SEC Basketball Power Rankings: Alabama wraps up title, Arkansas stays hot, other top teams struggle
We’ve now officially entered the month of March, and that means the SEC and NCAA Tournaments are inching ever closer. Most teams still have a couple of regular-season games left this week, then the postseason starts.
As March Madness approaches, though, teams not named “Alabama” and “Arkansas” aren’t doing themselves many favors. Those are the top 2 squads in the league, but after them, it’s all a jumble.
Let’s take a look at how the 14 SEC teams stack up as we enter the final week of the regular season:
14. Texas A&M (8-7 overall, 2-6 in SEC, Last week: 14)
The Aggies went through the entire month of February without playing a game due to COVID-19 issues within the program. A&M is scheduled to host Mississippi State on Wednesday and play at Arkansas on Saturday. We’ll see if those games actually happen. For now, the Aggies continue to remain in limbo.
13. South Carolina (6-12, 4-10, LW: 13)
The Gamecocks continue to be a tough team to get a read on. Sometimes, they look like the worst team in the conference (like they did in a 69-48 loss at Mississippi State last week). Other times, they look like one of the better SEC squads (like they did in a 91-70 win at Georgia on Saturday).
In Saturday’s win, Jermaine Couisnard went off, scoring 23 points to go with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. He was also 4-for-8 from 3-point range:
— Gamecock MBB (@GamecockMBB) February 27, 2021
If the Gamecocks can get some consistent help for AJ Lawson, they can pick up an upset or 2 in the SEC Tournament.
12. Vanderbilt (7-13, 3-11, LW: 12)
Vanderbilt was without Scotty Pippen Jr. and Dylan Disu this week but still managed to go 1-1. The Commodores even beat a tough Ole Miss squad on Saturday. I’ve said before how exciting I think this team is to watch, and now, they’re finally starting to pick up a few wins. If Pippen and Disu return this week and are back for the SEC Tournament, Vandy won’t be a slouch in Nashville. The Commodores will wrap up the regular season at LSU on Tuesday and at Ole Miss on Saturday. We’ll see if they can pull off another upset before the SEC Tournament begins.
11. Auburn (12-13, 6-10, LW: 11)
The Tigers looked lost when Sharife Cooper missed the Florida game with an ankle injury. His career at Auburn might be done if the injury lingers, as the Tigers won’t be participating in postseason play this season. But the rest of the team figures to return next season, so Saturday’s 77-72 win over Tennessee was huge for momentum heading into 2021-22.
Allen Flanigan showed his star potential, scoring 23 points to go with 7 rebounds and 3 assists. He was all over the place, taking on some point-guard duties in Cooper’s absence. He showed he can shoot from 3-point range, get to the rim, battle for boards and even create for teammates:
Allen Flanigan (@Allen_Flanigan2) w/ 23 PTS on 7-14 FG, 2-5 3PT & 7-11 FT, while grabbing 7 RBS & 3 AST in a winning performance vs. #25 Tenn. The 6'6 215lb Soph was physical on both ends & active on the glass. Excelled slashing to the rim & hit some tough shots off-the-dribble. pic.twitter.com/wCZHneG9Up
— League Him (@League_Him) February 28, 2021
You know Auburn will be fired up for a trip to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday night to face rival Alabama. A win there would keep the good feelings going all offseason. The Tigers also face Mississippi State on Saturday in their final game of this campaign.
10. Mississippi State (13-12, 7-9, LW: 10)
Mississippi State went 1-for-12 from 3-point range Saturday against Alabama. I don’t need to tell you that you aren’t going to beat the Crimson Tide with numbers like that. That 64-59 loss snapped a 2-game winning streak. But the Bulldogs have a chance to enter the SEC Tournament on a winning streak, as they travel to Texas A&M on Wednesday and Auburn on Saturday in a pair of winnable matchups.
9. Georgia (14-10, 7-10, LW: 9)
For every step forward the Bulldogs have taken the past 2 weeks, they’ve taken a step back, too. After beating Mizzou, they lost to Florida. After upsetting LSU on Tuesday, they fell by 21 points at home against South Carolina on Saturday. Sahvir Wheeler only had 7 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. He also had 7 turnovers. The Gamecocks were all over the place defensively, flustering the Dawgs.
The Bulldogs only have 1 regular-season game remaining — a home game against No. 8 Alabama on Saturday. We’ll see if the Dawgs can pick up some momentum heading into the SEC Tournament.
8. Kentucky (8-14, 7-8, LW: 8)
Kentucky’s 3-game winning streak ended Saturday with a narrow loss to Florida. The Wildcats’ midweek game against Texas A&M was postponed, too. But this is still a squad that is looking potent and dangerous heading into the final stretch of the regular season.
Saturday’s 71-67 home loss to the Gators was a familiar story for the Wildcats. Stop me if you’ve heard this before — the Wildcats had a late second-half lead and couldn’t hold on. Yeah, that’s the story of the year.
Kentucky took a 63-62 lead with less than 4 minutes remaining on this dunk from Jacob Toppin:
TOPPIN WITH THE THUNDER pic.twitter.com/nRma0o7MDx
— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) February 27, 2021
But, like several other games this year, the Wildcats couldn’t hold on. Now, we’ll see if they can get back on track at Ole Miss on Tuesday and vs. South Carolina on Saturday before heading to Nashville.
7. Ole Miss (13-10, 8-8, LW: 7)
Losing to Vanderbilt is never ideal for SEC teams. It’s extra bad when the Commodores are without their 2 best players in Scotty Pippen Jr. and Dylan Disu. For a team that was fighting for its NCAA Tournament life, this loss was likely a nail in the coffin. Now, the Rebels will probably have to win the SEC Tournament next week to get in the March Madness field.
