SEC Basketball Power Rankings: Arkansas is for real, Tennessee misses Lamonte Turner and more
The 4-12 spots in the SEC continue to be a huge jumble, but as we prepare for SEC play starting Saturday, hopefully we’ll get some more clarity.
For now, though, I’m expected to make sense of how South Carolina can lose to Stetson after beating Virginia and how Tennessee has fallen apart without Lamonte Turner? Doesn’t seem fair.
However, I’ve tackled tougher tasks before, so let’s give this a shot! Here’s how I rank all 14 SEC teams entering conference play:
14. Texas A&M (6-5, LW: 14)
Yes, the Aggies won, but do you really consider beating Texas Southern by 3 points (58-55) at home on Monday night a win? I don’t, either.
Things could get even uglier soon, with a trip to Arkansas kicking off SEC play on Saturday.
13. Vanderbilt (8-4, LW: 13)
Vanderbilt picked up a nice win Monday night, taking down Davidson 76-71 in Nashville. However, that’s really only a nice win by Vandy standards.
This team should avoid going 0-18 in SEC play this year, but we’ll see where the Commodores are at when they host SMU on Saturday before starting SEC play on the road at undefeated Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 8.
12. Alabama (7-5, LW: 12)
Alabama continues to put up gaudy offensive numbers, and freshman Jaden Shackelford led the way in a 90-78 win over a tough Richmond team on Sunday. He scored 28 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in the win.
He’s a fun, versatile player. He can get to the rim:
Entre deux trois points de Jaden Shackelford, Kira Lewis sort de son chapeau un bien joli move. pic.twitter.com/iwUTtPbajz
— Manu (@_manelo) December 30, 2019
Or he can spot up for 3:
— Amy Materson (@AmyMaterson) December 30, 2019
If he can continue to improve heading into Saturday’s SEC opener against Florida in Gainesville, the Tide will be tough to beat.
11. South Carolina (8-5, LW: 7)
Here are the results of the Gamecocks’ past 4 games:
- 76-56 loss to Houston (home)
- 67-54 win over Clemson (away)
- 70-59 win over No. 9 Virginia (away)
- 63-56 loss to Stetson (home)
That is truly one of the most baffling stretches of basketball I’ve ever witnessed. What the heck is going on with the Gamecocks? Can they get it together to beat a hot-and-cold Florida team in their SEC opener on Tuesday, Jan. 7, in Columbia? Literally anything could happen. Stay tuned!
10. Mississippi State (9-3, LW: 11)
Reggie Perry put together the kind of game he’s capable of Monday night in a 96-68 rout of Kent State. He scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs.
Perry looks like a man among boys no matter who he’s going up against, so throwing that sizable frame around is what he needs to do more often. We’ll see if he can impose his will against undefeated Auburn on Saturday in the SEC opener.
9. Tennessee (8-4, LW: 4)
This team really missed Lamonte Turner on Saturday. The senior guard announced he was having season (and college career) ending shoulder surgery last week, and the Vols promptly went out and got trounced at home by a not-very-good Wisconsin team. In the 68-48 loss, not a single Tennessee player scored in double figures, with John Fulkerson and Jalen Johnson each scoring 9.
Fellow senior Jordan Bowden got a lot more attention from the tight Badgers defense, and it led to him being held to 7 points on 2-for-13 shooting. That isn’t going to cut it in SEC play, and the Vols will need to figure out a way to get him some more open looks if they want to be successful.
8. Georgia (9-3, LW: 9)
Anthony Edwards struggled Monday night, scoring only 9 points. However, the Bulldogs are more than just the freshman sensation, as Rayshaun Hammonds picked up the slack, scoring 17 points and grabbing 6 rebounds in Georgia’s 78-48 win over Austin Peay.
Edwards will need to be more involved when the Dawgs start SEC play against No. 17 Kentucky on Tuesday, Jan. 7. First, though, the Bulldogs head to Memphis on Saturday afternoon to play the No. 9 Tigers. Will Edwards lead his team to a signature nonconference road win?
