessee (8-2, LW: 4)

The Vols had their Saturday afternoon game at Memphis canceled an hour before tipoff due to COVID issues in the Tigers’ program. Obviously, fans weren’t too happy about that, but the Vols put on a scrimmage instead. Now, they don’t have a game until Wednesday night’s huge showdown against undefeated Arizona. The game is in Knoxville, so we’ll see if Tennessee can use its home court advantage to pull off a massive nonconference upset.

3. Alabama (9-2, LW: 1)

After a blowout loss at Memphis last Tuesday, it would have been nice to see the Crimson Tide get back on track with a big win over Jacksonville State on Saturday. Instead, the Tide struggled their way to a 65-59 victory. It was a tough night for Jaden Shackelford, who scored 0 points in 34 minutes of court time. He went 0-for-6 from the floor, 0-for-5 from 3-point range and didn’t attempt a free throw. Fortunately, Keon Ellis was there to provide a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double, or things could have been a whole lot worse for the Tide.

Still, this is a team that beat both Gonzaga and Houston recently. At their best, the Tide can beat anyone. At their worst, they can lose to almost anyone. We’ll see if Nate Oats’ team can find some consistency before SEC play starts.

2. LSU (11-0, LW: 3)

LSU got all it could handle from Kenny Lofton Jr. and Louisiana Tech on Saturday evening. The Tigers trailed 35-27 at halftime before storming back to win 66-57. Tari Eason was the star once again for the Tigers, pouring in a game-high 21 points and snagging 8 rebounds. Darius Days also deserves a mention, scoring 13 points and grabbing a whopping 18 boards. He also had 3 steals and an assist.

In addition to being a threat from long range, Eason can also finish around the basket, drawing fouls or throwing down powerful slams:


He’s become a star just in time for SEC play. The Tigers are going to need him to continue that level of play if they’re going to remain unbeaten for much longer.

1. Auburn (10-1, LW: 2)

In my power rankings this year, I had Alabama at No. 1 the first handful of weeks. Then the Tide lost to Iona. In subsequent weeks, I’ve had Florida, Arkansas and Alabama (again) ranked at No. 1. They all promptly lost. Will Auburn fall victim to the SDS power rankings curse? Wednesday night’s game against Murray State will be a tricky one!

Auburn is riding high, though, after a tough road win against a good Saint Louis team on Saturday night. Walker Kessler had a big game, recording 19 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks. Wendell Green Jr. scored 15 points and dished out 8 assists, including a few to Kessler in the pick-and-roll game:

Baskets don’t get much easier than that for Kessler. Of course, assists don’t get much easier for Green, either. We’ll see if future opponents can shut down that lethal 2-man game moving forward.