SEC Basketball Power Rankings: Kentucky’s historically bad start, time to pay attention to Georgia and what to make of Arkansas
Hello there, everyone! Welcome to the SEC basketball power rankings. For those of you who have been solely focused on football up until this point, we’re glad to have you on board for hoops season.
Things are heating up as the start of conference play comes before we turn our calendars to 2021. We have some great SEC action on Dec. 29 and 30, and then we dive right into conference play.
No, the SEC doesn’t boast many elite teams, but there’s potential all around the conference. Mizzou looks great. Tennessee is talented. LSU, Arkansas, Georgia, Ole Miss, Florida and others can compete with anyone. Then there’s Kentucky, which is off to a historically bad start but still has loads of potential.
So, where do the 14 SEC teams rank this week? Here’s a look at this week’s SEC power rankings:
14. South Carolina (1-2 overall, Last week: 13)
South Carolina is 1-2. The Gamecocks just had to go on hiatus for a second time due to COVID-19 concerns. Until they play more games, they have to be in this bottom spot. I don’t expect them to stay here long once they’re able to return to action.
13. Vanderbilt (3-1 overall, LW: 12)
Vanderbilt played a tough Richmond team and lost at home this past week. That game showed a lot about how far the Commodores still have to go to be a good team. The good news? The Commodores outscored Richmond 46-33 in the second half, but it was way too little, way too late after a 45-21 halftime deficit.
Also interesting — only 4 Commodores scored but all of them scored at least 10 points. I don’t remember ever seeing that before.
12. Mississippi State (5-3 overall, LW: 14)
This week, Mississippi State dominated Central Arkansas and Mississippi Valley State. Those 2 teams’ combined records? 0-14. Yeah, not too impressed by those wins, but it’s better to win than to lose, obviously. This team has a talented backcourt with Iverson Molinar and DJ Stewart Junior. They could steal a couple of games in SEC play.
11. Kentucky (1-5 overall, LW: 11)
The Wildcats are off to their worst start since 1927. But I’m not hammering them too much in these rankings since they are playing some really good teams. North Carolina was ranked. Kansas was ranked. Richmond has been ranked at times this year. Notre Dame and Georgia Tech were bad losses, of course, but this team has talent. That talent just isn’t working well together at the moment.
Next up is a game against Louisville on Saturday. That game could get ugly, too, if Kentucky can’t figure out how to take care of the ball and how to shoot 3s.
10. Alabama (4-3 overall, LW: 9)
The Crimson Tide also are struggling mightily. The sophomore slump for Jaden Shackelford has been hurting this squad, as have the inconsistent shooting nights from John Petty Jr. Heck, Villanova transfer Jahvon Quinerly has been held out of the starting lineup recently due to his defensive struggles. At least Herb Jones, who has led the team in points for the past 3 games, has improved greatly this year.
Kentucky is obviously the most disappointing team in the conference right now, but the Crimson Tide are a close second in my book. We’ll see if they can get back on track against ETSU on Tuesday night.
9. Texas A&M (5-1 overall, LW: 10)
Emanuel Miller is becoming a star for the Aggies. He had 16 points and 8 rebounds as the Aggies bounced back from a loss against TCU by beating a tough Wofford squad. To the surprise of no one, a Buzz Williams-coached team is playing hard as conference play approaches. The Aggies should again pull off some league-play upsets this season.
8. Ole Miss (4-1 overall, LW: 7)
The Rebels led Dayton 31-24 at halftime but blew that lead in the second half, losing 65-62 on Saturday. But when Jalen Crutcher is doing Jalen Crutcher things, the Flyers are tough to beat:
Clear NBA range from Jalen Crutcher.
Very clutch guard for Dayton that shot 42.4% from deep last year. pic.twitter.com/zgyqU4rxNn
— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) December 19, 2020
Crutcher had 23 points in the win and continues to be one of the best guards in the country. Still, I liked the fight the Rebels showed. They have a chance to tune up one more time on Tuesday against UT Martin before SEC play starts with a trip to Alabama.
7. Auburn (5-2 overall, LW: 8)
Auburn led Troy 43-10 at halftime over the weekend. No, that’s not a typo. The Trojans only scored 10 points in the first half. That was the fewest points allowed in a half under Bruce Pearl.
Here’s a look at some of the defense the Tigers played against the overmatched Trojans:
Dylan Cardwell, Javon Franklin, and Allen Flanigan on court together is so much aggressive energy on defense and I love it.
Double screen action I mentioned earlier but not a bit of space is created. Too much high energy activity.
I'll take a contested big man 3 every trip. pic.twitter.com/dr7RuywmLs
— Drew (@orangeanddrew) December 20, 2020
Allen Flanigan led the way with 14 points, so it was nice to see him get going. This Auburn team is better than I originally thought.
6. LSU (4-1 overall, LW: 5)
The Tigers are another team that didn’t play this week due to COVID issues elsewhere, so they drop a spot. It’s more to do with what the new No. 5 team did right though, not what the Tigers did wrong.
So, here’s the new No. 5 team:
5. Georgia (6-0 overall, LW: 6)
OK, everyone, it’s time we started paying attention to Georgia. The Bulldogs are better than they were last year. Sahvir Wheeler is incredible running the offense. Toumani Camara is a budding star. He went for 19 points and 10 rebounds in the Bulldogs’ big win over Cincinnati on Saturday.
Justin Kier is a talented scorer and Tye Fagan has 17 points and 9 boards in the win over the Bearcats. I’m impressed with this Georgia team and think it can make some real noise in SEC play.
4. Florida (3-1 overall, LW: 4)
The Gators are still not playing after the scary medical situation star F Keyontae Johnson faced over the past couple of weeks. However, there is good news. Just look at Johnson dancing with his teammates:
That’s an incredible sign. We’ll continue to root for him to make a full recovery quickly!
3. Arkansas (7-0 overall, LW: 3)
Another week, another transfer doing great things for the Razorbacks. Justin Smith had a breakout performance against Oral Roberts, scoring 22 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. That’s the sort of game he’s capable of every now and then, and it seems he’s living up to his potential under Eric Musselman.
The Hogs have lots of guys who can beat you on any given night. This team is dangerous for that reason. Their nonconference schedule left a lot to be desired, but this seems like one of the best teams in the SEC right now.
2. Tennessee (5-0 overall, LW: 2)
The Vols have now scored more than 100 points in back-to-back games while winning 103-49 against Tennessee Tech on Friday and 102-66 against Saint Joe’s on Monday. The scary part? Jaden Springer, a 5-star freshman, finally got going in the Tennessee Tech game, finishing with 21 points:
Jaden Springer és un dels jugadors que més m'agrada del Draft 2021. Ha de polir el joc a camp obert, però el repertori a mitja pista és completíssim. És molt fort, acompassa bé cos i bot i juga molt bé amb els contactes. L'execució des de bot o rebent i tirant és molt fluïda. pic.twitter.com/UDsUAK2EJj
— Artau Pascual (@nba_en_catala) December 21, 2020
The Vols remain No. 2 on the list for now because their résumé still isn’t that impressive, but that could change quickly on Dec. 30 when the Vols play Mizzou. Speaking of the Tigers …
1. Mizzou (5-0 overall, LW: 1)
The Tigers were supposed to play Prairie View on Friday, but that game got canceled due to Prairie View’s COVID-19 issues. The Tigers will take on Bradley on Tuesday night in their last scheduled nonconference game before their SEC opener against Tennessee.
We’ll see how they look against the Braves, because they’ll need to be at their best if they want to hold onto this top spot moving forward.