SEC Basketball Power Rankings: A new top team emerges, Alabama loses in blowout fashion, Mizzou lights it up again
The SEC got smoked in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday, losing the last installment of the annual competition 7-3.
It was the most-lopsided defeat since the Big 12 also won 7-3 in the 2015-16 season. Only Mizzou, Mississippi State and Tennessee scored wins, taking down ranked Iowa State, TCU and Texas teams, respectively.
How did the bad Saturday for the SEC impact our weekly power rankings? Here’s where each SEC men’s hoops team stands this week:
14. South Carolina (8-13 overall, 1-7 in SEC, Last week: 14)
Another week, 2 more SEC losses for the Gamecocks. On Saturday, they were at least competitive at Georgia after a 21-point blowout loss to Florida earlier in the week. Saturday’s game in Athens went into overtime before the Bulldogs eventually handed the Gamecocks an 81-78 loss. This week, the Gamecocks return home to Columbia to host Mississippi State on Tuesday and Arkansas on Saturday. If they can’t compete in those games and keep the score within 10 points, it’ll be ugly.
13. Ole Miss (9-12, 1-7, LW: 13)
Speaking of ugly, Ole Miss gave up an SEC-record 16 3-pointers to Mizzou on Tuesday night and then hit the road and lost by 22 points at Oklahoma State in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The Rebels can’t get their offense and defense on the same page this year and it’s hurt them immensely. This week looks daunting, with Kentucky coming to town on Tuesday night and taking a road trip to Vanderbilt on Saturday.
12. LSU (12-9, 1-7, LW: 11)
The Tigers have the SEC’s longest losing streak, currently standing at 8 games. It wouldn’t be surprising to see that streak extend to 10 games this week, as LSU heads to Mizzou on Wednesday and hosts Alabama on Saturday. The last game against the Tide ended in a 40-point blowout loss. If the Tigers can’t beat a Texas Tech team that was 0-8 in Big 12 play, this coming week doesn’t bode well, either.
11. Vanderbilt (10-11, 3-5, LW: 8)
Vanderbilt has taken a bit of a step back since showing some signs of life earlier in conference play. The Commodores lost to Kentucky and at Texas A&M last week, falling below .500 in SEC action. The good news is that a 1-1 week is a strong possibility moving forward. Yes, the Commodores face a difficult test on Tuesday when they travel to face No. 4 Alabama. But on Saturday, Ole Miss comes to Nashville in a game Vanderbilt should absolutely win.
10. Arkansas (14-7, 3-5, LW: 10)
I’m not going to punish the Hogs for a loss at Baylor. They more than held their own against a top-20 team in the country in a tough road atmosphere, losing 67-64. But now it’s time to start picking up some wins to improve their NCAA Tournament résumé. They’ll have a chance starting on Tuesday night when a hot Texas A&M team visits Fayetteville. If Eric Musselman can guide his squad to a win there, it’ll be a great sign moving forward.
9. Georgia (14-7, 4-4, LW: 9)
Losing by 29 at Tennessee and needing overtime to beat South Carolina wasn’t a good sign for the Bulldogs. They are trending in the wrong direction after a 3-1 start to SEC play. Georgia’s best win came at home against a ranked Auburn team. Well, on Wednesday night, the Dawgs travel to Auburn to take on the No. 25 Tigers. Then they have another intriguing game on Saturday against Texas A&M in College Station. If Mike White and company can win 1 of those games and stay around .500 in conference play for another week, NCAA Tournament bubble talk isn’t out of the question.
8. Mississippi State (13-8, 1-7, LW: 12)
I was very impressed with the grit the Bulldogs showed in beating then-No. 11 TCU on Saturday. Tolu Smith was a machine in the 81-74 overtime win over the Horned Frogs, recording 27 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks. If they play like that, the Bulldogs can beat anyone ranked below them on this list. But the problem is they’re still 1-7 in SEC play. If that doesn’t change this week (at South Carolina on Tuesday and vs. Mizzou on Saturday), Mississippi State will fall back into the double-digit portion of these power rankings next Tuesday.