At least they’ll have a chance to avenge the Vandy loss when they host the Commodores on Saturday after a Tuesday home game against Kentucky.
6. Tennessee (16-7, 9-7, LW: 6)
This team is broken, and I’m not sure it can be fixed in time for the NCAA Tournament. When the Vols are right, they’re a Final Four contender. But, they haven’t been right in a long time. This past week, they beat a decimated Vanderbilt team by 12 points and then lost by 5 to an Auburn squad playing without Sharife Cooper.
John Fulkerson has only managed to score 4 points in 5 of his last 6 games, continuing his inexplicable freefall. Freshmen Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer have taken over as the leaders of this team, it seems, which is great for them, but not a great sign for a team that entered the 2020-21 season with lots of supposed veteran leadership.
The Vols are off until Sunday, when they host a hot Florida team to close out the regular season. We’ll see if this team can enter the SEC Tournament with some momentum, or if the hard times will continue on Rocky Top.
5. Mizzou (14-7, 7-7, LW: 4)
Ole Miss seems to have the blueprint for taking down Mizzou. Unfortunately for the Tigers, it seems the Rebels have shared that blueprint with the rest of the SEC. Since knocking off Alabama the day before the Super Bowl, the Tigers are 1-4. A chance to get right at Texas A&M on Saturday was postponed. Now, the Tigers have to try to get back in the win column with a pair of tough games this week — at Florida on Wednesday and vs. LSU on Saturday.
If the Tigers can’t pick up at least 1 more win, their seeding in the NCAA Tournament is going to take a major hit. They’ll need to find a way to play like they did in nonconference action.
4. LSU (14-8, 9-6, LW: 3)
LSU is another team that has hit a rough patch after a brief hot streak. The Tigers lost in upset fashion at Georgia on Tuesday and then fell at Arkansas on Saturday. Now, they probably need to win at least another game or 2 to feel comfortable with their NCAA Tournament standing.
They have a golden opportunity to pick up that first win at home against Vanderbilt on Tuesday night. A road trip to Mizzou on Saturday is also winnable, but that game will likely be much tougher.
3. Florida (13-6, 9-5, LW: 5)
Florida had a great week, beating Auburn and Kentucky, both on the road. Tre Mann, specifically, was great, leading the Gators in points and rebounds in both games.
Look at the way he was finishing at the rim against the tough Kentucky defense on Saturday en route to a team-high 21 points:
Tre Mann was in his BAG yesterday. Pull-ups, floaters, hesitations and finishes at the rim, crossovers…and that last stepback with the subtle shove was Jordan-like.
— Lucas Dolengowski (@LDolengowski) February 28, 2021
If he can keep playing like a superstar, the Gators will be a threat to win the SEC Tournament. We’ll see how they look vs. Mizzou on Wednesday and at Tennessee on Saturday.
2. Arkansas (19-5, 11-4, LW: 2)
Arkansas is the hottest team in the SEC, and the Razorbacks have certainly closed the gap on Alabama, but I’m holding off on moving the Hogs to No. 1 in these power rankings. Why? Well, Alabama just won the SEC regular-season title, for one. And, the Tide and Hogs are 1-1 against each other. Yes, Arkansas won this past week in blowout fashion in Fayetteville, but the Tide have the more impressive résumé still.
Now, that’s not a slight on the Hogs at all. Eric Musselman has this team peaking at exactly the right time. In a win vs. LSU on Saturday, freshman Moses Moody was dominant, making 11-of-14 free throws as he scored 18 points. He added 8 rebounds and 5 assists. LSU isn’t known for its defense, by any means, but Moody still made the Tigers look silly:
Moses Moody out-hustling the entire LSU team. pic.twitter.com/7ZpVnFa8JR
— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) February 27, 2021
Indiana transfer Justin Smith also played well, recording a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double. Moody won the SEC Freshman of the Week honors, while Smith was likely a close second to Tre Mann in the Player of the Week voting.
Arkansas gets a chance to tune up at South Carolina on Tuesday and vs. Texas A&M on Saturday before the SEC Tournament starts. Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to see a third game in the Alabama-Arkansas series on a neutral court in Nashville.
1. Alabama (19-6, 14-2, LW: 1)
The Crimson Tide are your SEC regular-season champions! Saturday’s clinching 64-59 victory at Mississippi State was far from impressive, but the Tide have shown they can win with their defense just as well as they can with their offense.
Look at this defensive sequence for the Tide:
This defensive possession exemplifies why Alabama is so great on that end. Watch the pointing and talking on the ball screens, exchanges, and off-ball screens. pic.twitter.com/8XBW1Kdy7U
— Bama Basketball Film Room (@BamaFilmRoom) February 28, 2021
Any time you can force your opponent into a jumper from the elbow as the shot clock winds down, it’s a win. Even if the Mississippi State player had made that shot, it’s something you can live with.
While other shooters were struggling, Jahvon Quinerly stepped up and had a game-high 19 points. He showed flashes of why he was such a highly-coveted transfer coming from Villanova:
— NJ Basketball (@NJHoopRecruit) February 28, 2021
I also want to point out that Herb Jones may have only had 2 points on 1-for-9 shooting on Saturday, but he was still a big part of the team’s success. He had a whopping 14 rebounds to go with 2 assists and 2 steals. We’ll see if coach Nate Oats gives Jones the week off to rest his ailing back before the SEC Tournament.
Alabama hosts Auburn on Tuesday and heads to Georgia on Saturday to close out the regular season.