George Bagwell gives his SEC basketball power rankings for week 10 of the season.
Matchup of the week: Arkansas vs. Alabama
Sneaky good matchup of the week: Texas A&M vs. Missouri
All game times are in EST.
1) Tennessee Volunteers
Last week’s ranking: 1 (+0)
Record: 13-2 (3-0)
Last week: Mississippi State (W) 87-53, @ South Carolina (W) 85-42
Next week: Vanderbilt (Jan. 10 – 9 p.m.), Kentucky (Jan. 14 – Non)
Best wins: Kansas, Maryland, USC, Mississippi State
Worst losses: Colorado
Surgical. Flawless. Tennessee basketball has played perhaps the two best games of college basketball played all year across the country. Facing two conference opponents, they won both games by an average of 38.5 PPG.
Against Mississippi State, they started on a 40-14 run, and against South Carolina they were up 45 at one point. They shot 69% from the field against the Bulldogs and 51% from the field against the Gamecocks, including a 10-10 shooting performance from Olivier Nkamhoua.
Against South Carolina, Rick Barnes’ squad outrebounded the Gamecocks 48-21. Though Mississippi State and South Carolina aren’t exactly Final Four material, there were absolutely no flaws seen at any point over the last 80 minutes of game time from Tennessee.
Next week, the road to March actually gets easier, as they have home games against Vandy and Kentucky. Maybe another 40+ point blowout isn’t in the cards, but it’s far more likely than a loss this week. (I may end up regretting typing those words into existence, but Tennessee hasn’t proved me wrong yet.)
2) Alabama Crimson Tide
Last week’s ranking: 2 (+0)
Record: 13-2 (3-0)
Last week: Ole Miss (W) 84-62, Kentucky (W) 78-52
Next week: @ #15 Arkansas (Jan. 11 – 7 p.m.), LSU (Jan. 14 – 4 p.m.)
Best wins: @ Houston, Michigan State North Carolina, Memphis, @ Mississippi State, Liberty
Worst losses: N/A
Alabama continued their dominance last week, beating Ole Miss and Kentucky both by 20+ points. After losses to Gonzaga and UConn, the Crimson Tide appear to be finding their rhythm. Just as last week’s SEC basketball power rankings stated, there is a legitimate argument to be made that Alabama could be the #1 team in these rankings.
I disagree, but there’s certainly an argument to be made. They’ll play the SEC Game of the Week this week, traveling to Fayetteville to play an Arkansas team that’s dealing with injuries as of late. Brandon Miller has not cooled off in conference play, scoring in double digits every contest so far.
3) Missouri Tigers
Last week’s ranking: 3 (+0)
Record: 13-2 (2-1)
Last week: @ #13 Arkansas (L) 68-74, Vanderbilt (W) 85-82
Next week: @ Texas A&M (Jan. 11 – 8:30 p.m.), @ Florida (Jan. 14 – 3:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Illinois, Kentucky, UCF
Worst losses: N/A
Missouri stays in the #3 spot, not because they wanted to, but because no other team in the conference wanted to either. With all due respect to a very good Tiger squad, there is a clear upper echelon in the conference, and it consists of two teams: Tennessee and Alabama. When healthy, Arkansas is there, but not at the moment.
Missouri looked the part in the first half against the Razorbacks on the road, but could not hold it together in the second half, losing by 6 after building a 17-point lead.
Then, Dennis Gates’s Missouri squad beat Vanderbilt. At home. By 3. Not the best week, but winning a conference game and losing another to a ranked opponent on the road isn’t going to drop Missouri in this edition of the rankings.
This week, they play two road games against Florida and Texas A&M, which, surprisingly, combine for a 3-2 record in SEC basketball play so far. Texas A&M has looked improved since their non-conference debacles, and this could be a tough test for Mizzou.
