SEC Basketball Power Rankings: Tennessee’s slide continues, Kentucky stuns LSU and Alabama wins again
Another week, more chaos in the SEC men’s basketball world. Just when Tennessee looked like a Final Four contender, the Vols went and lost 2 games. Mizzou bounced back with a pair of strong wins. Kentucky stunned LSU.
The only constants? Alabama continues to roll and Vanderbilt continues to flounder. So, with that said, there’s plenty of movement in this week’s power rankings.
Let’s take a look at how the 14 SEC squads stack up with a big week — featuring Saturday’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge — looming large:
14. Vanderbilt (4-7, 0-5, LW: 14)
Another week, another COVID-related postponement followed by a lopsided weekend loss for Vanderbilt. Things are looking pretty bleak in Nashville after Saturday’s 92-71 home loss to Arkansas. Even coach Jerry Stackhouse sounds like he’s had enough.
He went on a profanity-laced tirade after the loss, calling out his players for not responding to coaching. Perhaps if the players aren’t responding to your coaching, it’s time to try a different coaching method?
Regardless, Vandy is now 0-5 in SEC play. A road trip to Florida on Wednesday night looks difficult, but the Commodores will potentially have a chance to pick up their first SEC win on Saturday when they host South Carolina. Speaking of the Gamecocks …
13. South Carolina (3-5, 1-3, LW: 12)
After a midweek loss at Mizzou, the Gamecocks hosted Auburn on Saturday and were blown out in dramatic fashion. The Tigers scored 57 points in the first half and 52 in the second in a scorching 109-86 victory.
The Gamecocks got a strong performance from Keyshawn Bryant, who had 24 points and 5 rebounds. But this team still isn’t clicking after its struggles with COVID-19 earlier this season.
This week will teach us a lot about the Gamecocks, though. On Wednesday night, they host Georgia. On Saturday, they travel to Vanderbilt. Both should be winnable for Frank Martin’s squad.
12. Texas A&M (7-6, 2-5, LW: 9)
Until the Aggies can score more, they’re going to struggle. A&M is averaging an SEC-worst 62.9 points per game. For reference, the second-worst offensive team in the SEC is Kentucky, and the Wildcats are scoring 68.1 points per game. That’s quite a gap.
Yes, the Aggies’ defense is solid, but it isn’t good enough to overcome the shooting woes. A&M has only scored more than 60 points once in 7 SEC contests. That’s not going to cut it. After hosting LSU this Tuesday night, we’ll see if the Aggies can get something going in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge against Big 12 bottom-feeder Kansas State on Saturday.
11. Georgia (9-5, 2-5, LW: 11)
The Bulldogs built some momentum last week with a thrilling last-second win over Kentucky, with PJ Horne playing hero on this game-winning shot:
In Case You Weren’t Watching…
Former Blue Devil and State Champion, PJ Horne Seals the Game With the Game Winner Against Kentucky!!
PJ WAS ALSO THE PLAYER OF THE GAME!!
The Blue Devil Way! pic.twitter.com/G53HvpHCy0
— Tift County Basketball (@BasketballTift) January 21, 2021
But all that momentum went out the window after Saturday’s 92-84 home loss against rival Florida. The Dawgs battled hard, but it wasn’t enough to get past the Gators. Andrew Garcia has been the team’s leading scorer the past 2 games, and I continue to be impressed with his development.
This week, the Dawgs travel to South Carolina on Wednesday before hosting Ole Miss on Saturday. Those are 2 very winnable games. We’ll see if Tom Crean’s crew can get back on track.
10. Ole Miss (8-6, 3-4, LW: 13)
The Rebels had their best week of the season, trouncing rival Mississippi State on Tuesday in Starkville 64-46. Then, they followed it up with a 61-50 home win over Texas A&M.
When Devontae Shuler is feeling it, like he was this past week, the Rebels are a tough team to beat. He had 22 points to lead the Rebels against Mississippi State and followed it up with 17 against A&M. When he’s confident with his 3-point shot, it’s a good sign:
BACK-TO-BACK | @Devontae_Shuler
— Ole Miss Men’s Basketball (@OleMissMBB) January 23, 2021
It’ll be tough to keep the good times going this week, as the Rebels face 2 road games — at Arkansas on Wednesday and at Georgia on Saturday.
9. Mississippi State (9-7, 4-4, LW: 6)
The Bulldogs hung tough against Alabama on Saturday, but a loss is a loss. Coming off a lopsided 64-46 loss to Ole Miss earlier in the week, the Bulldogs need something good to happen this week to stop the slide.
