Maybe the SEC isn’t just a football conference anymore.
Sure, there’s just one great team so far this basketball season in Kentucky from the SEC, but the bottom of the conference isn’t as bad as many expected it to be. Teams are starting to beat other conference foes up, especially when playing what’s perceived as a better team at home.
Looking to the weekend, there are plenty of interesting matchups headlined by Kentucky traveling to Alabama to take on a Crimson Tide team that plays much better at home. That said, let’s take a look at this week’s power rankings.
- Mississippi State 7-9, 0-3; KenPom – 235
After beating Florida State two weeks ago, the Bulldogs started conference play by dropping three in a row, including two games where they scored just 47 points. Mississippi State is playing competitive at least, pushing Texas A&M on the road to a 74-70 loss. They’ll upset someone in the SEC when you least expect it.
- Missouri 7-9, 1-2; KenPom – 155
Things looked to be so good for the Tigers kicking off SEC play with an overtime win at home against a good LSU team. But, then a loss at Auburn happened followed by the Kentucky game. The game on national TV with ESPN putting SportsCenter at Rupp Arena and Missouri lost 86-37 to the Wildcats. Not good.
- Auburn 9-7, 1-2; KenPom – 138
Auburn is the perfect example of what SEC play is going to be like. The Tigers are 1-2 in conference play, with the two losses on the road to Vanderbilt and Florida and defeated Missouri at home. It’s a challenge for Bruce Pearl in his first year, but the Tigers should be a better offensive team with the trio of K.T. Harrell, Antoine Mason and Cinmeon Bowers.
- Vanderbilt 11-5, 1-2; KenPom – 56
Vanderbilt has dropped two straight conference games, but has a great chance to bounce back on the road against Mississippi State tomorrow. The Commodores lost a tough game against Georgia in Nashville by three this week, but head coach Kevin Stallings has the team playing well on the offensive side of the ball. They currently rank 11th in the country in field goal percentage, shooting over 49 percent from the field as a team.
- Texas A&M 10-5, 1-2; KenPom – 83
Talk about heartbreak a week ago. The Aggies had the No. 1 team in the country on the ropes, but eventually fell apart late losing to Kentucky 70-64 in double overtime. Luckily, Texas A&M got to play Mississippi State in College Station getting the Aggies their first conference win of the year. Houston transfer Danuel House is going to be a name to watch this season.
- Ole Miss 10-6, 1-2; KenPom – 48
What is this team? This team lost to Charleston Southern to start the season, then took Kentucky to overtime in Rupp Arena before dominating a good South Carolina team 65-49. The next three games will determine how good this team is when they go on the road against Arkansas and Georgia before hosting Florida.
- Georgia 10-5, 1-2; KenPom – 34
Georgia is the first team of the second tier of SEC teams. The Bulldogs have a strong RPI and KenPom rating because of wins over Colorado, Seton Hall and Kansas State while losing to Gonzaga, Minnesota, Arkansas and LSU. There’s really not a bad loss, but head coach Mark Fox needs to get a couple more quality wins to get them into the NCAA Tournament.
- Tennessee 10-5, 2-1; KenPom – 96
The Volunteers, which many expected to be one of the worst teams in the league, is making a case to have a run at an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. They are currently 2-1 in the conference with a recent five-point win over No. 19 Arkansas in a game where Tennessee showed its defensive power. The Volunteers only have Florida and Kentucky once on the schedule, so an inflated conference record is possible.
- South Carolina 10-5, 1-2; KenPom – 36
Frank Martin is finally getting his team to play the way Frank Martin likes, meaning the Gamecocks are playing good defense and tough basketball. This helped South Carolina defeat Iowa State in a neutral-site game and holding off Alabama in its last game. Sophomore Duane Notice has emerged as the leading scorer and someone to watch in the next couple of years for South Carolina.
- Alabama 12-4, 2-1; KenPom – 37
The next five games. That’s what Alabama head coach Anthony Grant needs to be preaching to his team. This will determine the entire year for the Crimson Tide. The next five games are Kentucky, at Arkansas, Auburn, Florida and at Kentucky. If Alabama can go 3-2 in that stretch the Crimson Tide will be an NCAA Tournament team, and it needs Levi Randolph to be the leader to navigate this stretch.
- LSU 13-3, 2-1; KenPom – 50
How LSU ever lost to Missouri will be confusing to me. The Tigers are too talented, with Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin as arguably the best frontcourt duo in the conference. They are combining for 32.4 points, 19.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game. More importantly LSU is getting help from Keith Hornsby as the Tigers look to make a run to the SEC title.
- Florida 10-6, 3-0; KenPom – 21
Could the Gators finally be hitting their stride? After starting the season ranked in the top-10, Florida has barely looked like a NCAA Tournament team. However, they have started conference play by winning the first three games a combined 49 points. The Gators desperately need a third option to step up on the offensive side of the ball with just Dorian Finney-Smith and Michael Frazier II averaging more than 10 points a game.
- Arkansas 13-3, 2-1; KenPom – 29
For the love of Nolan Richardson can Mike Anderson please get a win on the road? It’s pathetic how good this team is yet can’t win away from Bud Walton Arena. Most recently the Razorbacks dropped a game at Tennessee in which they looked just awful. Point guard Rashad Madden needs to realize in games like that he needs to get the ball to Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls instead of going 2-of-7 from the field.
- Kentucky 16-0, 3-0; KenPom – 2
There doesn’t really need to be a reason here. Kentucky is the best team in the conference and will be until next year.