SEC Basketball Power Rankings: Auburn survives scare, Kentucky wins big, A&M keeps rolling
The SEC continues to show it’s a deep league. Arkansas bounced back from a slow start to league play with a road upset this week. Alabama, once considered the favorite to win the league title, is struggling. Auburn is up to No. 2 in the AP Poll. Kentucky looks like a title contender, too.
There’s a lot happening in the world of SEC men’s basketball these days, and the games only get more meaningful and more exciting moving forward.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into this week’s power rankings!
14. Georgia (5-12 overall, 0-4 in SEC, Last week: 14)
The Bulldogs missed a great chance to put up an SEC victory on Saturday, falling to Vanderbilt in Athens, 73-66. Fortunately for Tom Crean and his squad, most Georgia fans were celebrating the football team’s national title that day, so the basketball loss may have flown under the radar. Still, this coming week could get ugly, as road trips to Auburn (on Wednesday) and South Carolina (on Saturday) loom large.
13. Mizzou (7-9, 1-3, LW: 11)
We’re going to look back at Mizzou’s upset of Alabama a couple of Saturdays ago as one of the weirdest results of the entire SEC season. The Tigers absolutely embarrassed themselves in Fayetteville on Wednesday night in the aftermath of that win over the Tide, trailing the rival Hogs 49-15 at halftime in what became a massive loss. Then, they had the Aggies on the ropes on Saturday in Columbia before collapsing late and losing.
The win over the Tide was a fluke. That much is clear now. That’s not to say the Tigers won’t have some more tough performances at home or anything, but any hopes of that Alabama win sparking a major turnaround are gone now.
12. Vanderbilt (10-6, 2-2, LW: 12)
Vanderbilt will receive no points for beating Georgia, but it’s always good to pick up an SEC road win. The Commodores also played well in a midweek home loss to Kentucky, with Scotty Pippen Jr. scoring a whopping 32 points. He was hot from the opening tipoff:
— SLAM University (@slam_university) January 12, 2022
In Saturday’s win in Athens, Jordan Wright was the man, recording 22 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals:
Jordan Wright appreciation post. pic.twitter.com/4UBMFpUUTK
— Vanderbilt Men's Basketball (@VandyMBB) January 16, 2022
If the Commodores continue to develop talent around Pippen, they’ll be a tough out for teams moving forward.
11. Ole Miss (9-7, 1-3, LW: 7)
The Rebels gave it their best shot. They led then-No. 4 Auburn 47-38 a minute into the second half. But then, everything started going Auburn’s way. It was a hard-fought game, but a loss is still a loss for this team. Add in a loss at Texas A&M earlier in the week and it was a rough few days for Kermit Davis’s squad. This team misses Jarkel Joiner, who will be out 6 weeks with an injury.
Still if the Rebels play the way they did most of the game on Saturday, they can claw their way back to 3-3 in SEC action. Ole Miss hosts Mizzou on Tuesday night and travels to Starkville to try to go 2-0 against rival Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon.
10. South Carolina (10-6, 1-3, LW: 9)
It was an ugly week for the South Carolina offense. The Gamecocks only managed 46 points in a 20-point loss at Tennessee on Tuesday night. Then, they only scored 63 points in a 71-63 home loss to Florida on Saturday afternoon. The problem was clear. The Gamecocks only shot 34.7% from the floor in both of those games. That’s not going to cut it in SEC play.
However, like the Rebels above, the Gamecocks have a great chance to claw back to .500 in SEC action. They head to Arkansas on Tuesday night and host Georgia on Saturday afternoon.
9. Florida (10-6, 1-3, LW: 10)
Florida is officially in the win column in SEC play! The Gators went into Columbia on Saturday afternoon and took down South Carolina 71-63. It was a solid defensive effort from the Gators, led by big man Colin Castleton:
Kowacie Reeves scored a career-high 14 points, which is a great sign for the Gators moving forward:
The offense has a lot of work to do moving forward, but getting the 0-3 start off their backs is great for the Gators moving forward. Now, we’ll see if they can keep the momentum going (something Mike White teams have trouble doing) at home against Mississippi State on Wednesday and Vanderbilt on Saturday.
8. Arkansas (12-5, 2-3, LW: 13)
Arkansas peeled itself off the mat last week, embarrassing rival Mizzou in Fayetteville and then going into LSU and picking up a huge win over the Tigers. JD Notae scored 19 points in each game, but none of his other shots were as clutch as this one late in the LSU game:
The Hogs’ defense also had perhaps its best showing of the year, holding the Tigers to only 25 points in the second half. The Hogs host South Carolina on Tuesday and Texas A&M on Saturday. It’s not crazy to think the Hogs could be 4-3 in SEC play this time next week.
7. Alabama (11-6, 2-3, LW: 5)
I’m officially ready to press the panic button for Alabama. For weeks, as the Tide have struggled, I’ve said “yeah, but they have wins over Gonzaga and Houston.” Well, now that the Tide have lost 3-straight SEC games, against Mizzou, Auburn and Mississippi State. Even Nate Oats sounds like he’s ready to call this a lost year:
Nate Oats: "It is disappointing. I thought we had a team that could compete for a league title. Just not quite as tough as we need to be to compete for a league title at this point. Maybe they'll figure it, maybe it'll come. We've gotta get tougher."
