SEC Basketball Power Rankings: Auburn remains unbeaten, Tennessee falls to Memphis and more
Saturday was a busy day around the SEC, especially after each team had Monday-Friday off (presumably for finals). It was also a mixed bag, as the 9 SEC teams that played Saturday went 5-4. On Sunday, the SEC was 3-0.
Some narrow losses and some exciting wins provided a shakeup in this week’s power rankings, although the No. 1 team remained the same.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at where each of the 14 SEC squads stand in this week’s rankings:
14. Texas A&M (4-5, Last week: 14)
The Aggies trailed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi by 7 at halftime Saturday. They came back to win 63-60, but that is not the sort of win that inspires a whole lot of confidence moving forward.
Considering A&M has a home game against an 8-1 Oregon State team Saturday, the Aggies could enter Christmas with a 4-6 record.
13. Vanderbilt (6-3, LW: 13)
The Commodores’ hot offense hit a major roadblock against visiting Liberty on Saturday. Liberty improved to an impressive 12-0 with a 61-56 victory over the Commodores, overcoming a 5-point halftime deficit.
Vanderbilt hasn’t played a very tough nonconference schedule, so having 3 losses at this point is not good. Aaron Nesmith continues to look like an NBA player, but he isn’t getting much help. The Commodores face Loyola-Chicago in Phoenix on Wednesday and host UNC-Wilmington on Saturday. Neither game will be easy.
12. Alabama (4-5, LW: 10)
The Crimson Tide had a chance to pick up a nice road win Saturday, taking a 40-34 lead over the Nittany Lions into halftime. However, they couldn’t hold on in the second half, as Penn State came storming back to win 73-71.
Now, the Tide face an interesting week, as they’ll take on Samford in Birmingham on Wednesday before playing Belmont in Huntsville as part of a mini-tour around the state of Alabama.
11. South Carolina (7-4, LW: 12)
This team continues to baffle me. Last week, the Gamecocks lost by 20 to Houston. So, naturally, Sunday, they beat rival Clemson 67-54.
Was it just the rivalry that gave the Gamecocks a little extra juice? It certainly worked for AJ Lawson, who finished with a team-high 20 points. That included this slam right before halftime:
#Gamecocks lead Clemson 28-26 at halftime. AJ Lawson leads all scorers with 12. Trae Hannibal has gotten involved early in this one including this highlight reel dunk! #Gamecocks shooting 48% from the field and 60% from the 3 pt line. pic.twitter.com/RI3pe5zuk1
— Vizor Carolina (@VizorSportsSC) December 15, 2019
The Gamecocks hit the road to take on No. 9 Virginia on Sunday, so we’ll see if Frank Martin’s squad can keep this positive momentum rolling. A win over the Cavaliers would push the Gamecocks at least a couple of spots higher in these rankings.
10. Mizzou (6-4, LW: 11)
Mark Smith was absolutely on fire for the Tigers during Sunday’s 64-48 victory over Southern Illinois. He went 7-for-9 from 3-point range, finishing with a game-high 23 points. If he can continue to shoot well from deep, the Tigers’ offense can start heating up in a hurry.
Next up for the Tigers is the annual Braggin’ Rights rivalry game against Illinois in St. Louis. If the Tigers want to win their 2nd consecutive game over the Illini, they’ll have their hands full stopping Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn, who is one of the best freshmen in the Big Ten.
If Mizzou F Jeremiah Tilmon can stay out of foul trouble (a tough task for him), the Tigers will have a chance. They’ll also need to make sure they stay out of the way of Cockburn’s celebrations:
Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn just smoked a ref in the face (totally unintentional) while celebrating an and-one. Being a ref is a tough business: pic.twitter.com/ybOyHCv7SY
— Adam Spencer (@AdamSpencer4) December 12, 2019
Ouch. That’s a big man delivering that shot to the ref.
9. Georgia (6-3, LW: 8)
Is Anthony Edwards actually human? We saw our first glimpse of that Saturday night, when Georgia went out to the desert and lost to Arizona State 79-59. Edwards finished with 13 points on 5-for-12 shooting, but went 0-for-5 from 3-point range.
The bigger issue, though, was big man Rayshaun Hammonds also struggled, putting up only 4 points on 1-for-9 shooting. And the Georgia defense had no answer for Remy Martin (the Arizona State guard, not the French cognac). Martin finished with a game-high 23 points and 6 assists:
That was the Bulldogs’ first true road game of the season, and it clearly didn’t go well. They’ll head back to Athens for a pair of games this week, though, hosting SMU on Friday night and Georgia Southern on Monday night.
