Julian Phillips, Tennessee Volunteers, SEC basketball

George Bagwell gives his SEC basketball power rankings for week 9 of the season.</h2


Matchup of the week: Arkansas vs. Missouri

Sneaky good matchup of the week: Auburn vs. Georgia

All game times are in EST.

1) Tennessee Volunteers

Last week’s ranking: 1 (+0)

Record: 11-2 (1-0)

Last week: @ Ole Miss (W) 63-59

Next week: Mississippi State (Jan. 3 – 7 p.m), @ South Carolina (Jan. 7 – 3:30 p.m)

Best wins: Kansas, Maryland, USC

Worst losses: Colorado

Tennessee stays atop these rankings after a close win over Mississippi, but it’s really a 1A-1B situation with Alabama. Either two has an argument for being the best team in the conference, and Tennessee can solidify their spot with a win over Mississippi State at home. The Vols are playing team basketball, as they have 5 players averaging in double figures. 

They’ve also got a road game in South Carolina, but that should be a cakewalk, and this is coming from a South Carolina student. At the least, it’ll still be a good matchup between GG Jackson and whoever Rick Barnes sends to defend him. 

2) Alabama Crimson Tide

Last week’s ranking: 2 (+0)

Record: 11-2 (1-0)

Last week: @ #21 Mississippi State (W) 78-67

Next week: Ole Miss (Jan. 3 – 9 p.m), Kentucky (Jan. 7 – 1 p.m)

Best wins: @ Houston, North Carolina, @ Mississippi State

Worst losses: N/A

Alabama has put together two consistent performances in a row, including a ranked win over Mississippi State. That win gives them a 1-0 start in SEC basketball play, and they’re looking at a 3-0 start with home games against Mississippi and Kentucky. With three ranked wins this year, Alabama is smooth sailing heading into the SEC gauntlet.

3) Missouri Tigers

Last week’s ranking: 5 (+2)

Record: 12-1 (1-0)

Last week: Kentucky (W) 89-75

Next week: @ #13 Arkansas (Jan. 4 – 8:30 p.m.), Vanderbilt (Jan. 7 – Noon)

Best wins: Illinois, Kentucky, UCF

Worst losses: N/A

I feel like a proud dad putting Missouri back in the vaunted #3 spot of the SEC basketball power rankings. I had caught flak for putting them in this spot earlier in the year before they had played Kansas (and gotten blown out,) but Dennis Gates has restored my confidence in this Tigers squad. They’re a very fun, fast team, and have quality wins over two (2!) ranked opponents. Who else can say that in the SEC? The only two teams above the Tigers, are Tennessee, and Alabama. 

After beating Kentucky (handily), the Tigers play Arkansas in the SEC game of the week, then get some rest (assumedly) when they play Vanderbilt at home. 2-0 this week is a major possibility, and that’s saying a lot for first-year coach Dennis Gates. 

4) Arkansas Razorbacks

Last week’s ranking: 3 (-1)

Record: 11-2 (0-1)

Last week: @ LSU (L) 57-60

Next week: #20 Missouri (Jan. 4 – 8:30 p.m), @ #22 Auburn (Jan. 7 – 8:30 p.m)

Best wins: San Diego State, Oklahoma, Troy

Worst losses: N/A

Arkansas. Welcome to the losers’ club. Besides Creighton, Arkansas had played plenty of teams close, with just one slip-up. Now, make that two. Without Nick Smith and Trevon Brazile, this team does look a bit different, and not in a good way. They shot 25 threes in the game, their most all year. They made just 4 of those. Maybe it’s just a bump in the road. Or, perhaps, it’s a sign of a team that might just not be a contender this year. 

We’ll get a chance to see this weekend with a home matchup against Mizzou and a road test against Auburn. Tough sledding, Hogs. 

5) LSU Tigers

Last week’s ranking: 10 (+5)

Record: 12-1 (1-0)

Last week: #9 Arkansas (W) 60-57

Next week: @ Kentucky (Jan. 3 – 8 p.m.), @ Texas A&M (Jan. 7 – 6 p.m)

Best wins: Arkansas, Wake Forest, Wofford

Worst losses: N/A

Congrats LSU, you’re this week’s biggest winner. In a period of time in which almost the entire conference played down to competition, the Tigers beat #9 (nationally ranked) Arkansas at home by three points. That’s enough to move them up five spots to #5 in the (not nationally ranked) SEC Power Rankings. Former Murray State and South Carolina point guard Trae Hannibal led the Tigers with 19 points off the bench, and he’ll look to continue that type of play against Kentucky and Texas A&M in road games this week. 

