George Bagwell gives his SEC basketball power rankings for week 12 of the season.</h2
Matchup of the week: Tennessee vs. Texas
Sneaky good matchup of the week: West Virginia vs. Auburn
All game times are in EST.
1) Alabama Crimson Tide
Last week’s ranking: 1 (-)
Record: 17-2 (7-0)
Last week: @ Vanderbilt (W) 78-66, @ Missouri (W) 85-64
Next week: Mississippi State (Jan. 25 – 9 p.m.), @ Oklahoma (Jan. 28 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: @ Houston, Michigan State, North Carolina, @ Arkansas, @ Missouri, Memphis, Liberty
Worst losses: N/A
Alabama continues to impress, and they received multiple first-place votes in both the AP Poll and our CBB Review poll. Here, in the SEC Basketball Power Rankings autocracy, one vote is all that is needed to secure first place, and the author has cast his vote for the Tide. After a road win over a sneaky-good Vanderbilt team and a demolition of a Kobe Brown-less Mizzou squad, Alabama is sitting pretty going into the Big 12/SEC Challenge against Oklahoma in Norman. (Or is it the “SEC/Big 12 Challenge?” Does it matter? No, but that’s why I care.)
Brandon Miller excelled (again) against Vanderbilt, scoring a 30-point, 10-rebound performance. Against Mizzou, the Tide held the Tigers to just 10.7% shooting from behind the arc and outrebounded Missouri by a margin of 53-45, increasing their NCAA-leading rebound per game mark to 46.4 rebounds per game. As of right now, this is a team I see going to the Final Four. The way they’re playing, it’s certainly possible.
2) Tennessee Volunteers
Last week’s ranking: 2 (-)
Record: 16-3 (6-1)
Last week: @ Mississippi State (W) 70-59, @ LSU (W) 77-56
Next week: Georgia (Jan. 25 – 7 p.m.), #10 Texas (Jan. 28 – 6 p.m.)
Best wins: Kansas, USC, Maryland, @ LSU
Worst losses: Colorado
Tennessee took care of business last week, beating both Mississippi State and LSU on the road by double digits. LSU managed to shoot better from the field than the Volunteers, something Tennessee hadn’t allowed an opponent to do since Maryland, over a month ago. Tennessee is ranked 1st in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom and is ranked 2nd overall behind Houston. They’ve climbed up to #4 in the AP Poll but remain #2 in the SEC Power Rankings.
Zakai Zeigler has stepped up as a passer recently, averaging 7.6 APG over his last 5 contests. Josiah-Jordan James also had a good week, averaging 17.5 PPG over the 2-game stretch against Mississippi State and LSU.
Next week, the Vols play Georgia at home before the Matchup of the Week against Texas, Rick Barnes’ former school. My money’s on the orange team.
3) Auburn Tigers
Last week’s ranking: 3 (+0)
Record: 16-3 (6-1)
Last week: @ LSU (W) 67-49, @ South Carolina (W) 81-66
Next week: Texas A&M (Jan. 25 – 9 p.m.), @ West Virginia (Jan. 28 – Noon)
Best wins: Arkansas, Northwestern, Saint Louis, Florida, @ LSU
Worst losses: N/A
Auburn continues to beat up on the lesser competition at the bottom of the SEC, but as the adage goes, you can only play your schedule. Playing LSU and South Carolina, the Tigers took advantage and won by an average margin of 16.5 PPG. Sure, it’s not like South Carolina is the best team in the conference (or area code, perhaps,) but a conference win is a conference win. This week, however, the challenge begins. Both the metaphorical rise in opponent ability and the literal SEC/Big 12 Challenge against West Virginia in Morgantown.
A home game against Texas A&M waits, and the Aggies are ready for war following the snapping of their conference-game win streak at five. The Tigers themselves have the longest home winning streak in the nation at 28, and they’ll be motivated to keep it intact against a top-notch opponent. A win over the Aggies and Mountaineers coupled with a Tennessee loss could create some turbulence in the SEC Power Rankings Top 3, something we haven’t seen in a while. That’s a long shot, but it’s the SEC in January, so anything is possible besides Alabama losing a conference game.
4) Texas A&M Aggies
Last week’s ranking: 4 (-)
Record: 13-6 (5-1)
Last week: Florida (W) 54-52, @ Kentucky (L) 67-76
Next week: @ #15 Auburn (Jan. 25 – 9 p.m.), Vanderbilt (Jan. 28 – 8:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Missouri, Florida (x2), LSU
Worst losses: Murray State, Wofford
Texas A&M’s streak of a handful of SEC wins in a row finally got snapped on the road at Kentucky after a close home win against Florida. Even with Tyrese Radford’s 22-point performance, Oscar Tshiebwe put up 17 boards and the Aggies shot 18% from three-point territory, which is a high-quality recipe to lose a game. Luckily, the basketball season is 30+ games, so one bad game won’t sink Texas A&M’s hopes. They’ve got a major chance to right the ship by beating a talented but flawed Auburn team on the road before a home game against Jerry Stackhouse and the Commodores. Great band, average team.
A 2-0 week puts Texas A&M at 15-6 overall and 7-1 in conference play. And that, to me, sounds like an at-large bid. But an 0-2 mark means the Aggies fall to 13-8 and 5-3, decidedly off the bubble. This is a crucial week for Buzz Williams’ squad.
5) Kentucky Wildcats
Last week’s ranking: 8 (+3)
Record: 13-6 (4-3)
Last week: Georgia (W) 85-71, Texas A&M (W) 76-67
Next week: @ Vanderbilt (Jan. 24 – 9 p.m.), #9 Kansas (Jan. 28 – 8 p.m.)