8. Ole Miss (7-3, LW: 9)
The Rebels stomped coach Kermit Davis’s old team, Middle Tennessee, on Saturday, cruising to an 82-64 win in Oxford. Breein Tyree was incredible, scoring 34 points on 11-for-20 shooting (8-for-11 from 3-point range), grabbing 5 rebounds and dishing out 4 assists. That’s a career-high scoring total for Tyree.
When he plays like that, the Rebels are almost unstoppable. We’ll see if he can keep it rolling against Southeast Louisiana on Saturday.
7. Mississippi State (7-2, LW: 7)
The Bulldogs fell behind early against Kansas State in Newark on Saturday afternoon, but they showed their toughness by battling back to tie the score at 32 entering halftime. In the second half, Mississippi State managed to edge ahead for a 67-61 win, avenging the football team’s loss to Kansas State.
Robert Woodard II had a nice outing, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds. We also have to give Iverson Molinar a shoutout for putting a Kansas State defender on a poster with this vicious slam:
Mississippi State has an interesting week ahead, hosting Radford on Wednesday night before heading to Jackson to play a neutral-site game against New Mexico State.
6. LSU (7-2, LW: 5)
The Tigers were off all week, getting some rest before the holidays start up. This week, they’ll host East Tennessee State before heading out to Los Angeles for a Saturday matchup with a tough 9-2 USC team.
That’ll be a tough road game and a good chance for the Tigers to bounce back from early season losses to VCU and Utah State.
5. Tennessee (7-2, LW: 3)
The Vols suffered an extra-tough loss Saturday, letting Memphis come in and earn a 51-47 victory. Tennessee has the nation’s No. 12 defense, per the KenPom.com rankings, but the offense is only ranked No. 55. That’s going to be a problem moving forward.
Freshman Josiah-Jordan James showed some flashes of brilliance, though, scoring 11 of the Vols first 15 points, including the first 8. He had a team-high 14 points for the Vols:
A tough test looms large Wednesday, as the Vols head to Cincinnati to take on a talented Bearcats team. Then, they get a bit of a break, as 2-7 Jacksonville State comes to town Saturday.
4. Florida (6-3, LW: 4)
The Gators had all week off, too, after losing at Butler on Dec. 7. They’ll need to gain some more consistency heading into the tough slate of games they face this week, as starting a game cold could lead to their 4th (and possibly even 5th) loss of the season.
Tuesday, the Gators head to Brooklyn for a neutral-site game against Providence. Then, Mike White’s squad takes on 10-2 Utah State on Saturday in the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Florida. Those are both chances to beef up the nonconference schedule.
3. Arkansas (9-1, LW: 6)
Arkansas got back in the win column with an impressive 98-79 home victory over Tulsa. Mason Jones was the star, scoring 41 points to go with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Check out this shot he drained from the mid-court logo just before halftime:
The Hogs will play Valparaiso on Saturday in North Little Rock. That should be a win to improve to 10-1 heading into a Dec. 29 matchup against Indiana in Bloomington.
2. Kentucky (8-1, LW: 2)
The Wildcats earned a comfortable home win over Georgia Tech on Saturday, led by star PG Ashton Hagans. In the 67-53 victory, he scored 21 points and had 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals.
His always-stellar defense is leading to offense, as seen in this steal and slam below:
Ashton Hagans with the steal and two hand jam. pic.twitter.com/YHCX136baT
— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) December 14, 2019
But he is also showing some moves in the half-court offense. Look at this devastating spin move in the post for an easy layup:
Ashton Hagans spin cycle pic.twitter.com/IiovFqdBly
— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) December 14, 2019
Hagans has greatly improved from last year, especially on offense. Saturday’s game was a breakout game for him, which comes at a great time. This week, Kentucky plays Utah in Las Vegas on Wednesday and sticks around in Vegas for a Saturday matchup with No. 5 Ohio State.
Those should be some fun games to watch.
1. Auburn (9-0, LW: 1)
Auburn is 1 of the last 4 remaining undefeated teams at the Division I level, along with Liberty, Duquesne and San Diego State. Auburn got here by beating a tough Saint Louis team in Birmingham on Saturday, 67-61.
PG J’Von McCormick had his best game of the year, putting up 20 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. You know it’s a good day when even these shots are falling:
J’Von McCormick nails a deep 3 as the shot clock hits 0. J’Von has 10 in the first half and Auburn is now up 7 with 1:00 till halftime pic.twitter.com/wG2GJgCQUU
— Skye Underwood (@SkyeUnderwood) December 14, 2019
After the game, coach Bruce Pearl said McCormick was the best player on the floor. He also explained that games like that are why he didn’t recruit another point guard to replace Jared Harper:
The Tigers will try to go for 11-0 this week, hosting NC State on Thursday and Lehigh on Saturday.