SEC Basketball Power Rankings: Alabama stays unbeaten in SEC play, Tennessee outlasts Auburn and more
Saturday was another exciting day around the SEC. Tennessee and Auburn got the day started with a controversial ending on Rocky Top. Mississippi State locked down the red-hot Missouri Tigers with stifling defense.
Arkansas escaped South Carolina with a 2-point win. Kentucky played well against Florida to extend its SEC winning streak to 6 games.
As February rolls on, the battle for positioning in the SEC standings is getting even more intense with each passing week.
How did last week’s action impact our SEC power rankings? Here’s how the 14 teams stack up entering this week’s games:
14. South Carolina (8-15 overall, 1-9 in SEC, Last week: 14)
South Carolina gave Arkansas quite a scare on Saturday, winning the second half of the game 36-29, but it wasn’t enough to come all the way back in a 65-63 loss to the Hogs. Now the Gamecocks have lost 7 games in a row, and star forward GG Jackson II is seemingly growing frustrated. That’s not a great sign. The Gamecocks head to Mizzou on Tuesday night and to Ole Miss on Saturday. If they can’t win at Ole Miss, they might not win another SEC game this year.
13. Ole Miss (9-14, 1-9, LW: 13)
The Rebels face an interesting week this week. Riding a 5-game losing streak, Ole Miss actually has a couple of winnable games, beginning with Tuesday’s road trip to Georgia. The Bulldogs are playing better this year than they did last year, but they’re still inconsistent and have lost 2 games in a row. Then, on Saturday, the Rebels play host to South Carolina. That is a must-win game for embattled coach Kermit Davis and company.
12. LSU (12-11, 1-9, LW: 12)
LSU now has the SEC’s longest losing streak at 10 games. After beating Arkansas to open SEC play, the Tigers have not won another game – 9-straight SEC losses and a loss to Texas Tech in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. It won’t be easy to end that streak this week, though. On Wednesday, the Tigers head to Starkville to take on a stingy Mississippi State defense. Then on Saturday, Texas A&M visits Baton Rouge. How long will this losing streak continue?
11. Vanderbilt (11-12, 4-6, LW: 11)
The Commodores have taken care of business against mid-tier and worse SEC teams so far this year. That’s a positive step forward for the Vanderbilt program. At 4-6 in SEC play, though, the Commodores will have to be at their best this week to avoid falling to 4-8. Why? Well, on Wednesday night, they host No. 6 Tennessee. Then on Saturday, they head to Gainesville to take on a Florida team that can’t afford a home loss to the Commodores on its NCAA Tournament résumé.
10. Georgia (14-9, 4-6, LW: 9)
Mike White continues to deserve praise for the job he’s done at Georgia, but if Terry Roberts can’t come back from a concussion this week, things could continue to trend down for the Bulldogs. Roberts is the leader of this team and has been incredible this season. If he’s not back for Saturday’s home game against Kentucky, it’ll be tough to beat the resurgent Wildcats. A Tuesday night home game against Ole Miss should be winnable, though.
9. Arkansas (16-7, 5-5, LW: 10)
Death, taxes and Eric Musselman’s Arkansas teams rounding into form as March approaches. Coach Muss has done a great job over the years of making sure his squads are playing their best basketball come tournament time. That looks like the case this season, too. The Hogs have won 4-straight SEC games and also gave a ranked Baylor team a scare in Waco during the Big 12/SEC Challenge. All of this is without Nick Smith Jr. on the floor, too. Adding wins at Kentucky (on Tuesday) and at home against Mississippi State (on Saturday) would be big boosts to the Razorbacks’ March Madness résumé.
8. Mississippi State (15-8, 3-7, LW: 8)
The Bulldogs are up to No. 6 in KenPom’s defensive efficiency rankings, and that was on full display in Saturday’s win over a Mizzou team that entered the game red-hot from 3-point land. The Tigers were held to 6-of-23 from long range in Starkville in Mississippi State’s 63-52 win. Big man Tolu Smith was dominant against the undersized Tigers, too, pouring in 25 points to go with 12 rebounds. Even putting 2 defenders on him didn’t work:
TOLU AND ONE. BIG MAN HAS 19 ‼️#HailState? x @ToluSmith1 pic.twitter.com/BM08ShUsRA
— Mississippi State Men's Basketball (@HailStateMBK) February 5, 2023
The Bulldogs have now won 3 in a row after starting SEC play 1-7. This is a team to watch. Wins vs. LSU (on Wednesday) and at Arkansas (on Saturday) would certainly vault the Bulldogs into the top half of these power rankings.