— Charlie Potter (@Charlie_Potter) January 16, 2022
On Wednesday night, LSU comes to Tuscaloosa. That has the feeling of a must-win game for the Tide. If they fall to 2-4 in SEC play, they’ll suddenly find themselves in the bubble discussion for the NCAA Tournament.
6. Tennessee (11-5, 2-3, LW: 6)
Last week, I called out coach Rick Barnes for publicly ripping big man John Fulkerson. I wondered how Fulkerson would respond to his coach’s criticism in the media. The answer? Not well. Fulkerson played 20 minutes in Saturday’s 107-79 loss at Kentucky and recorded 0 points, 0 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 turnovers. That’s … not great.
No, there was nothing the Vols could have done differently in this game to beat the Wildcats. That was the best game of basketball I’ve seen a team play all year. But, still, the Vols are now 2-3 in SEC play with a Tuesday night road trip to Vanderbilt and a Saturday home game against LSU on the schedule this week.
5. Mississippi State (12-4, 3-1, LW: 8)
I probably was a little too low on the Bulldogs after a loss at Ole Miss. Now, they’ve won back-to-back SEC games, taking down Georgia and Alabama. Iverson Molinar is flashing SEC Player of the Year potential. He had 24 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals against the Tide:
Garrison Brooks had a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double, too. This is a deep, physical Mississippi State team. If they play like they did on Saturday, they’ll be tough to beat.
4. Texas A&M (15-2, 4-0, LW: 4)
The Aggies looked like they were going to be the next SEC team to suffer a bad loss at Mizzou. But, credit to Buzz Williams’ squad for continuing to chip away at the Tigers’ lead in the second half. Tyrece Radford gave the Aggies the lead for good with this fancy dribbling:
— Texas A&M Basketball (@aggiembk) January 15, 2022
This will be a big week for the Aggies. They host Kentucky on Wednesday night before traveling to Arkansas on Saturday night. We’ll see if they can keep their incredible start to league play going!
3. LSU (15-2, 3-2, LW: 2)
LSU is still a great defensive team, but without Xavier Pinson running the offense, the Tigers hit a snag against Arkansas in Baton Rouge on Saturday afternoon. Darius Days only scored 3 points before fouling out. Brandon Murray scored 2 points before fouling out. Arkansas out-rebounded the Tigers 41-31.
But, Pinson is expected back soon, so I’m not going to press the panic button on the Tigers just yet. This is a huge week, though, as LSU travels to Alabama on Wednesday night and heads to Tennessee on Saturday. Those are both tough games.
2. Kentucky (14-3, 4-1, LW: 3)
That’s all you can say about Kentucky’s 107-79 win over Tennessee on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats were playing to honor former coach Joe B. Hall, who had passed away early Saturday morning. It’s safe to say he would have been proud of the performance. The Wildcats shot 67.9% from the floor, with freshman TyTy Washington leading the way. He had 28 points, and scored in a variety of ways. He was able to create space for some 3s (going 2-for-4 from beyond the arc):
Career high 28 points (10-13 FG) and throw in 5 assists for TyTy Washington vs Tennessee.
So composed, unselfish and a consistently terrific shooter. Better defender than advertised too.
Easily one of the best guards in the class. pic.twitter.com/0tDxEr6apD
— Keandre (Hoop Intellect) (@HoopIntelllect) January 15, 2022
I love TyTy Washington’s ability to seamless to shift from off guard to creator. He starts this possession off the ball, puts a move on his man to shake free then comes off a screen for a pull up 3 pic.twitter.com/pOD3mpusdL
— Moddy G (@GoodEatz_Moddy) January 16, 2022
He also has great touch in the lane when he gets in among the bigs:
Tyty Washington has some really good stop-and-start acceleration (or, in this case, deceleration). Here he goes from full sprint in transition, lowers the shoulder to bump Kennedy Chandler way out of position, and stops on a dime to pull up for the floater pic.twitter.com/1Oa4Ojumgs
— Kali (@kalidrafts) January 16, 2022
He’s coming on strong, trying to prove the SEC Freshman of the Year race isn’t Jabari Smith Jr.’s just yet. After a midweek trip to Texas A&M, the Wildcats head to Auburn Arena on Saturday. That’s a huge game in the race for the SEC regular-season title.
1. Auburn (16-1, 5-0, LW: 1)
Auburn rose to No. 2 in the AP Poll after big wins at Alabama and at Ole Miss last week. I think the Tigers should currently be No. 1, but being second at this point in the season is fine, too. Gonzaga is a really good team, after all.
The Tigers almost lost at Ole Miss on Saturday, but credit to Bruce Pearl’s squad for coming back in the second half. Walker Kessler, after a couple of lackluster games, was back to his usual self. He scored 20 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked 7 shots and snagged 4 steals in the win in Oxford. He also didn’t commit a turnover.
As you can see below, so many of Kessler’s points come on alley-oops and put-back dunks. He’s a force in the paint:
The Tigers host Georgia on Wednesday night in what should be an easy tune-up game before Kentucky visits Auburn Arena on Saturday. That’s going to be a heck of a game.