We are past the midway point of conference play, and teams are set up for a final push towards the postseason. The SEC is slightly down from a year ago, but there is still a lot of good basketball being played. The conference is showing its depth and balance with the log jams at both the top and middle of the league. Three teams are tied for first at 8-2 in league play, while another seven teams sit between 6-4 and 4-6 through ten games. The SEC hoops power rankings could look a lot different even by next week with so many teams bunched together. A good week could earn a team some separation, while a bad week now would be hard to recover from.
SEC Hoops Power Rankings
The Auburn Tigers had the best week possible with two overtime victories, including a thriller over fellow title contender LSU. Coach Bruce Pearl’s squad now sits atop the league standings and has beaten both of the teams tied with them at 8-2. J’Von McCormick is quickly becoming one of the best point guards in the SEC and has become the Tigers go-to guy in the clutch. He hit the game-winner in overtime to defeat LSU.
The Kentucky Wildcats rebounded from last weekend’s loss to Auburn with a solid week. They posted wins over Mississippi State and Tennessee with big performances from Nick Richards and Immanuel Quickley. Coach John Calipari has leaned on his veterans this season. This is one of the most experienced teams he has had in Lexington, with multiple sophomores and juniors carrying the load. Richards is among the leaders in the SEC Player of the Year race.
The Conference’s defending champions were cruising along until this week. LSU scored over 90 points in both contests this week but still lost both games. Skylar Mays leads a deep and athletic team that just seems to find ways to win close games. Their luck ran out with losses to the aforementioned Auburn Tigers and the previously winless Vanderbilt Commodores. The defense is the key for the Bayou Tigers, as they are allowing 83 points a game in losses, and fewer than 70 in wins.
The middle portion of the SEC hoops standings is currently more congested than Atlanta traffic. The Mississippi State Bulldogs have the most momentum of any of the teams jammed in the middle of the pack. Led by Player of the Year candidate Reggie Perry, they have won six of eight. This team lives and dies on the shoulders of their sophomore big man, as he has 20 or more points in each of those six wins, but just 21 combined points in the two losses. The South Carolina Gamecocks have also won six of eight, but they still have to overcome some slip-ups in the non-conference portion of the season. Guard Jermaine Couisnard and forward Maik Kotsar have sparked Frank Martin’s team as they turned things around in SEC play for the second straight season. They will need a strong finish to get their name called on Selection Sunday.
The Florida Gators also sit at 6-4 in conference play, but they have been wildly inconsistent. This young team has shown it has the talent to play with anyone but can also provide some flat performances. Andrew Nembhard is this team’s key, when he is at his best they are tough to beat. Inconsistency aptly describes the rest of the teams in the SEC hoops log jam in the middle of the standings. Tennessee, Alabama, and Arkansas have all had good moments this season. They have also had moments that leave fans and pundits scratching their heads.
The Razorbacks have a Player of the Year candidate in Mason Jones, but their shorthanded roster just does not have enough to help him out. Coach Rick Barnes’ Volunteers are going through a rebuilding season after a dominant two-year stretch. Alabama has a new coach but the same results. There is a stockpile of talent in Tuscaloosa, but it’s hard to know which version of the Crimson Tide will show up each night.
While the bottom portion of SEC hoops is gone from postseason contention, they can still impact who will be participating in March Madness. This past week made their impact more evident than ever. It started when Vanderbilt ended their 26 game SEC losing streak by defeating the league-leading LSU Tigers. Saben Lee scored a career-high 33 points in that upset victory. Ole Miss won back to back home games after a 1-7 start in the conference. Breein Tyree scored 38 and 23 respectively in victories over the Gamecocks and Gators. The Missouri Tigers also put a dent in the postseason hopes of a team further up the standings this week. The Tigers beat a shorthanded Arkansas team behind 24 points from Xavier Pinson.
Texas A&M has alternated wins and losses over the past seven contests. Coach Buzz Williams has brought new energy to College Station, but his team is still a work in progress. The Aggies sit at 5-5 in the conference, a solid start for their first-year coach. The Georgia Bulldogs have been one of the more disappointing teams in SEC basketball this campaign. Everything in Athens revolves around star freshman Anthony Edwards. His talent is unquestioned, but his efficiency is still slightly erratic, much like the performances by his team.
Top to Bottom
The SEC has three locks to be playing in the NCAA Tournament, and those three will duke it out for the league title as well. The next two weeks will determine who emerges from the log jam in the middle of the standings, and who fades away from postseason contention. The bottom of the league has shown that taking them for granted based on their record can leave teams ahead of them in the standings with headaches and disappointment. This next month should be fun as we hit the home stretch of the college hoops season.