7. Mizzou (17-6, 5-5, LW: 4)
Mizzou is looking like a classic “live by the 3, die by the 3” team. The Tigers went cold against Mississippi State’s stingy defense on Saturday, falling 63-52. Road woes continue to plague the Tigers, too. In SEC play, Mizzou is 4-1 at home and 1-4 on the road. Basically, you want this Tiger team coming to your arena. You don’t want to make a visit to Columbia. That’s bad news for South Carolina, who visits Mizzou Arena on Tuesday night. It’s good news for No. 6 Tennessee, who will host the Tigers on Saturday.
6. Florida (13-10, 6-4, LW: 7)
A loss on the road at Kentucky on Saturday wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Especially after the Gators took down then-No. 2 Tennessee earlier in the week in Gainesville. Big man Colin Castleton is playing some of his best basketball. He scored 20 points to go with 9 rebounds and 3 assists against Tennessee and followed it up with 25 points, 8 boards and 5 assists against Kentucky:
COLIN CASTLETON TAKES IT TO THE HOLE!!! #GATORS UP SIX LATE!!! pic.twitter.com/qAMALqSH9u
— InAllKindsOfWeather.com (@AllKindsWeather) February 2, 2023
Florida now gets a chance to bolster its NCAA Tournament résumé in a huge way on Wednesday night, as a trip to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama looms large on the schedule.
5. Auburn (17-6, 7-3, LW: 6)
Foul or no foul? You be the judge:
slow-mo look at the final play pic.twitter.com/Je4nVoI7Wi
— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) February 4, 2023
That was the controversial way Auburn’s loss at Tennessee ended on Saturday afternoon. It was an ugly game all around, but credit to the Tigers for fighting hard against a tough Vol team. The road doesn’t get any easier for Bruce Pearl and company. Next up is a Tuesday night road trip to Texas A&M followed by a Saturday home game against No. 3 Alabama.
4. Texas A&M (16-7, 8-2, LW: 3)
The Aggies lost their second game of SEC play on Tuesday at Arkansas, but Fayetteville is a very tough place to play. They bounced back nicely on Saturday by trouncing Georgia by 25 points. Texas A&M has a solid chance to move to 10-2 in league play this week. An Auburn team that the Aggies already beat convincingly in Auburn visits College Station on Tuesday and A&M heads to Baton Rouge to face a struggling LSU squad on Saturday. Those are both winnable matchups.
3. Kentucky (16-7, 7-3, LW: 5)
Kentucky continues its impressive turnaround and is now in the mix for a top-4 seed in the SEC Tournament. In the most recent win over Florida, Kentucky was really impressive. Though big man Oscar Tshiebwe, the reigning National Player of the Year, didn’t have it offensively, going just 2-for-14 from the floor for 4 points, he did grab 15 rebounds. But freshman Cason Wallace picked up the slack. In addition to his normally active defense, Wallace scored 20 points:
Cason Wallace was huge on both ends of the floor for Kentucky down the stretch ? @wallace_cason
– 20 points
– 7-10 FG
– 3 BLK pic.twitter.com/pJAYbykG7S
— B/R Hoops (@brhoops) February 5, 2023
Kentucky is becoming a more dangerous team with each passing game. Arkansas comes to town on Tuesday night with a chance for the Wildcats to extend their SEC winning streak to 7.
2. Tennessee (19-4, 8-2, LW: 1)
Thank goodness for the Vols that Josiah-Jordan James brought his offensive game to the arena on Saturday against Auburn. In the Vols’ 46-43 win over the Tigers, JJJ had 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. This was James’s only 3-pointer of the afternoon, but it showed the confidence he played with on Saturday:
Deep C&S three from Josiah Jordan-James #Vols pic.twitter.com/rtrO6gAt4u
— Caleb (@VolsAndDraft) February 4, 2023
Tennessee made only 2 of its 21 3-pointers (9.5%). Fortunately for Rick Barnes and company, the Vols’ elite defense held Auburn to only 3-for-27 (11.1%) from beyond the arc. The defense continues to be historically great. The offense? Well, there’s work to be done on that end of the floor.
1. Alabama (20-3, 10-0, LW: 2)
The Crimson Tide may have had a major hiccup in the Big 12/SEC Challenge at Oklahoma, but it hasn’t carried over to SEC play at all. The Tide embarrassed Vanderbilt 101-44 (no, that isn’t a typo) in their midweek game and won by 10 at LSU on Saturday. Now they’re a perfect 10-0 in SEC play. Next up? Florida visits Tuscaloosa on Wednesday and the Tide take a trip to rival Auburn on Saturday. Can either of those NCAA Tournament hopefuls hand Alabama its fist SEC loss?