4) Arkansas Razorbacks
Last week’s ranking: 4 (+0)
Record: 12-3 (1-2)
Last week: #20 Missouri (W) 74-68, @ #22 Auburn (L) 59-72
Next week: #4 Alabama (Jan. 11 – 7 p.m.), @ Vanderbilt (Jan. 14 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: San Diego State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Fordham
Worst losses: N/A
Arkansas has played one good half of basketball over their last two games. Granted, it was a very good half, with them outscoring Mizzou by 13, but they looked lost during the first half of that game and both halves against Auburn. If they did not beat Missouri, the Razorbacks would likely find themselves quite a bit lower on this list.
Yes, they’ve been dealing with injuries to Trevon Brazile and now Nick Smith until February, but shooting 34-12-59 against Auburn (FG%-3PT%-FT%) is a major sign of concern. If those numbers from that game were Arkansas’s season-long statistics, they’d be dead last in the country in FG% and 3PT%, and 360th in FT%.
With games against Alabama and Vanderbilt this week, 1-1 is the most likely scenario for the Hogs.
5) Auburn Tigers
Last week’s ranking: 6 (+1)
Record: 12-3 (2-1)
Last week: @ Georgia, (L) 64-76, #13 Arkansas (W) 72-59
Next week: @ Ole Miss (Jan. 10 – 9 p.m.), Mississippi State (Jan. 14 – 8:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Arkansas, Northwestern, Saint Louis
Worst losses: @ Georgia
Auburn, you confuse me. A not-too-close loss to Georgia? Eh, it wouldn’t be *too* surprising given the Tigers’ recent struggles. But, immediately preceding a 13-point win over ranked Arkansas? Did not see that coming, and I apologize, Bruce Pearl.
The Tigers shot 35% from the field against Georgia (just 24% from players not named Allen Flanigan or Johni Broome,) then shot 44% against a much-better-than-Georgia Arkansas squad.
The win over Arkansas replaces a win over Northwestern as the Tigers’ best win of the season. But, the loss to Georgia surpasses the loss to Southern Cal as the Tigers’ worst loss of the season.
This week, Auburn plays Mississippi on the road, then gets a home date against Mississippi State. I will tentatively suggest that the Tigers go 2-0 this week, but putting that into print seemingly dooms Auburn to an 0-2 week. Short story shorter, I have no idea if Auburn is good or not. So go prove me wrong (or right?), Bruce.
6) LSU Tigers
Last week’s ranking: 5 (-1)
Record: 12-3 (1-2)
Last week: @ Kentucky (L) 71-74, @ Texas A&M (L) 56-69
Next week: Florida (Jan. 10 – 7 p.m.), @ #4 Alabama (Jan. 14 – 4 p.m.)
Best wins: Arkansas, Wake Forest, Wofford
Worst losses: @ Texas A&M
LSU may finally be coming back to Earth. Right after they so rightfully earned the #5 spot in the SEC basketball power rankings! Perhaps it was too good to be true after new coach Matt McMahon lost 11 players off the roster from last year yet still guided the Tigers to a 12-1 start.
Playing against Kentucky and Texas A&M, a 2-0 week was theirs for the taking (imagine typing *that* sentence out in the preseason,) even if they were both on the road. But, a 3-point loss to the Wildcats and a 13-point loss to the Aggies (that was never in doubt) gave the Tigers a rough week to stomach. Now, they’ve got losses to two (fringe) bubble teams with just one really good win (Arkansas.)
Justice Hill hasn’t scored in double-figures since November, and NC State transfer Cam Hayes has pretty much taken over Hill’s role in the offense. While it’s a net-neutral swap that doesn’t really provide any more offense than what Hill was producing before his slump, I’ll use it to inspire a vote of confidence in Coach McMahon, who is showing the ability to make lineup changes when necessary.