7. Mizzou (8-4, LW: 8)
Monday night was the Torrence Watson show at Mizzou Arena. The game was a blowout, as the Tigers outclassed Chicago State 91-33, but Watson was incredible. In only 19 minutes, he scored a game-high 24 points, with all 24 points coming on 8 made 3s.
Here’s his pull-up 3 to end the 1st half:
— Andrew Kauffman (@AndrewABC17) December 31, 2019
That’s a confident shot, and it’s good to see Watson with that confidence. This game was about the Tigers’ good defense (even without big man Jeremiah Tilmon), but the offense needs to be clicking, too, as Mizzou prepares to visit Kentucky to start SEC play Saturday.
6. LSU (8-4, LW: 10)
The Tigers did something Sunday that no one else has been able to do this year. That is, they beat Liberty. Liberty entered Sunday’s game 14-0, but the Tigers handed them a 74-57 loss.
Darius Days, Skylar Mays, Charles Manning Jr. and Javonte Smart all scored in double-figures for LSU in the win. It wasn’t exactly a signature nonconference victory, but it was a nice win for Will Wade’s squad as it prepares for the SEC opener at Tennessee on Saturday.
5. Florida (8-4, LW: 6)
The Gators had only eclipsed 80 points once this season entering Saturday’s game against Long Beach State. So, naturally, in that game, the Gators erupted for 102 points, led by 21 points from Kerry Blackshear Jr. and 21 points from Keyontae Johnson.
But perhaps the most encouraging sign was sophomore G Noah Locke scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. That double-double was great to see for Mike White and his staff.
That was a great tune-up to prepare for the SEC opener against Alabama on Saturday.
4. Ole Miss (9-3, LW: 5)
You might think this is a bit high to have the Rebels, but they’ll have a chance to prove themselves Saturday. While many SEC teams are starting conference play, the Rebels will head to Wichita to take on No. 24 Wichita State.
Win that game and the Rebels will stay up in the top 4 for a while. Lose, and a free fall could be coming in Oxford.
3. Kentucky (9-3, LW: 3)
The Wildcats desperately needed a win Saturday afternoon against No. 3 Louisville — no easy task. However, they did just that, taking down the rival Cardinals in overtime 78-70.
Freshman G Tyrese Maxey was sensational, scoring 27 points. For a team that desperately needed an outside threat, watching him go 4-for-5 from long range was a breath of fresh air.
He can also get to the rim, though, and he’s a surprisingly strong finisher in traffic, as these 2 shots show:
Big time runner by Tyrese Maxey. pic.twitter.com/lE2C8z3LH2
— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) December 28, 2019
Tyrese Maxey hangs and scores to give him 25 points. pic.twitter.com/rQSaA9GROb
— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) December 28, 2019
He’s becoming UK’s offensive leader, and with the way Ashton Hagans and Nick Richards are playing, this will be a tough team to beat in SEC play.
2. Arkansas (11-1, LW: 2)
Want to know how confident Isaiah Joe is feeling these days? Just look at this shot Joe hit in the 2nd half against Indiana on Sunday:
That was part of Joe’s game-high 24 points in Arkansas’s signature 71-64 win over the Hoosiers to close nonconference play. He and backcourt mate Mason Jones are on fire as the SEC opener against Texas A&M approaches Saturday.
1. Auburn (12-0, LW: 1)
Another week, another Auburn win. In an 86-59 Tigers victory over Lipscomb on Sunday, it was Danjel Purifoy’s turn to lead the way. He scored 17 points and 9 rebounds in the victory, while big man Austin Wiley scored 11 points and had 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double.
With Mississippi State coming to Auburn on Saturday to start SEC play, we’ll see how much longer Bruce Pearl’s squad can remain unbeaten. It’s down to Auburn and San Diego State as the final 2 perfect Division I squads.