SEC Basketball Power Rankings: Auburn and LSU lose, Kentucky avoids upset and South Carolina is back on the bubble
Just when you thought SEC basketball couldn’t get any crazier, Auburn and LSU went on the road this past weekend and lost, falling a game behind Kentucky for the lead in the race for the SEC regular-season title.
Then, there was a thriller in Fayetteville between Mississippi State and Arkansas. Oh, and a South Carolina team that lost to Boston and Stetson during nonconference play is one of the SEC’s hottest teams and back in the mix for an NCAA Tournament berth.
Nothing about this SEC season makes sense, which makes ranking the teams really difficult. Fortunately, I was up to the task. All for you, dear readers!
Here’s where each team ranks as we rapidly draw closer to March:
14. Vanderbilt (9-16 overall, 1-11 in SEC, Last Week: 14)
Vanderbilt took a lead into halftime Tuesday but Kentucky stormed back, outscoring the Commodores in the second half 51-28. Then, on Saturday night, they got blown out at Florida.
This team is back to being the SEC doormat. I still think they’ll win at least 1 more game down the stretch, but time is running out for the Commodores.
13. Georgia (12-13, 2-10, LW: 13)
It’s over. There’s nothing really left to play for in Athens. Coming off a week in which the Bulldogs lost to South Carolina and Texas A&M, there’s no way the Dawgs are making any sort of postseason run. Heck, they aren’t even going to make the NIT at this rate.
The Bulldogs have a generational talent in Anthony Edwards and other solid pieces around him like Rayshaun Hammonds and Sahvir Wheeler, but coach Tom Crean hasn’t figured out how to win games with the players on his roster.
This looks like a lost season for Georgia, reminiscent of the year when LSU had Ben Simmons and didn’t make the NCAA Tournament. Not a great look for Crean and Co.
12. Arkansas (16-9, 4-8, LW: 8)
It might look a bit shocking to have Arkansas this low, but I honestly wouldn’t trust them to beat any of the teams above them on a neutral court. The loss of Isaiah Joe clearly affected this team negatively.
In the past 3 games, the Razorbacks lost at Mizzou in overtime, were blown out at Tennessee and lost by 1 point at home to Mississippi State. That loss to the Bulldogs was a killer, as both teams desperately needed the win for their NCAA Tournament résumés.
Arkansas plays at Florida on Tuesday and hosts Mizzou on Saturday. While I still think the Hogs will probably beat Mizzou, it’s only because the game is in Fayetteville. On a neutral court, I’d pick the Tigers. If Joe doesn’t come back soon, this team has no chance of making the tourney.
11. Mizzou (12-13, 4-8, LW: 12)
Xavier Pinson has become a breakout star this year, and he had a huge game for Mizzou in a dominant 85-73 victory over No. 11 Auburn on Saturday. He finished with 28 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds. He also threw down this impressive slam:
XAVIER PINSON RAISES THE ROOF pic.twitter.com/jVZTPRBD93
— Andrew Kauffman (@AndrewABC17) February 15, 2020
Dru Smith also had 28 points after scoring 20 in a loss to LSU earlier in the week. That backcourt combo is going to be a problem for opponents moving forward.
Mizzou hosts Ole Miss on Tuesday and then travels to Arkansas on Saturday. We’ll see if the Tigers can continue their upward trajectory.
10. Texas A&M (12-12, 6-6, LW: 10)
The Aggies are a huge surprise at 6-6 in SEC play considering how awful they looked at times during nonconference play. However, most of their victories have come against teams lower than them in these rankings (Mizzou twice, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Ole Miss and Tennessee).
Basically, the Aggies beat up on the teams they should beat up on and lose to the better teams in the conference. Therefore, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if they don’t win another game in SEC play. Here are their remaining 6 games:
- at Alabama
- vs. Mississippi State
- vs. Kentucky
- at LSU
- at Auburn
- vs. Arkansas
That’s about as tough of a closing stretch as anyone in the SEC faces. We’ll see how A&M handles it.
9. Ole Miss (13-12, 4-8, LW: 11)
Even though the Rebels lost 67-62 at Kentucky on Saturday, halting their 3-game winning streak, I like the way this team is playing. Breein Tyree has been a star, scoring 40 points in a blowout win over rival Mississippi State on Tuesday.
These are the kinds of shots Tyree has been hitting on a consistent basis lately:
Ole Miss heads to Mizzou on Tuesday and hosts Alabama on Saturday. With the way the Rebels have been playing lately, they could win both matchups.
8. Tennessee (14-11, 6-6, LW: 7)
After blowing out Arkansas earlier in the week, the Vols lost a heartbreaker at South Carolina 63-61 on Saturday. John Fulkerson had a big game, scoring 25 points and grabbing 9 rebounds, but this charge on the final possession sealed the game:
— Louis Fernandez Jr (@LouisWBIR) February 16, 2020
Yes, that’s a bit of a questionable call, as it looks like the South Carolina defender might have embellished the contact a bit, but there’s nothing the Vols can do about that now.
Now, it’s about turning the page and moving forward. Tennessee’s postseason hopes are on life support, so the Vols face must-win games vs. Vanderbilt (Tuesday) and at Auburn (Saturday). We’ll see if Rick Barnes can guide his team to a pair of huge wins.
7. Alabama (14-11, 6-6, LW: 9)
Alabama played really well last week in a pair of tough matchups, losing at Auburn in overtime before upsetting LSU at home Saturday. Herb Jones was incredible in that game.
