SEC Basketball Power Rankings: Alabama demolishes Arkansas, Tennessee continues to roll and Florida struggles
The top 4 teams in the SEC are starting to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. There are still some other squads that have potential and can possibly work their way into the NCAA Tournament mix, but for now, 4 teams stand above the rest.
Meanwhile, after undefeated nonconference schedules, Georgia and Arkansas continue to struggle in league action.
So, where do the 14 teams stand this week? Here’s a look at the latest SEC men’s basketball power rankings:
14. Vanderbilt (4-6 overall, 0-4 in SEC, Last week: 14)
Another week without a win for the Commodores. Until they win an SEC game, it’s safe to say they’ll remain in the cellar. I remain a fan of Scotty Pippen Jr. and Dylan Disu, but when they combine for 11 turnovers against a team like Tennessee, nothing good is going to happen.
Can the Commodores beat Texas A&M or Arkansas this week (with both games in Nashville)? I’m not holding my breath.
13. Ole Miss (6-6, 1-4, LW: 11)
The Rebels gave Florida a run for its money before a Kermit Davis technical at the end of the game cost them dearly. I just don’t understand how coaches, who demand discipline and perfection from their players, can lose their cool and cost their team a chance at a win like that. He should have issued a personal apology to each guy in that locker room after that loss.
Then, the Rebels followed with a home loss to Georgia. It was Georgia’s first SEC win of the season. Ole Miss has 2 winnable games this week — at Mississippi State on Tuesday night and vs. Texas A&M on Saturday. But this team hasn’t played a complete game all year. If that doesn’t happen this week, 2 more losses are likely.
12. South Carolina (3-3, 1-1, LW: 13)
When the Gamecocks actually play games, they’re a really entertaining team to watch. They gave LSU a run for its money Saturday before coming up short in an 85-80 loss. Keyshawn Bryant, AJ Lawson and Justin Minaya were magnificent, though. Bryant had a career-high 26 points to go with 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. Lawson scored 22 points with 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals. And Minaya had a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double.
This is a dangerous team. If the Gamecocks can build some momentum without having to take another COVID-related break, they could be trouble at Mizzou on Tuesday and vs. Auburn on Saturday.
11. Georgia (8-4, 1-4, LW: 10)
Georgia picked up its first SEC win Saturday, edging out a 78-74 win at Ole Miss. But an 18-point home loss to Auburn earlier in the week soured me even more on this team.
Still, there was some good news. KD Johnson is finally able to play and he’s making an impact. He scored 21 points to go with 7 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 assists and 2 blocks against Auburn and followed it up with a 14-point effort against Ole Miss.
As his role continues to grow, the Bulldogs should become more competitive in SEC play.
10. Kentucky (4-8, 3-2, LW: 6)
Kentucky went from being a feel-good story at the start of 2021 (going 3-0 to start SEC play) back to being a disaster again. And, this time, the blame rests solely on coach John Calipari. His insistence on keeping Brandon Boston Jr. in the game as much as possible is hurting the Wildcats.
Yes, there are other problems, but Boston had a +/- of -13 (meaning Kentucky scored 13 fewer points than Auburn when he was on the floor). Dontaie Allen, who also played 35 minutes against Auburn, was +11.
The problem? Cal has built his brand on getting his top-rated recruits to the NBA as lottery picks. With Terrence Clarke injured, Calipari views Boston and Devin Askew as his potential lottery guys. But when Askew makes passes like this, he needs to be benched:
From 43-41 UK at the 11:19 mark it goes to 56-46 Auburn at 5:36. Three bad turnovers in a row. Two lead to layups. There is no screen on top for the curl, so no pressure on Brooks man to help. Askew assumes he will be open at the top. Bad execution on a set they run to death. pic.twitter.com/FlXxZ8O01m
— David Sisk (@CoachDavidSisk) January 16, 2021
Also, Cal doesn’t draw up many plays to get 3-pointers, but plays like this, which end up with a guy dribbling into an ugly jump shot from the elbow, are OK?
Auburn denied on the perimeter, but Kentucky doesn’t have guards to go by them. The they ice the side ball-screen. UK doesn’t have the shooting ability from bigs on the floor to ghost screen & slip into a pop for a jumper. No threats of paying for pressure. @KentuckyRivals pic.twitter.com/nyt4lfbJDs
— David Sisk (@CoachDavidSisk) January 16, 2021
That’s just bad basketball. But there’s plenty of that going around from everyone on Kentucky’s roster. It’ll be interesting to see how much Boston plays when Kentucky travels to Georgia on Wednesday and hosts LSU on Saturday.
