SEC Basketball Power Rankings: Kentucky shocks Tennessee, Alabama and Texas A&M roll
Since I didn’t do my SEC men’s basketball power rankings for the site last week due to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, there are some major shakeups this week.
In the past 2 weeks, Texas A&M has been red hot. Florida has turned things around. LSU and Arkansas have fallen on hard times. Tennessee lost to Kentucky.
There is one steady presence, though – Alabama. The Crimson Tide continue to dominate.
So where do the 14 SEC men’s hoops teams stand this week? Here are my updated power rankings:
14. Ole Miss (8-9 overall, 0-5 in SEC play, Last week: 12)
The Rebels have been awful this year. They’re 12th in the SEC in points per game, 11th in field goal percentage, 14th in 3-point percentage, 13th in made 3-pointers and 10th in free-throw percentage. That’s terrible. Kermit Davis’s seat is red-hot right now. The Rebels hit the road this week. On Tuesday night they visit South Carolina in a battle for last place in these power rankings. We’ll see if Ole Miss can score its first SEC win of the year in that game.
13. South Carolina (8-9, 1-3, LW: 13)
It’s looking more and more like the Gamecocks’ win in Kentucky was a total fluke. It was a nice fluke, a fun fluke for fans to watch, but a fluke nonetheless. Saturdays have not been kind to the Gamecocks, who have now lost to Tennessee (85-42) and Texas A&M (94-53) by a combined 84 points the past 2 Saturdays. The Gamecocks host Auburn this coming Saturday. Can the Tigers also win by 40+ points?
12. Mississippi State (12-5, 1-4, LW: 7)
The Bulldogs went 0-for-18 from 3-point range on Saturday against Auburn in a 69-63 loss. Let that sink in – 0-for-18. In a 6-point loss. If they’d made even 2 of their 18 long-range attempts, they’d have gone to overtime. Unfortunately, it’s looking more and more like Mississippi State’s hot start in nonconference play was a bit of a fluke. This team has some major offensive flaws.
11. Arkansas (12-5, 1-4, LW: 5)
Arkansas’s loss at Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon was a horrible look for Eric Musselman’s squad. The Hogs simply let their emotions get the better of them. Then they gave up 63 points in the second half while scoring only 42 of their own. That allowed the Commodores to come back from an 8-point halftime deficit to win 97-84. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not ruling Arkansas out of making a late-season run. The Hogs struggled at the start of SEC play last year and made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. But things need to start shifting in a positive direction soon.
10. Vanderbilt (9-8, 2-2, LW: 14)
After Vanderbilt’s struggles in nonconference play, I didn’t think the Commodores had what it took to compete in the SEC. But a 3-point loss at Mizzou seems to have turned things around for Jerry Stackhouse and company. Now they’re competing in every game. Now they have a toughness about them that makes them scary to play. They’ll host Alabama on Tuesday night in an extremely difficult matchup, but a Saturday trip to Georgia should be another game the Commodores are competitive in late in the second half.
9. LSU (12-5, 1-4, LW: 3)
As things stand right now, LSU’s 4 losses in SEC play are to teams ranked ahead of it in these power rankings – Alabama, Texas A&M, Kentucky and Florida. However if the Tigers can’t pull off an upset this week, they’re staring down the barrel of a 1-6 start to conference action. LSU hosts No. 16 Auburn on Wednesday night and heads to Rocky Top to play No. 9 Tennessee on Saturday. That’s a brutal stretch.
8. Kentucky (11-6, 2-3, LW: 10)
Kentucky seems to have found its optimal lineup. Even with Cason Wallace battling back spasms at No. 5 Tennessee on Saturday, Wallace, Antonio Reeves, CJ Fredrick, Jacob Toppin and Oscar Tshiebwe proved they’re the best lineup for the Wildcats. Unfortunately, coach John Calipari couldn’t even commit to playing those 5 together more often without hedging his comments:
Asked if he has considered playing a lineup of Wallace, Reeves, Fredrick, Toppin, Oscar more often, Cal says yes, and they will do that, but adds that he still loves Wheeler's speed and toughness. Has some good combinations they're seeing now as the season moves along.
— Jeff Drummond (@JDrumUK) January 16, 2023
Sahvir Wheeler, who missed Saturday’s game with injury, is a strong player, but Wallace’s size and ability to create in the lane (as well as create shots for himself) should have him in the lineup in crunch time over the veteran Wheeler. It’s not a good sign for the Wildcats that Calipari can’t even commit to playing the team’s top lineup together more often without saying “yes, but…” Stay tuned for more drama in Lexington!
