SEC Basketball Power Rankings: SEC ties Big 12 in annual challenge, Alabama continues to rise and more
The Big 12/SEC Challenge took place Saturday, with 10 of the 14 SEC squads taking on the 10 Big 12 teams. The 2 major conferences battled their way to a 5-5 draw, which makes the all-time series 4-1-2 in favor of the Big 12.
There were some exciting games and plenty of ranked teams in action, showcasing why this is a great event every year. Then, there were also some important SEC games during the middle of the week and a couple of others Saturday.
So, in the wake of the challenge, we head into another week of important SEC action. Let’s take a look at how the 14 SEC teams stack up against one another this week:
14. Vanderbilt (8-11 overall, 0-6 in SEC, Last Week: 14)
The Commodores are just sad at this point. There’s no other way to put it. This team has talent, but for 2 years in a row, its best player (Darius Garland last year and Aaron Nesmith this year) hasn’t been healthy for SEC play.
After an embarrassing 90-64 loss at South Carolina on Saturday night, the Commodores have now tied an 80-year-old record by losing their 24th consecutive SEC regular-season game. That record was set from 1938-40 by Sewanee, so that shows you just what sort of history Vanderbilt is up against.
With a trip to Kentucky on Wednesday and a home game against Florida on Saturday, the regular-season losing streak record will probably be Vandy’s by this time next week.
13. Mizzou (9-10, 1-5, LW: 12)
The Tigers drew a tough matchup in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, being forced to go on the road to take on No. 14 West Virginia. No one expected Mizzou to win that game, but getting blown out 74-51 still wasn’t a good look, especially after dropping a home game against Texas A&M earlier in the week.
Cuonzo Martin’s seat is heating up at a rapid rate. If the Tigers continue to flounder during SEC play, a coaching change could come before next season. Mizzou has scored the 2nd-fewest points in the SEC, ahead of only Texas A&M, which has played 1 fewer game than the Tigers.
12. Georgia (11-8, 1-5, LW: 8)
I’d been willing to give the Bulldogs the benefit of the doubt in SEC play, as they’d faced a brutal schedule. They’ve already played Kentucky twice (both losses) and also lost to Auburn and at Mississippi State.
However, after the Dawgs lost by 10 points (70-60) at home against Ole Miss on Saturday, I’m out on this squad. The win at Memphis was a long time ago, and Tom Crean’s team has been bad in SEC action.
That was Ole Miss’s first SEC win of the season (we’ll get to the Rebels later). Those are games you can’t lose, and until Georgia proves it can win them, I’m out.
11. Ole Miss (10-9, 1-5, LW: 13)
The Rebels finally picked up their first SEC win of the season, beating Georgia in Athens. Is this what Ole Miss needed to get some momentum back?
It won’t be easy to keep that momentum going this week, though, as the Rebels host No. 17 Auburn on Tuesday and then head to Baton Rouge to take on No. 22 LSU on Saturday. Brutal.
10. Texas A&M (9-9, 3-3, LW: 11)
Going into Mizzou and beating the Tigers last week was a huge confidence booster for Buzz Williams’ squad. Yes, the Aggies took a step back on Saturday by losing at home to a not-great Oklahoma State team 73-62 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, but a .500 record in SEC play at this point is still a positive.
Games at Tennessee (Tuesday) and at Georgia (Saturday) won’t be easy, but the Aggies proved last week that they can win SEC road games. Don’t be surprised to see them pull off an upset (or 2) in the next few days.
9. South Carolina (11-8, 3-3, LW: 10)
Jermaine Couisnard has been a breakout star for the Gamecocks in recent weeks, all starting with his 26-point effort against Kentucky, which included a last-second game-winner. He’s kept his strong play going, leading the team with 16 points in a loss at Auburn on Wednesday.
He was named the team’s player of the week for his efforts:
— Gamecock Athletics (@GamecocksOnline) January 27, 2020
Justin Minaya stood out in a blowout win against Vanderbilt on Saturday, recording a 14-point, 12-rebound double-double. This will be an interesting week for Frank Martin’s crew, as South Carolina travels to Arkansas on Wednesday and then hosts Mizzou on Saturday.
8. Mississippi State (12-7, 3-3, LW: 9)
The SEC had some opportunities to pick up a sixth win in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, but the 63-62 loss by the Bulldogs at Oklahoma was a tough one to overcome. That’s one the Bulldogs should have had, but star F Reggie Perry had one of his worst games of 2020 thus far.
Perry finished with only 7 points and 6 rebounds in 21 minutes. The Bulldogs couldn’t overcome that lack of production.
Moving forward, though, Mississippi State has a 3-game SEC winning streak still alive. This week, they’ll head to Florida on Tuesday and host Tennessee on Saturday.
7. Arkansas (15-4, 3-3, LW: 5)
Isaiah Joe missed Saturday’s game against TCU, but Jimmy Whitt Jr. had a big effort. Whitt and Mason Jones scored 20 points in the win over the Horned Frogs. Interestingly, they both also scored 20 points in a loss to Mississippi State earlier in the week.