A road trip to Tennessee on Tuesday won’t be easy, but the Bulldogs did get a favorable draw in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, as they’ll host an Iowa State team that is 2-7 overall and 0-5 in Big 12 play. That’s looking like a must-win game at this point.
8. Kentucky (5-9, 4-3, LW: 10)
Coming off the bench for a game seems to have sparked something in Brandon Boston Jr. Yes, the Wildcats lost in painful fashion at Georgia earlier in the week, but at home against LSU on Saturday, they bounced back for a big 82-69 victory.
Boston was solid. No, his shooting numbers (7-for-17 from the floor, 2-for-7 from 3-point range) weren’t all that inspiring, but he scored a team-high 18 points. And he was involved in every aspect of the game, recording 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. He was making moves like this to get to the rim:
I like this decision by B.J. Boston. He is not in position to finish in space from the elbow so he pulls Trendon Watford out on the floor to create space for the drive. He also finishes high. No scoops, flips, or double pumps. @KentuckyRivals pic.twitter.com/izDAAN15dP
— David Sisk (@CoachDavidSisk) January 24, 2021
Fellow freshman Devin Askew struggled, playing 33 minutes with 0 points. Meanwhile, Dontaie Allen played 15 minutes and had 6 points. Jacob Toppin played only 9 minutes but recorded 6 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists. I don’t understand why Toppin isn’t getting more playing time.
This is shaping up to be a frustrating week for the Wildcats, though. First, they travel to play No. 9 Alabama on Tuesday then host No. 5 Texas in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday. Ouch.
7. Auburn (9-7, 3-5, LW: 7)
Auburn went 1-1 last week, losing 75-73 at Arkansas before blowing out South Carolina 109-86 in Columbia on Saturday. Sharife Cooper continues to be must-see TV. He scored 16 points to go with 12 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks.
As good of a scorer as he is, he’s an even better passer. Look at the way this entry pass leads Allen Flanigan (who scored a team-high 24 points) to the opening in the lane for an easy bucket:
With elite QBs, we often talk about how they can “throw guys open,” placing the ball in a spot the receiver can go get it but the defender can’t.
That’s exactly what Sharife Cooper did with this pass. Flanigan went to get it and found himself open under the basket. Easy: pic.twitter.com/ZnQu5KsMpT
— Adam Spencer (@AdamSpencer4) January 23, 2021
When he’s able to hit step-back 3s like this, good luck stopping Auburn:
Sharife Cooper is better than your best player pic.twitter.com/sQPQoufJ3O
— Drew (@orangeanddrew) January 23, 2021
Oh, and he even showed his smarts on defense. Look at how he slows down into a trailing position on this transition attempt from South Carolina, then swats the ball away with a chase-down block:
Sharife Cooper: Chasedown Block Artist
Fantastic play on the ball in transition. Quickness and hands allow him to read it perfectly.
Who said Rife was too small?! pic.twitter.com/91WYlgDdSf
— Drew (@orangeanddrew) January 24, 2021
He’s a truly elite player and he makes everyone around him better. Auburn hosts No. 12 Mizzou on Tuesday night in a game where an upset is definitely possible. Then, the Tigers face the toughest draw in Saturday’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge, traveling to undefeated No. 2 Baylor. We’ll see if Cooper can lead this team to an upset or 2.
6. Florida (8-4, 5-3, LW: 8)
It was a good week for the Gators. Right when I thought coach Mike White was on the hottest seat in the SEC, the Gators blew out Tennessee 75-49 then followed with a 92-84 win at Georgia.
Tre Mann showed what he can do when he’s at his best, scoring 24 points against the Bulldogs and racking up 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals:
— B/R Hoops (@brhoops) January 23, 2021
The problem, as is the problem with many of the Gators’ top players, is consistency. They should be able to keep the winning streak going vs. Vanderbilt on Wednesday, but a trip to play No. 11 West Virginia in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge looms large on Saturday.
5. Arkansas (12-4, 4-4, LW: 5)
No. 5 continues to be a good spot for the Razorbacks. They’re 0-4 against the top 4 teams in my power rankings and 4-0 against the teams below them. If you project that out, they’ll finish 11-7 in SEC play (19-7 overall, with an SEC/Big 12 Challenge game at Oklahoma State the lone remaining game that can go either way). That seems like an NCAA Tournament team to me.