6) Auburn Tigers

Last week’s ranking: 7 (+1)

Record: 11-2 (1-0)

Last week: Florida (W) 61-58

Next week: @ Georgia (Jan. 4 – 6:30 p.m), #13 Arkansas (Jan. 7 – 8:30 p.m)

Best wins: @ Washington, Saint Louis, Northwestern

Worst losses: N/a

Auburn moves up one in these rankings, not because of them playing well (they didn’t,) but because Mississippi State and Kentucky played worse. At least the Tigers won, which the Bulldogs and Wildcats could not say. However, a three-point escape over an average Florida team doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence, especially when shooting 3-of-14 from three and getting blocked six times. 

This week, they’ve got an away game in Athens against the Dawgs, then a home game against an injury-bug-bitten Arkansas team that just lost to LSU. 2-0? Probably not. But it’s possible. 

7) Mississippi State Bulldogs

Last week’s ranking: 4 (-3)

Record: 11-2 (0-1)

Last week: #8 Alabama (L) 67-78

Next week: @ #8 Tennessee (Jan. 3 – 7 p.m), Ole Miss (Jan. 7 – 2 p.m)

Best wins: Marquette, Utah, Akron

Worst losses: Drake

I said in the previous rankings that Drake would hand Mississippi State their first loss. I did not say Drake would follow that win up by immediately losing to Missouri State. Or that Mississippi State would then lose to Alabama by double digits and give up 78 points. But regardless of whatever was predicted, the Bulldogs will fall to 7th in the SEC basketball power rankings. It’s a tough look for a Chris Jans team that was one of the last 5 unbeatens in the country. 

This week, they have to go on the road against Tennessee before a much easier home game against Ole Miss. 

8) Kentucky Wildcats

Last week’s ranking: 6 (-2)

Record: 9-4 (0-1)

Last week: @ Missouri (L) 89-75, Louisville (W) 86-63

Next week: LSU (Jan. 3 – 8 p.m), @ #7 Alabama (Jan. 7 – 1 p.m)

Best wins: Michigan, Yale, Duquesne

Worst losses: N/A

Kentucky, I’m disappointed, but I can’t say I didn’t see this coming. The Wildcats lost to Mizzou in a game that wasn’t ever that close. They followed that up with a win over Louisville, but that’s not saying much. Coach Cal’s offense has lacked an identity all season, and it’s not looking good for the Cats. Their best win is against a Michigan team that just lost to Central Michigan, and their next best win is Yale. Their loss to Michigan State looks worse now that the Spartans have lost to Notre Dame and Northwestern. 

This week, they play LSU at home and Alabama on the road. It won’t be the easiest, but the Wildcats have a good chance to win at least one of those games. For now, though, the Wildcats stay mired at 8th in these rankings. 

9) Georgia Bulldogs

Last week’s ranking: 11 (+2)

Record: 10-3 (0-0)

Last week: Rider (W) 78-72 

Next week: #22 Auburn (Jan. 4 – 6:30 p.m), @ Florida (Jan. 7 – 1 p.m)

Best wins: Notre Dame, Saint Joseph’s, Bucknell

Worst losses: Georgia Tech

Georgia, take a bow. Once a consistent member of the bottom 3 in the 2022-23 SEC basketball power rankings, they have reached the top 10 while already obtaining more wins than last year. In fact, once they win their 2cnd conference game, they’ll have double the wins from Tom Crean’s team last season. Kario Oquendo and Terry Roberts are one of the better 1-2 punches in the conference, and the Bulldogs have a double-digit win over Notre Dame to their credit. 

Now, however, the SEC gauntlet begins. The Bulldogs have games against Auburn and Florida this week. Given how those two teams played in their matchup last week, it’s worth wondering if Georgia may be able to win both of those games. 

10) Ole Miss Rebels

Last week’s ranking: 9 (-1)

Record: 8-5 (0-1)

Last week: #7 Tennessee (L) 57-61

Next week: @ #7 Alabama (Jan. 3 – 9 p.m), @ Mississippi State (Jan. 7 – 2 p.m)

Best wins: Florida Atlantic, Stanford, Temple

Worst losses: North Alabama

The Rebels fought hard against Tennessee, but ultimately fell short, 61-57. A loss to North Alabama before the break, however, is the reason for a bit of a slip in the rankings. Sitting at 8-5 and staring at an 0-2 start in SEC basketball play with road games against Alabama and Mississippi State, it’s worth wondering at this point if this season is Kermit Davis’s swan song. Of course, I’d love to be wrong and have the Rebels improve markedly, but it doesn’t seem likely at this point. After the game against Mississippi State, they’ve got a home game against a ranked Auburn team. 

