SEC Basketball Power Rankings: Tennessee’s mixed week, Auburn rolls and Texas A&M struggles
Feast Week tournaments are over, and some SEC teams had a better holiday than others. Now that the calendar has flipped to December, things are going to get even more intense as teams try to pick up signature nonconference wins.
We’re down to only 2 undefeated teams in the conference, and both — Auburn and Arkansas — have manageable schedules this week.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at where each squad stands in this week’s power rankings:
14. Texas A&M (3-4, Last week: 13)
The Aggies lost 3 consecutive games last week and it wasn’t exactly to a murder’s row of opponents. Texas A&M lost to Harvard, Temple and Fairfield to finish 0-3 in the Orlando Invitational.
This program is a mess right now, and it’s going to take coach Buzz Williams some time to get his guys in there and turn things around. This team doesn’t have much confidence, and it could end up leading to a blowout loss to rival Texas on Sunday.
13. Vanderbilt (5-2, LW: 14)
The Commodores are finally out of the No. 14 spot! Sadly, it has more to do with the Aggies’ struggles than any sort of progress Vandy has made. The Commodores went 0-1 last week, with a home loss to Tulsa.
The good news is that Aaron Nesmith, Scotty Pippen Jr. and Saben Lee continue to look like solid players. Nesmith is averaging 23.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. The Commodores host Buffalo on Tuesday night before taking a break until Dec. 14, so we’ll see if they can enter this little break on a positive note.
12. Alabama (3-4, LW: 12)
The Crimson Tide only went 1-2 in the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis, but there were some positives to take away from the trip. Alabama only lost 76-67 to No. 6 North Carolina and earned a win over Southern Miss on Friday. However, a 104-89 loss to Iowa State showed some flaws with the defense.
John Petty got going offensively, though, and that’s a good thing. Petty scored 34 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against Iowa State and had a game-high 23 points against North Carolina. He seems to be finding his place in Nate Oats’ fast-paced offense.
11. South Carolina (5-3, LW: 11)
The Gamecocks had a rough time in Cancun over the Thanksgiving holiday, losing to Wichita State and Northern Iowa. They were more competitive against Northern Iowa, but they lost 70-47 to Wichita State.
South Carolina bounced back with a win over George Washington on Sunday, but this team seemingly lacks the firepower to compete with better teams. A trip to UMass on Wednesday will be an interesting test of this team’s mettle on the road.
10. Mizzou (4-3, LW: 10)
The Tigers finished 0-2 in the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, losing to both Butler and Oklahoma. They struggled to get things going in both losses, trailing 15-3 in the early minutes of each game.
When you consider that they spotted each opponent a 12-point lead before they really got their legs under them, both games were pretty competitive. Still, this is a team that has trouble making big shots when they need to close a gap.
Charleston Southern should be a bounce-back game for the Tigers on Tuesday. Saturday’s trip to 6-1 Temple will be much tougher.
9. Georgia (5-2, LW: 9)
We covered Georgia’s blowout loss to Dayton in the Maui Invitational last week, but the Bulldogs had a much better showing in games 2 and 3 at that tourney. They only lost by 8 to a ranked Michigan State team.
No, only beating Chaminade by 3 points in the 7th-place game was not a great look, but freshman sensation Anthony Edwards came through in the clutch, draining the game-winning shot at the buzzer to avoid overtime:
ANTHONY EDWARDS FOR THE WIN pic.twitter.com/nzMGn6OWWz
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) November 28, 2019
Edwards had 37 points against the Spartans, including 33 in the second half. But it was this insane pass that I can’t stop watching:
Insane pass from Anthony Edwards pic.twitter.com/0xc32TvY1c
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) November 26, 2019
He might be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft before everything is said and done.
8. Ole Miss (5-2, LW: 8)
The Rebels had an absolutely ridiculous week at the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament in Brooklyn. Ole Miss trailed Penn State 43-27 at halftime of the first game on Wednesday, but came back to win 74-72 in dramatic fashion.
Then, they went up against Oklahoma State on Friday and got absolutely smoked, losing 78-37. That’s just embarrassing. Breein Tyree led the Rebels with 18 points on Wednesday and also led the team on Friday… with 7 points. Yikes.
They’ll need to regroup quickly, as a trip to take on No. 24 Butler in Indianapolis on Tuesday night looms large.
7. LSU (5-2, LW: 7)
LSU rolled against Missouri State last week and has 2 more chances to pick up easier nonconference wins this week, hosting in-state schools New Orleans and Northwestern State.
Sophomore F Darius Days had one of his best performances as a Tiger against Missouri State, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Days even hit a couple of 3-pointers:
He only went 2-for-8 from behind the arc, but as long as he’s building confidence and shooting those shots within the flow of the offense, it’s fine.
6. Mississippi State (6-1, LW: 5)
The Bulldogs were off all week after playing in the Myrtle Beach Invitational the previous weekend. They’ll host Louisiana Tech on Thursday night and then have another break until things pick up again on Dec. 14 against Kansas State.