7. Mizzou (13-4, 2-3, LW: 4)
It’s too early to panic about the Tigers, but the road woes are real. Mizzou is 2-0 in SEC play in Columbia. The Tigers are 0-3 in conference road games. One of those road losses came to rival Arkansas in Fayetteville. However, Mizzou was in that game until late in the second half. The Hogs come to CoMo on Wednesday night. A win in that matchup will do a lot to get the Tigers back on track before an elite Alabama squad visits on Saturday evening.
6. Georgia (13-4, 3-1, LW: 8)
Mike White should be getting more buzz as a potential SEC Coach of the Year candidate. The turnaround from the Bulldogs this year has been nothing short of incredible. Last year, the Dawgs wouldn’t have been able to beat Mississippi State in Athens and win in Oxford even against a bad Ole Miss team. A real test comes Tuesday night, though, when the Bulldogs head to Lexington to play Kentucky. That’s a legitimately interesting game this season!
5. Florida (10-7, 3-2, LW: 11)
The Gators are on a 3-game winning streak in SEC play, and based on how they started this year (and SEC action), it has been impressive to watch. Colin Castleton finally has some help offensively. During the 3-game winning streak, 3 different Gators (Kyle Lofton, Castleton and Will Richard) have led the team in points. That’s a good sign.
This week will be a tough one for Todd Golden and company, though. First, the Gators head to Texas A&M to play a red-hot Aggies squad. Then they travel to Starkville to play a struggling, but still dangerous, Mississippi State team. Those are games the current Florida team can handle, so I’m glad I didn’t sell all my Todd Golden stock after the Gators’ rough start!
4. Tennessee (14-3, 4-1, LW: 2)
I’ve been saying for a while now that Tennessee’s lack of explosiveness on offense was going to hurt it at some point. That “some point” was on Saturday at home against a reeling Kentucky squad. The Vols shot 3-of-21 (14.3%) from 3-point range and got out-rebounded 43-23. You’re not going to win many games with those numbers. This is still obviously an elite team with an incredible defense, so don’t press the panic button just yet. But there are some major offensive flaws that need to be addressed moving forward.
3. Texas A&M (12-5, 4-0, LW: 9)
I’ll admit it – heading into SEC play, I’d written the Aggies off as dead. If you’re being honest with yourselves, I’m guessing many of you did, too. Who would have thought a team with nonconference losses to Murray State, Colorado, Boise State, Memphis and Wofford would start SEC play 4-0, with wins over Florida, LSU, South Carolina and Mizzou? Not me! But Buzz Williams has this team playing an exciting brand of basketball. The Aggies will host the improving Gators on Wednesday night and will head to Kentucky on Saturday. It should be an interesting week for Texas A&M!
2. Auburn (14-3, 4-1, LW: 3)
Wendell Green Jr. is playing some incredible basketball during SEC play for the Auburn Tigers. He scored 11 points in the final 2:15 of Saturday’s win over Mississippi State to ice Auburn’s victory:
Wendell Green scored 11 points in the final 2:15. Finished with 17 points, 4 steals, 3 assists.
Went 7-7 from the free throw line. Making him 40-45 from there in the last 6 games. Clutch pic.twitter.com/7WuY2qP9vo
— AU_HOOPS ? (@AU_HOOPS) January 15, 2023
When he’s playing his best, Auburn can beat almost anyone in the SEC. He draws so much attention from the defense and can make plays in the paint. Trips to LSU and South Carolina look manageable for the Tigers this week. If they can go 2-0 and Green continues to play well, it’ll keep the pressure on Alabama atop the SEC standings. Speaking of the Crimson Tide…
1. Alabama (15-2, 5-0, LW: 1)
Alabama looks nearly unstoppable through the first 5 SEC games of the year. On Saturday, the Tide absolutely dominated rival LSU, beating the Tigers 106-66 in Tuscaloosa. Brandon Miller was once again a superstar, scoring 31 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. He made 7 of his 11 3-pointers, too:
31 points and 7 made 3s for Brandon Miller in the blowout win yesterday
The 6’9 wing has been the best freshman in college basketball for a top 5 school and each game is showing why he’s a top ten pick. pic.twitter.com/TXL1sCiZBO
— Pistons Draft talk (@happypistonfan) January 15, 2023
As good as Miller was, though, there are 2 numbers I want to point out from the LSU beatdown – 8 turnovers and 20 offensive rebounds. When the Tide turn the ball over fewer than 10 times, they can beat anyone in the country. Jaden Bradley, Jahvon Quinerly and Mark Sears have the ball in their hands a lot, and they combined for 11 assists and 3 turnovers. That’s great.
Meanwhile, Noah Pringle had 7 rebounds, 6 of them coming on the offensive glass. You can’t give the Tide multiple shots per possession and hope to stay within 10 points. Vanderbilt and Mizzou are going to have their hands full with Alabama this week.