11) Florida Gators

Last week’s ranking: 8 (-3)

Record: 7-6

Last week: Auburn (L) 61-58

Next week: Texas A&M (Jan. 4 – 7 p.m), Georgia (Jan. 7 – 1 p.m)

Best wins: Florida State, Oregon State, Kennesaw State

Worst losses: N/A

Florida lost to a ranked opponent by three on the road, and yet I come out of that game feeling even worse about their level of play than before the game. That’s what happens when the ranked opponent is Auburn, Colin Castleton shoots 1-6 from the field, the team combines for 3-19 from behind the arc, and none of the starters score double figures. What’s maddening is that despite all the ineptitude, the Gators had a chance to win, up 1, with a minute and a half remaining. 

A 7-6 start is tied for worst in the conference, but the Gators have two winnable home games against Texas A&M and Georgia to start conference play. Also of note, the Georgia game will be Mike White’s first game against his former school. 

12) Texas A&M Aggies

Last week’s ranking: 12 (+0)

Record: 8-5 (0-0)

Last week: Northwestern State (W) 64-52, Prairie View A&M (W) 86-66

Next week: @ Florida (Jan. 4 – 7 p.m), LSU (Jan. 7 – 6 p.m)

Best wins: Loyola-Chicago, Abilene Christian, DePaul

Worst losses: Murray State, Colorado

Texas A&M, as we enter conference play, can start with a bit of a clean slate. Compared to preseason expectations, an 8-5 record going into SEC basketball competition is not what the Aggies had in mind. Losses to Murray State, Boise State, and Colorado will hurt come Selection Sunday, but Buzz Williams’s team has some work to do in the SEC before they have a chance of being selected when March hits. Wade Taylor IV is averaging over 15 PPG, but the team needs more from Henry Coleman III. His rebound, block, and steals averages are down, and turnover numbers are up compared to last year. If the Aggies want to turn a new page, Coleman will have to improve. 

This week, Texas A&M plays an underachieving Florida squad on the road and LSU at home on Saturday. Both those games are winnable, and a 2-0 start could help fans forget about a forgettable non-conference showing. 

13) Vanderbilt Commodores

Last week’s ranking: 13 (+0)

Record: 7-6 (0-0)

Last week: SE LA (W) 93-55

Next week: South Carolina (Jan. 3 – 7 p.m), @ #20 Missouri (Jan. 7 – Noon)

Best wins: Pittsburgh, Temple, Wofford

Worst losses: Grambling State, VCU

Vanderbilt, with a win against Southeastern Louisiana, moved above .500 to get all SEC teams over that mark, at least for another day or two. That will change once the final buzzer sounds against South Carolina, a game that will be a good litmus test for Jerry Stackhouse’s ‘Dores. They’re coming off two wins against smaller opponents, Alabama A&M and aforementioned Southeastern Louisiana, and Ezra Manjon could be a difference-maker against the South Carolina backcourt. He’s scored in double figures in the last three contests. 

After that matchup, they’ve got a tough road matchup against Dennis Gates’s Mizzou squad. 

14) South Carolina Gamecocks

Last week’s ranking: 14 (+0)

Record: 7-6 (0-0)

Last week: Eastern Michigan (W) 74-64

Next week: @ Vanderbilt (Jan. 3 – 7 p.m), #8 Tennessee (Jan. 7 – 3:30 p.m)

Best wins: Clemson, Western Kentucky, Georgetown

Worst losses: George Washington, East Carolina, Davidson

South Carolina stays (for now) in the SEC cellar. However, they are winners of two in a row, beating Western Kentucky and Eastern Michigan to get them above .500 again. 

The ‘Cocks are 4-1 against schools with cardinal directions in their name, and 3-5 against teams without a cardinal direction. What does this mean? Likely nothing. But, they do have a chance to get out of the 14th spot in the SEC Power Rankings by beating Vanderbilt on the road. 

GG Jackson has been excellent recently, posting a 12-point, 16-rebound stat line against Western Kentucky and 24 points against Eastern Michigan. He’ll look to continue that streak after the road trip to Nashville when South Carolina plays a ranked Tennessee opponent at home.