7. Florida (12-9, 5-3, LW: 6)
Florida drew perhaps the toughest assignment of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, going on the road to face then-No. 5 Kansas State in an emotional matchup against former Gator Keyontae Johnson. The Gators started very slowly again, putting up 16 points in the first half and trailing by 21 points going into the second half. The Wildcats cruised to a 64-50 win, with Johnson posting a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double. Florida has to bounce back from that loss quickly, as this upcoming week is brutal. The Gators host No. 2 Tennessee on Wednesday night and travel to Kentucky on Saturday.
6. Auburn (16-5, 6-2, LW: 2)
Auburn had a rough week, getting smoked by Texas A&M at home by 16 points and losing by 3 at West Virginia on Saturday after a late comeback attempt came up short. The Tigers now take a 2-game losing streak into this week, which makes Wednesday’s home game against Georgia a very important one. Auburn heads to Knoxville to face No. 2 Tennessee on Saturday, so scoring a win against rival Georgia on Wednesday would take a lot of pressure off that game on Rocky Top.
5. Kentucky (14-7, 5-3, LW: 4)
Kentucky had its 4-game winning streak snapped against Kansas on Saturday night. The Wildcats aren’t going to win many games shooting 2-for-13 (15.4%) from 3-point range. Antonio Reeves and CJ Fredrick combined to go 0-for-8 from long distance and Fredrick only had 2 points. That’s not a recipe for success. Now that teams are adjusting to Kentucky’s lineup featuring Reeves, Fredrick, Cason Wallace, Jacob Toppin and Oscar Tshiebwe, it’s time for coach John Calipari to draw up some new wrinkles for that group of 5 to get them some more clean looks at the basket. We’ll see if he’s up to the task.
4. Mizzou (16-5, 4-4, LW: 7)
Mizzou has been red-hot from long range lately. The Tigers made an SEC-record (for Mizzou) 16 3-pointers in a road win at Ole Miss in the middle of last week, going 16-for-30 from beyond the arc. They followed that up with a 14-for-30 performance from deep in a win over then-No. 12 Iowa State on Saturday. D’Moi Hodge had 6 3s against the Rebels and 5 against the Cyclones:
— No Ceilings (@NoCeilingsNBA) January 26, 2023
If the Tigers can stay hot from long distance, beating LSU on Wednesday and winning at Mississippi State on Saturday is certainly very doable. First-year coach Dennis Gates is doing a great job with this team thus far.
3. Texas A&M (15-6, 7-1, LW: 5)
Texas A&M continues to prove that its 7-1 start in SEC play is no fluke. The Aggies blew out Auburn to earn an impressive road win and took down a scrappy Vanderbilt squad on Saturday. Tyrece Radford had 30 points and 9 rebounds in the win over the Tigers. He made 3 3-pointers and went 11-for-12 from the free-throw line, but he’s also a talented finisher at the rim:
— Jake Kerr (@jakeeekerr) January 26, 2023
This is a Texas A&M team that can beat anyone in the SEC on any given night. The Aggies will have their say in the SEC regular-season race down the stretch.
2. Alabama (18-3, 8-0, LW: 1)
Alabama only beat Mississippi by 3 points in Tuscaloosa to start last week. That should have been a wake-up call for the Tide, but it’s clear the lesson wasn’t learned in time for Saturday’s game at Oklahoma, when the then-No. 2 Alabama squad was absolutely demolished by the unranked Sooners, 93-69. But there’s reason for optimism in Tuscaloosa. The Tide host Vanderbilt on Tuesday night and head to LSU on Saturday. Those are 2 winnable games. If the Tide can improve to 10-0 in SEC play this week, they’ll be sitting pretty.
1. Tennessee (18-3, 7-1, LW: 3)
The Vols continue to roll, adding a top-10 win to their résumé on Saturday against Texas. Zakai Zeigler earned SEC Player of the Week honors after his 22-point, 10-assist double-double against the Longhorns. Here was one of his assists to forward Olivier Nkamhoua, who finished with a game-high 27 points:
— Ric Butler (@Ric_Butler) January 29, 2023
It’s not like the Vols to allow 71 points, which they did to Texas in their 82-71 win. But the offense is clicking now, too, and that’s a really scary thought moving forward.