The Hogs need to get Joe back soon, as he’s a huge key to their success. However, if he misses more time, this week could be a rough one. The Razorbacks host South Carolina on Wednesday and head to Alabama on Saturday.
6. Tennessee (12-7, 4-2, LW: 7)
I mentioned South Carolina’s Jermaine Couisnard as a breakout star earlier in this column, but Tennessee has a breakout star of its own — forward John Fulkerson. Fulkerson recorded double-doubles in each game last week.
First, in a win against Ole Miss, he recorded 18 points and 10 rebounds. Then, in Saturday’s narrow loss at Kansas, he had 15 points and 12 boards. He’s shown he can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, too, like he did on this play:
If John Fulkerson doesn’t win the SEC Most Improved Player of the Year Award the whole thing is a sham! pic.twitter.com/B90HsClKU4
— Davey Hudson (@Davey_Hudson) January 25, 2020
His emergence has been something the Vols desperately needed, and he is keeping them competitive as SEC play wears on.
5. Florida (12-7, 4-2, LW: 4)
The Gators had a rough week, losing by 2 at LSU in heartbreaking fashion and then falling at home against No. 1 Baylor in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The Gators played well in both games, but 0-2 is 0-2.
Here’s how close Keyontae Johnson came to sending the LSU-Florida game to overtime:
Every time LSU and Florida play … I N S A N I T Y.
What an ending in Baton Rouge! pic.twitter.com/jkI6zPL9ws
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 22, 2020
The Gators host Mississippi State on Tuesday and travel to Vanderbilt on Saturday. They’ll need to win both to stay in the hunt for the SEC regular-season title.
4. Alabama (12-7, 4-2, LW: 6)
I’m going to take a bit of credit here. I’ve been saying all year that the Tide would be a team no one wanted to play during the SEC portion of the schedule. That has proven to be true, as the Alabama offense has become lethal under the fast-paced style of coach Nate Oats.
Kira Lewis Jr. has been a near-perfect point guard for the up-and-down style the Tide play. And, as you can see below, he’s not afraid to launch a 3 from any spot in the gym:
Kira Lewis with a deep 3- this is promising pic.twitter.com/XwZfh2buGU
— Mavs Draft (@MavsDraft) January 27, 2020
Lewis scored 26 points in a narrow win over Kansas State on Saturday, extending Alabama’s winning streak to 4 games. However, it won’t be easy to keep it going this week. On Wednesday, Alabama pays a visit to LSU in a game that should be incredibly exciting to watch. Then, Saturday, the Tide host Arkansas in another huge game in the SEC standings.
3. Auburn (17-2, 4-2, LW: 3)
Since the start of SEC play, Auburn is 5-2 overall (4-2 in SEC play) and there’s a trend with the offense. When Auburn scores at least 80 points, the Tigers win. They’re 0-2 when they don’t.
So, is 80 the magic number? It sure seems that way. Isaac Okoro continues to develop, though, and that makes the Auburn offense more dangerous. Look at him getting to the bucket in a win over South Carolina last week:
This is one of the better Isaac Okoro attacks I can remember. Sharp change of direction on the cross, squeezes between two contests for the finish pic.twitter.com/aVOaz6doYF
— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) January 27, 2020
And then look at how he doesn’t always try to score. He is just as effective finding an open teammate when he drives the lane:
Remarkable body control from Isaac Okoro to stop short of the charge and dump it off for a layup pic.twitter.com/JfrpNu5jnb
— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) January 27, 2020
He could be a first-round NBA Draft pick in June, so enjoy watching him at Auburn while you still can.
2. Kentucky (15-4, 5-1, LW: 2)
Nick Richards might be the SEC Player of the Year before all is said and done. The Kentucky junior continues to improve with each game. In an overtime win over Texas Tech on Saturday, Richards came up huge, scoring 25 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking 4 shots.
Just look at this vicious putback slam he threw down over some hapless Red Raider defenders:
Kentucky has a manageable home game against Vanderbilt on Wednesday before heading to Auburn for a huge matchup Saturday. ESPN’s College GameDay will be in town, so the atmosphere should be electric for the huge SEC showdown.
1. LSU (15-4, 6-0, LW: 1)
The Tigers walked the tightrope once again this week, beating Florida by 2 points and then taking down Texas by 2 points in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Coach Will Wade is getting frustrated with LSU blowing big leads:
Will Wade doesn't care about 15-4 or 6-0 in the SEC or 22nd in the nation.
"I've tried to be real nice about getting this stuff corrected, but it ain't getting corrected, so I darn well know how to get it corrected, and that's to be a raving lunatic. And it'll work." pic.twitter.com/nIO0eBG7Ym
— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) January 27, 2020
Freshman Trendon Watford scored 22 points at Texas, continuing to make a case for SEC Freshman of the Year. However, the dancing with disaster is bound to hurt the Tigers at some point.
With a game vs. Alabama on Wednesday, LSU will need to be careful, as the Crimson Tide’s hot three-point shooting could bring LSU’s SEC winning streak to an end.