7) Kentucky Wildcats
Last week’s ranking: 8 (+1)
Record: 10-5 (1-2)
Last week: LSU (W) 74-71, @ #7 Alabama (L) 78-52
Next week: South Carolina (Jan. 10 – 7 p.m.), @ #5 Tennessee (Jan. 14 – Noon)
Best wins: LSU, Michigan, Duquesne
Worst losses: N/A
After the dismissal of Chris Beard, John Calipari’s name has been floated around as a potential name for the next coach in Austin. That’s less telling of Calipari and more of the state of the Kentucky basketball program. They sit at just 10-5 after last week and got embarrassed by Alabama by a margin of 26 points.
Their best win of the year is either against a home game against LSU with a first-year head coach or a Michigan team that just lost to Central Michigan. Did I mention Kentucky hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since before the COVID-19 pandemic?
Oscar Tshiebwe is getting all the opposing defenses’ attention, but the rest of the offense simply doesn’t take advantage. It’s an odd conglomerate of X’s and O’s on the court for the Wildcats, typically, and it hasn’t led to success, despite all the talent. A road game against Tennessee will be telling if the first half of the season wasn’t telling enough.
8) Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last week’s ranking: 7 (-1)
Record: 12-3 (1-2)
Last week: @ #8 Tennessee (L) 53-87, Mississippi (W) 64-54
Next week: @ Georgia (Jan. 11. – 6:30 p.m.), @ #21 Auburn (Jan. 14 – 8:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Marquette, Utah, Ole Miss
Worst losses: Drake
Mississippi State halted their losing streak at three games after a season-opening stretch that left them one of just four unbeatens in the country. That losing streak dropped them from the AP Poll, and it dropped them in the SEC basketball power rankings, too.
The Bulldogs just haven’t looked like the team that they were to start the year, and they didn’t look at all competitive against Tennessee. Sure, they did beat their in-state rivals against the Rebels, but so did North Alabama, so it’s not saying much.
Tolu Smith did not record double-digit scoring in any game during the losing streak, including a 3-of-15 mark shooting against Alabama. But not just any shooting from the field. The 3-of-15 mark, good for 20%, was Smith’s FT%. That’s unacceptable, of course, and the Bulldogs need him to play well if they want to make the NCAA Tournament.
9) Georgia Bulldogs
Last week’s ranking: 9 (+0)
Record: 11-4 (1-1)
Last week: #22 Auburn (W) 76-64, @ Florida (L) 75-82
Next week: Mississippi State (Jan. 11 – 6:30 p.m.), @ Ole Miss (Jan. 14 – 1 p.m.)
Best wins: Auburn, Notre Dame, St. Joe’s
Worst losses: @ Georgia Tech
Georgia got their best win of the year, a home win over Auburn. Previously, it was a glorified home game against now-8-8 Notre Dame, so good job Bulldogs.
But, a loss to Florida on the road will sting, not because it was a blowout or that Georgia played horribly, but because they were right there with Florida the whole game and could’ve easily improved to 2-0 in the conference and 12-3 overall.
Terry Roberts and Kario Oquendo continue to play stellar, and hiring Mike White looks like, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it looks like a good hire. (Through 15 games, at least.) This week, Georgia gets the Mississippi duo of the Rebels and Bulldogs, traveling to Oxford after playing State at home. There is a very good chance Georgia could improve to 13-4 by the end of the week.
10) Texas A&M Aggies
Last week’s ranking: 12 (+2)
Record: 10-5 (2-0)
Last week: @ Florida (W) 66-63, LSU (W) 69-56
Next week: #20 Missouri (Jan. 11 – 8:30 p.m.), @ South Carolina (Jan. 14 – 6 p.m.)
Best wins: LSU, @ Florida, Loyola Chicago
Worst losses: Murray State, Wofford
What a difference a week can make. After beginning conference play with an 8-5 record, the Aggies beat Florida on the road and then handled LSU easily at home. They looked physical and aggressive, similar to last year’s squad.
Wade Taylor IV continues to play very well, and don’t look now, but this team may have turned a corner. With a home game against Mizzou and a road matchup with South Carolina this week, Buzz Williams’ team should be 3-1 with a chance to remain undefeated in SEC basketball play.