Despite having his injured left hand wrapped in a cast, he was still one of the best players on the court, grabbing 17 rebounds and scoring 6 points while also somehow managing 3 assists and 2 blocks. It was a very gutsy performance, and it even involved him sinking a pair of one-handed free throws:
Herb Jones: 17 rebounds and two made free throws, all with a broken wrist pic.twitter.com/DSBq82FUYQ
— Garrett Tucker (@GTuckerHoops) February 15, 2020
And here’s him ripping down a rebound in traffic:
“How is Herb Jones getting so many rebounds with one hand?”
Here’s how.. with this sort of effort. pic.twitter.com/OvB4jQp5BJ
— Clint Lamb (@ClintRLamb) February 15, 2020
It’d be nice to see Jones back at full health, but it also says a lot about who he is that he’s willing to go out there and play with a broken wrist. And to have the impact he’s having is incredible.
6. Mississippi State (16-9, 7-5, LW: 4)
The Bulldogs picked up a huge win Saturday, taking down Arkansas 78-77 in Fayetteville. Abdul Ado provided the late heroics, tipping in the game-winning shot:
I love you, Abdul Ado. pic.twitter.com/PD6U7gd5It
— Tru Maroon Nation (@TruMaroonNation) February 15, 2020
However, that big win doesn’t make up for the Bulldogs’ awful loss at Ole Miss on Tuesday, when they were outscored by the Rebels in the second half 50-24. That loss could come back to haunt them on Selection Sunday.
The good news for Ben Howland’s squad is that there are 2 reasonable chances to pick up wins this week. First, the Bulldogs host South Carolina in another battle of bubble teams Wednesday. Then, Saturday, they head to College Station to take on a Texas A&M team that can’t be taken lightly.
5. Florida (16-9, 8-4, LW: 6)
When the Gators are on, they’re fun to watch. The problem is that they haven’t been able to find any sort of consistency.
This week will prove a lot about Florida. Last week, they took down Texas A&M and Vanderbilt, but this week, they’ll host Arkansas on Tuesday and head to Kentucky on Saturday. That Kentucky game won’t be easy, but we at least need to see the Gators be competitive against the SEC’s top team.
4. South Carolina (16-9, 8-4, LW: 5)
The Gamecocks have played their way back onto the NCAA Tournament bubble and are riding a 3-game winning streak. How have they accomplished that? Well, one look at their record in true road games tells you all you need to know.
South Carolina is an SEC-best 6-3 in road games this year. Yes, they’re only 3-3 in SEC road games, but even that mark is better than several other conference squads.
Now, we’ll see if the Gamecocks can continue their impressive play this week, as they’ll have a couple of chances to pad their NCAA Tournament résumé. They’ll play at Mississippi State on Wednesday and then host LSU on Saturday.
3. LSU (18-7, 9-3, LW: 3)
For a team that didn’t lose a single SEC road game last season, the LSU Tigers are in a tailspin away from Baton Rouge lately. They’ve lost their past 3 road games, including at Vanderbilt.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier this week, either. The Tigers host Kentucky on Tuesday and then travel to South Carolina on Saturday. They could climb back into the race for the SEC regular-season title with 2 wins. Lose, and they could fall out of the top 5 in the standings.
So, how do they do that? The key seems to lie in how many 3s the Tigers take. In their last 3 wins, they haven’t taken more than 16 shots from behind the arc. In their past 3 losses, they have launched at least 18 shots from long range.
LSU needs to control the pace to win games, and that means they need to get in the lane and get to the free-throw line. That’s LSU’s recipe for success.
2. Auburn (22-3, 9-3, LW: 1)
When all is said and done this SEC season, we’ll probably look back at Mizzou’s win over Auburn on Saturday as one of the most inexplicable results of the year (along with LSU’s loss at Vanderbilt).
It’s clear Mizzou managed to frustrate Auburn, as evidenced by Devan Cambridge getting ejected for stepping on Javon Pickett’s leg. Check it out below:
The money clip from tonight’s game:
This angle seems to show what happened pretty clearly… #Mizzou’s Javon Pickett pulled down by Auburn’s Devan Cambridge, then Cambridge steps on Pickett’s leg.
Originally called as a foul on Pickett, reversed to be a Flagrant 2 after review. pic.twitter.com/iV8a6dodTu
— Eli Hoff (@byEliHoff) February 16, 2020
Auburn shot only 1-for-17 from 3-point range, showing just how much the Tigers need 3s to fall in order to win. Still, this is likely just a blip on the radar, as Auburn was also without key freshman Isaac Okoro. That allowed Mizzou’s backcourt combo of Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith to each score 28 points.
This week, the Tigers head to Georgia on Wednesday and host Tennessee on Saturday in a pair of winnable games. We’ll see if Bruce Pearl’s squad can get back on track.
1. Kentucky (20-5, 10-2, LW: 2)
While Auburn and LSU were losing, Kentucky found itself locked in a battle with a resurgent Ole Miss squad. Unlike Auburn and LSU, the Wildcats found a way to win, holding off the Rebels for a 67-62 victory.
Immanuel Quickley and Nick Richards continue to play really well for the Wildcats, but Richards is by far the more efficient player. Though Quickley led Kentucky with 17 points, he only went 4-for-15 from the floor and only 1-for-8 from 3-point range. Richards, meanwhile, had 16 points, but he made 6 of his 10 shots and went 4-for-5 from the free-throw line.
They did connect for this impressive alley-oop, though:
Kentucky travels to Baton Rouge on Tuesday to face LSU in a huge game for the SEC standings. Then, on Saturday, they’re going to host a Florida team that is desperate for a win. We’ll see if the Wildcats can continue chugging along.