Freshman Moses Moody continues to be incredible to watch. Against Vanderbilt, he had 26 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists. His ability to constantly make the play is uncanny, and his touch around the rim is impeccable:
6-6 + 18 y/o #Arkansas freshman wing Moses Moody scored 26 PTS (10/16 FG, 5/5 FT) in the #Razorbacks 92-71 win over #Vanderbilt. Did most of his damage in transition, showed his touch around the rim + feel for the game as well. He's 17th in @DraftExpress' current top-100 rankings pic.twitter.com/V7G1ipvm5G
— DraftExpressContent (@DXContent) January 25, 2021
He’s the leader of this team. After Arkansas hosts Ole Miss on Wednesday, the Hogs travel to Oklahoma State for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. It will be fun to see how he matches up with fellow freshman sensation Cade Cunningham of the Cowboys.
4. LSU (10-4, 5-3, LW: 3)
It was an awful week for the Tigers. After allowing an SEC-record 23 3-pointers by Alabama in a blowout loss in Baton Rouge on Tuesday, the Tigers made the classic mistake of letting the hangover continue. Kentucky picked up an 82-69 win over the Tigers on Saturday.
Big man Trendon Watford had a good game for the Tigers against the Wildcats, scoring 26 points and snagging 10 rebounds. However, the Tigers went 4-for-23 behind the 3-point arc in that game, which isn’t going to cut it in today’s college basketball.
LSU will get a chance to bounce back at Texas A&M on Tuesday, as the Aggies have the worst offense in the SEC. Then, a tough home test looms as No. 10 Texas Tech visits Baton Rouge on Saturday for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
3. Tennessee (10-3, 4-3, LW: 2)
Yikes. What an awful week for the Tennessee Volunteers. The football program is a mess (although a new AD will aim to get things back on track). Then, fans looking to take solace in a talented men’s basketball program were let down in a huge way.
First, it was a 75-49 loss at Florida. The Vols were putrid offensively in that game. They shot 29.3% from the floor (17-for-58), 16.7% from 3-point land (3-for-18) and 12-for-25 from the free-throw line (48%). They were much better against Mizzou on Saturday night, but it didn’t matter, as the Tigers cruised to a 73-64 win.
The one bright spot? Yves Pons had his best offensive game of the year against Mizzou, scoring 20 points on 6-for-11 shooting. If he can build off that performance, the Vols will be better for it.
This week won’t be easy. They host a tough Mississippi State squad on Tuesday. Then, on Saturday, No. 15 Kansas comes to town for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
2. Mizzou (10-2, 4-2, LW: 4)
The Tigers started last week with a nice win over South Carolina. Then, on Saturday, they got some revenge for an earlier loss to Tennessee, going into Knoxville and winning 73-64. That win turned into the Xavier Pinson show. He scored a season-high 27 points, making 10-of-14 shots and going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc.
He also had 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 assists. Any time the Tigers needed a big bucket, the ball found its way to Pinson:
Season-high 27 PTS (10/14 FG, 3/3 3FG) for #Mizzou sophomore lead guard Xavier Pinson in the #Tigers 73-64 road win over a good #Tennessee team. The 20-year-old Pinson showed his quickness, maneuverability + made some acrobatic finishes with his left hand around the basket pic.twitter.com/t4MGBZ3z21
— DraftExpressContent (@DXContent) January 25, 2021
The Vols clearly planned to take big man Jeremiah Tilmon out of the game, and they succeeded to an extent, as he only had 9 points and 5 rebounds. It was the first game of the SEC season the Tigers won without Tilmon recording a double-double.
Now, they’ll try to keep their 3-game winning streak going with a tough road trip to Auburn on Tuesday night and a home game against TCU in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday.
1. Alabama (13-3, 8-0, LW: 1)
After making an SEC-record 23 3-pointers against LSU in the middle of last week, the Crimson Tide faced a tougher test from Mississippi State on Saturday. But they improved to 8-0 in SEC play with an 81-73 victory.
Herb Jones led the way, showing why I think he’s the SEC Player of the Year. He scored 17 points, dished out 7 assists, grabbed 5 rebounds, snagged 4 steals and blocked 3 shots. What an effort! Look at how his defense led to this incredible transition slam:
Herb Jones stamped his name all over this game. pic.twitter.com/cXWRB7O1zi
— Bama Basketball Film Room (@BamaFilmRoom) January 25, 2021
John Petty Jr. didn’t have his best game, scoring 12 points and going 4-for-10 from 3-point range, but he did deliver the dagger on this well-run play:
Great spacing and attacking closeouts leads to the dagger. pic.twitter.com/0PAZ75ilyH
— Bama Basketball Film Room (@BamaFilmRoom) January 25, 2021
Alabama is loaded with guys who can carry the team offensively. Freshman Josh Primo continues to shine. He had 16 points against Mississippi State.
This week, the Tide face a pair of interesting matchups. First, they host Kentucky on Tuesday night. Then, they travel to play No. 24 Oklahoma on Saturday. We’ll see if they can keep their red-hot streak going!