9. Texas A&M (7-5, 2-4, LW: 9)
Beating Mississippi State in Starkville on Wednesday was a nice win, but then the Aggies followed with a disappointing 68-52 home loss against Mizzou. The Aggies have played 6 SEC games and have only scored more than 60 points once (in a 68-66 win over Auburn).
Texas A&M’s opponents have been doing a good job of keeping the ball out of Emanuel Miller’s hands. When they do that, the Aggies have a difficult time scoring. They have 2 road games this week, but they’re against the bottom 2 teams in these power rankings — at Vanderbilt on Wednesday and at Ole Miss on Saturday. We’ll see if the Aggies can get their offense right.
8. Florida (6-4, 3-3, LW: 7)
The Gators needed a 14-0 run and a complete meltdown by Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis to avoid a home loss to the Rebels on Tuesday night. Then, they went to Starkville on Saturday and lost 72-69 to Mississippi State.
Though I think coach Mike White is now on the hottest seat in the SEC, at least big man Colin Castleton is becoming a star. He had 21 points, 10 rebounds and 8 blocks against Ole Miss and followed with 16 points, 7 boards and 6 blocks against Mississippi State.
He takes some crazy shots, but when you’re as hot as he’s been, you can go toe-to-toe with an entire defense and get away with it:
Generally when you have 3-4 guys guarding you, the smart move is to pass.
But Colin Castleton is no ordinary big man. pic.twitter.com/j5minQLdjL
— SDSBasketball (@SDSBasketball) January 13, 2021
His blocks lead to easy offense for the Gators, too:
This one turned into a huge bucket for the Gators in their win against the Rebels:
Castleton is becoming a star. Now, the other Gators need to step up so Florida can start winning. They’ll need great efforts from everyone this week when they host Tennessee on Tuesday night and travel to Georgia on Saturday.
7. Auburn (8-6, 2-4, LW: 12)
This is a completely different team with Sharife Cooper on the floor. After losing his debut against Alabama, the Tigers have beaten Georgia and Kentucky. Cooper led the way against Georgia with 28 points and 12 assists.
Against Kentucky, he was off. He only scored 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting (0-for-5 from 3-point range). He still managed to make an impact on the game, though, dishing out 8 assists, including this perfectly timed alley-oop pass to Devan Cambridge:
Here’s another great lob pass from Cooper, who has a knack for them:
Sharife's late lay in was extremely clutch, but this is was just as crucial.
Under 1:30 left, UK finally made it a one possession game…
…and Sharife breaks out this perfectly placed lefty lob off the bounce from his pocket while shielding off a defender.
ice in his veins pic.twitter.com/p8hYcls56L
— Drew (@orangeanddrew) January 16, 2021
Allen Flanigan picked up the slack for Cooper against Kentucky, scoring 21 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. The Tigers have plenty of guys who can score when needed. Flanigan, Cambridge, JT Thor and Justin Powell (when he comes back from injury) can all produce if Cooper isn’t having his best night.
The Tigers head to Arkansas on Wednesday night and to South Carolina on Saturday in a pair of games they can absolutely win if they play the way they’ve been playing since Cooper took the floor.
6. Mississippi State (9-5, 4-2, LW: 8)
Mississippi State went cold in the second half against Texas A&M on Wednesday, but the Bulldogs got back on track with a nice 72-69 win over Florida on Saturday.
In the Florida section, I showed a video of Colin Castleton taking on the entire Mississippi State defense. Well, when you’re as hot as Tolu Smith was on Saturday, you can go 1-on-3 and still make it look easy:
Smith finished with a career-high 27 points to go with 14 rebounds and 3 blocks. I’ve talked a lot about the Bulldogs’ backcourt tandem of DJ Stewart Jr. and Iverson Molinar this year, but if Smith continues to play like this, the Bulldogs will be tough to beat. Saturday’s game was the first time neither Molinar nor Stewart led Mississippi State in points this season.
The Bulldogs host rival Ole Miss on Tuesday night before a big-time road trip to Alabama on Saturday.
5. Arkansas (10-4, 2-4, LW: 5)
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “How can a team that is 2-4 in SEC play be No. 5 in your power rankings?” Right? Well, here’s my explanation.