11) Florida Gators
Last week’s ranking: 11 (+0)
Record: 8-7 (1-2)
Last week: Texas A&M (L) 63-66, Georgia (W) 82-75
Next week: @ LSU (Jan. 10 – 7 p.m.), #20 Missouri (Jan. 14 – 3:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Georgia, @ Florida State, Oregon State
Worst losses: N/A
Florida’s MVP against Texas A&M was the Aggies’ equipment manager. Actually, it was Trey Bonham, but in case you missed it, Texas A&M did leave their jerseys at the hotel and the game started with a score of 1-0, Florida. It didn’t end up making a huge difference, with the Gators losing by three, but it was certainly an odd situation.
After the tough loss, the Gators rebounded nicely, beating Georgia at home by seven. This week, they’ll face some tests, however, with a road game against LSU and a home game against No. 20 Missouri.
12) Vanderbilt Commodores
Last week’s ranking: 13 (+1)
Record: 8-7 (1-1)
Last week: South Carolina (W) 84-79, @ #20 Missouri (L) 82-85
Next week: @ #5 Tennessee (Jan. 10 – 9 p.m.), #15 Arkansas (Jan. 14 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Pittsburgh, @ Temple, Wofford
Worst losses: Grambling State, @ VCU
Congrats Vandy, for beating South Carolina. However, it feels weird to say, but the ‘Dores deserve more credit for keeping within three against Mizzou than they do for actually winning against the Gamecocks. So it appears there is a lowest tier of SEC basketball, and the Commodores don’t reside in it. (Spoiler alert: it’s just South Carolina.)
But, they’re still 8-7 before playing this week’s murderer’s row of Tennessee and Arkansas. If the Commodores squeak out a win here, (no promises, Vanderbilt) they could move out of the bottom 3.
13) Ole Miss Rebels
Last week’s ranking: 10 (-3)
Record: 8-7 (0-3)
Last week: @ #7 Alabama (L) 62-84, @ Mississippi State (L) 54-64
Next week: #21 Auburn (Jan. 10 – 9 p.m.), Georgia (Jan. 14 – 1 p.m.)
Best wins: Florida Atlantic, Stanford, Chattanooga
Worst losses: North Alabama
Mississippi might be headed toward a crossroads. Currently, they’re the only team with three conference losses, their best performance this year was in a loss (against Tennessee). The road likely won’t get any easier soon with SEC basketball play heating up.
Sure, Matt Murrell is scoring over 14 PPG, but this team has looked lost ever since their loss to North Alabama. If the team wants to have Kermit Davis return next year, they’ll likely have to figure something out fast and make some changes on the court.
14) South Carolina Gamecocks
Last week’s ranking: 14 (+0)
Record: 7-8 (0-2)
Last week: @ Vanderbilt (L) 79-84, #8 Tennessee (L) 42-85
Next week: @ Kentucky (Jan. 10 – 7 p.m.), Texas A&M (Jan. 14 – 6 p.m.)
Best wins: Clemson, Western Kentucky, Georgetown
Worst losses: @ George Washington, East Carolina, Davidson, @ Vanderbilt
Before I get into the bad, one positive note for the Gamecocks. Clemson is in sole possession of first place in the ACC. The only two teams in the SEC to beat current Power 6 conference leaders? Tennessee and South Carolina. So hold your head high Gamecocks fans. If possible, after a doubling-up of the ‘Cocks by Tennessee, 85-42.
I really don’t have anything positive to draw from that game, at all, from any angle, ever. And I tried. Before that, South Carolina blew a lead against Vanderbilt in what could have been their best chance to win an SEC basketball game (until their February rematch with the ‘Dores.)
This week, they play at Rupp Arena then have a home game against the new-look Aggies. (Yes, starting 2-0 in conference play qualifies a team as “new-look.) This team might not hit double-digit wins this year, and they might hit double-digit losses by the end of this week.