5. Arkansas (7-0, LW: 6)
The Razorbacks haven’t played the most inspiring schedule, but they just keep winning. Saturday’s narrow 66-60 win against Northern Kentucky was a bit too close for comfort, but a win is a win.
Arkansas hosts Austin Peay on Tuesday before traveling to Western Kentucky on Saturday. That Western Kentucky game should be more challenging than many others on the Hogs’ nonconference schedule.
4. Tennessee (6-1, LW: 2)
The Vols had a bit of a mixed week, losing to Florida State in the first game of the Emerald Coast Classic before bouncing back and beating No. 20 VCU in their second game. John Fulkerson had 17 points and 7 rebounds in the win over VCU. After the game, he and coach Rick Barnes had this great exchange:
Rick Barnes and John Fulkerson seated next to each other at postgame press conference.
John Fulkerson: I'm not going to look for my shot first.
Rick Barnes: That's a problem.
John Fulkerson: I know my role on the team.
Rick Barnes: Apparently you don't.
— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) November 30, 2019
Sounds like we can expect to see Fulkerson as a bigger part of the offense moving forward.
Also, Lamonte Turner had a big night against VCU, as he drilled a game-winning 3 at the buzzer to give the Vols a 72-69 victory:
I know we're in the middle of a (really awesome) college football Saturday. But, Tennessee hoops just beat VCU on a Lamonte Turner buzzer beat. Another nice win for the Vols, who are putting together a HECK of an out of conference resume pic.twitter.com/Bmkg6yDZBX
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) November 30, 2019
What a shot. Now, the Vols get to slow things down a bit, hosting Florida A&M on Wednesday in their only game of the week.
3. Florida (6-2, LW: 4)
It took 4 minutes for the first points to be scored in Florida’s 73-67 win over Marshall last week. It’s a bit concerning that the Gators seem to always play down to their opponent (see a 66-60 win over Towson earlier this year), but it’s better to win than to have an embarrassing loss like this would have been.
Kerry Blackshear Jr. fouled out in only 23 minutes, scoring 10 points and grabbing 4 rebounds. The Gators need him on the floor, but he’s gotten into foul trouble at various points and it has hurt Florida.
The Gators have a chance to pick up another big nonconference win on Saturday when they head to the iconic Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis to take on No. 24 Butler. Blackshear will need to play up to his standards for Florida to have a chance.
2. Kentucky (6-1, LW: 3)
Kentucky rolled past another opponent this week, beating UAB 69-58 behind a great performance from its frontcourt. Nick Richards had 16 points, 9 rebounds and 1 block, while EJ Montgomery turned in 16 points, 8 boards and 2 blocks. PG Ashton Hagans had 9 points and 12 assists.
Richards got the game started with a pair of strong dunks, both coming off feeds in the lane:
Here is the first play of the game. They reverse & clear out a side. Nick Richards screens for Ashton Hagans and rolls. Hagans draws the help & dishes to Richards for the dunk. In the first clip there was no screen. @KentuckyRivals @RowlandRIVALS @Trav_Graf pic.twitter.com/UdQQoR6fvz
— David Sisk (@CoachDavidSisk) November 30, 2019
Kentucky’s best look right now is the wing clear out for the pick & roll or isolation drive. They ran a variation of this 11 times tonight. Here they pitch off the drive then feed to Nick Richards for the dunk. @KentuckyRivals @RowlandRIVALS @Trav_Graf pic.twitter.com/0a4MI14IGZ
— David Sisk (@CoachDavidSisk) November 30, 2019
Richards is getting so open for dunks because he’s doing the little things well and setting screens in the right position. Then, Hagans is able to get into the lane and make things happen.
That duo is in its second year of playing together, and it shows. The dominance should continue this week, as Kentucky hosts a 1-5 Fairleigh Dickinson team Saturday.
1. Auburn (7-0, LW: 1)
The Tigers went to Brooklyn for the Legends Classic and came home with a 2-0 record and their first regular-season tournament victory since 2004.
Samir Doughty has been great all year, filling the role left by Jared Harper. He’s led the Tigers in scoring in 5 of their 7 games, including both contests in Brooklyn. He scored 19 points against New Mexico and 22 in the final against Richmond.
This isn’t just a run-and-gun team, though. Check out this defense they played against Richmond, forcing the Spiders into a number of long, contested, 2-point shots:
Great job by the Auburn defense of stalling out Richmond's Princeton actions with their length and athleticism.
Then when Richmond flowed into throw-and-chase ball screens with Grant Golden, Auburn used ice coverage to force contested twos: pic.twitter.com/60pHb64YEc
— Jordan Sperber (@hoopvision68) November 27, 2019
Auburn hosts 7-1 Furman on Thursday. The Tigers will have to make sure they don’t get caught overlooking the potent Paladins.