Look at the teams the Razorbacks have lost to. Those teams are, in order, Mizzou, Tennessee, LSU and Alabama. If you’ve been keeping track at home, you’ll have noticed that the 4 teams I’ve yet to rank this week are: Mizzou, Tennessee, LSU and Alabama.
That’s right. Even though things may seem bleak for Eric Musselman’s squad right now, it’s not like the Hogs are losing to SEC cellar-dwellers. Instead, they’re losing to the conference’s best squads. Their wins aren’t bad, either. They beat Auburn earlier this year and demolished Georgia 99-69 a couple of weeks ago. No, it isn’t ideal that they were embarrassed by Alabama to the tune of 90-59 on Saturday, but not all hope is lost.
If Arkansas can bounce back and win at home against Auburn on Wednesday (no easy task in the Sharife Cooper era for the Tigers) and win at Vanderbilt on Saturday, the Razorbacks will have justified their top-5 spot in these power rankings.
4. Mizzou (8-2, 2-2, LW: 4)
It’s becoming more clear with each game that this team goes as Jeremiah Tilmon goes. When the big man eats, the Tigers win. When he struggles, the Tigers lose. He had 14 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 steal and 1 assist at Texas A&M on Saturday. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the Tigers won 68-52.
He runs the court really well for a big man, but he is at his best when he’s cleaning up on the glass for his teammates:
6'2" Andre Gordon tried boxing out Jeremiah Tilmon.
It didn't end well for A&M. pic.twitter.com/SrHUxnWlTQ
— Mark Kim (@MarkJKim_) January 16, 2021
If he records a double-double (or at least gets close), the Tigers can beat anyone. If the opponent shuts him down, Mizzou struggles mightily. We’ll see how he fares against South Carolina on Tuesday and at Tennessee on Saturday. Mizzou’s fate will depend on it.
3. LSU (10-2, 5-1, LW: 3)
LSU dominated Arkansas on Wednesday night and eked out a tough win over South Carolina on Saturday. Freshman Cam Thomas continues to be a star. He scored 25 points against the Gamecocks:
He only shot 7-for-19 from the floor and only 2-for-8 from 3-point range, but he gets to the free-throw line. He was 9-for-10 from the stripe against South Carolina.
I also want to highlight big man Trendon Watford. He’s perhaps the most versatile big in the SEC. Here were his stat lines this past week:
- vs. Arkansas: 23 points, 10 rebounds, 4-for-4 free throws
- vs. South Carolina: 23 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 9-for-10 free throws
He’s comfortable with the ball in his hands, giving the Tigers 3 guys — Thomas, Watford and Javonte Smart — who can make plays with the ball. We’ll see if that translates to success vs. Alabama on Tuesday night and at Kentucky on Saturday.
2. Tennessee (10-1, 4-1, LW: 1)
I know Tennessee fans are going to be irate with me after losing their No. 1 spot, but it’s more about what Alabama did this past week than anything the Vols did. So, if it’s any consolation prize, Vols fans, just consider this the 1B spot rather than the No. 2 spot.
In Saturday’s 81-61 win against Vanderbilt, Victor Bailey Jr. scored 9 of his 11 points in some very clutch moments. He knocked down 3 straight 3-pointers after Vanderbilt had cut Tennessee’s lead to 41-37. Meanwhile, freshman Keon Johnson looked as good as he has all season, scoring 16 points.
If the Vols win convincingly at Florida on Tuesday night and take down No. 19 Mizzou on Saturday in blowout fashion again, we’ll have another interesting debate for the No. 1 spot in these rankings next Tuesday.
1. Alabama (11-3, 6-0, LW: 2)
The Tide continue to roll. It has been impressive to watch what Nate Oats’ team has done in SEC play this year. Alabama destroyed Kentucky 85-65 in Rupp Arena on Tuesday and then embarrassed Arkansas 90-59 in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.
Herb Jones injured his hand against Kentucky, but didn’t look to be slowed down much against Arkansas. He scored 13 points, including this tough bucket in the paint:
— Crimson Crossover (@CrimsonXover) January 16, 2021
But the story of Saturday was John Petty Jr., who scored a team-high 17 points and set Alabama’s all-time record for 3-pointers made. Here’s his record-setting 264th career 3:
— Crimson Crossover (@CrimsonXover) January 16, 2021
Alabama is 6-0 in SEC play, but tough tests await this week. The Tide will travel to LSU on Tuesday night before hosting Mississippi State on Saturday.