Best wins: @ Tennessee, Texas A&M, Georgia, Michigan
Worst losses: South Carolina
Has Kentucky turned a corner? Does the turned corner lead to Austin, Texas? I joke, but the Calipari rumors won’t stop until the Wildcats win a game in March. After taking care of Georgia with an insane 37-point, 24-rebound performance from Oscar Tshiebwe, (is he human? Have we received confirmation on that?) Kentucky beat a red-hot Texas A&M team to take a share of 5th in the conference with Florida.
The new starting lineup of Jacob Toppin, Tshiebwe, Cason Wallace, CJ Frederick, and Chris Livingston has dramatically improved the offense, and Kentucky still has plenty of time to make an impression on the Selection Committee. This week, a road matchup against Vanderbilt is suddenly nothing to take lightly, as the ‘Dores are 3-3 in SEC basketball play with wins over Arkansas and Georgia before Kansas travels to Rupp on the heels of a 3-game losing streak. All of a sudden, it’s looking like Kentucky may have a chance to win this game. They’re certainly hitting their stride at the right time.
6) Missouri Tigers
Last week’s ranking: 5 (-1)
Record: 14-5 (3-4)
Last week: #25 Arkansas (W) 79-76, #4 Alabama (L) 64-85
Next week: @ Ole Miss (Jan. 24 – 7 p.m.), #12 Iowa State (Jan. 28 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky, UCF
Worst losses: N/A
Mizzou got a revenge win last week over a flailing Arkansas team before losing to Alabama without Kobe Brown in the lineup. The win over Arkansas is huge, as it keeps the Tigers afloat in the SEC race instead of dropping them to 2-5. The team’s momentum has slowed just a bit, going 2-4 in their last six after a 12-1 start. However, the potential and talent are still evident, as the Tigers are one of the deepest teams in the conference and still rank 10th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency on KenPom.
This week, they’ve got a road matchup against Ole Miss, a game they should win, before a home game against former Big 12 rival Iowa State. Two wins this week could catapult the Tigers back into the national spotlight after they’ve fallen out of the limelight a bit recently. The health of Kobe Brown is a big factor in if that happens or not.
Also, a bit of random fact, Mizzou’s last three losses have had the Tigers score exactly 64 points every time. The other two losses, one to Kansas and one to Arkansas (since avenged,) had the Tigers scored 67 and 68 points, respectively. When Missouri scores 68+ points in a game, they’re 14-1. Every other team besides Alabama has scored less than 64 points in a game, something Missouri hasn’t done. This is still a very good team that’s dangerous when fully healthy.
7) Florida Gators
Last week’s ranking: 7 (+0)
Record: 11-8 (4-3)
Last week: @ Texas A&M (L) 52-54, @ Mississippi State (W) 61-59
Next week: South Carolina (Jan. 25 – 7 p.m.), @ #5 Kansas State (Jan. 28 – 6 p.m.)
Best wins: Missouri, Georgia, @ LSU
Worst losses: N/A
Florida played two games last week, losing one by two points and winning the other by two points, good for a +0-point margin. Naturally, they stay secure in the #7 slot in the SEC Basketball Power Rankings. Not a bad place to be, but it can get better. The Gators shot 41% from three against Mississippi State, while holding them to 23% from behind the arc, quite possibly the difference in a two-point game. But against Texas A&M, the Gators shot 26% from the field, all shots included, worse than their 3PT% against the Bulldogs. A tale of two games for sure, as inconsistency has been a major issue for this year’s Gator team. They currently find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble right now, even with a 4-3 conference record.
This week, they’ve got a home game against South Carolina before kicking up the competition a notch with a road game against #5 Kansas State in Manhattan. It seems irresponsible to suggest anything other than a 1-1 week for Florida.
8) Georgia Bulldogs
Last week’s ranking: 6 (-2)
Record: 13-6 (3-3)
Last week: @ Kentucky (L) 71-85, Vanderbilt (L) 82-85
Next week: @ #4 Tennessee (Jan. 25 – 7 p.m.), South Carolina (Jan. 28 – 6 p.m.)
Best wins: Auburn, Notre Dame, Mississippi State
Worst losses: @ Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt
Georgia fell a bit back down to Earth, or rather Athens, after the first half of the Kentucky game. Up 8 at the half, the Bulldogs were outscored by 22 points in the second half and got out-rebounded 44-31 behind a 23-rebound performance by Oscar Tshiebwe, who Mike White had no answer for. Then, a home tilt against Vanderbilt resulted in a 3-point loss even after a late rally. Maybe it’s just a case of a bad week. Stuff happens, and no team is perfect. But it could be a sign of things to come. KenPom still has the Bulldogs at 92cnd in his rankings, behind UCSB, Ole Miss, and all but two SEC teams. (LSU and South Carolina lag behind at 118 and 244, respectively.)
Whatever the case, Mike White and the Dawgs (I like that name, I might have to use it more often.) will try to right the ship with a road game against Tennessee and a home game against South Carolina. Common knowledge should tell us the Bulldogs go 1-1 this week, but as we’ve seen in the SEC, anything is possible with a little magic and a lot of luck.
9) Vanderbilt Commodores
Last week’s ranking: 10 (+1)
Record: 10-9 (3-3)
Last week: #4 Alabama (L) 66-78, @ Georgia (W) 85-82
Next week: Kentucky (Jan. 24 – 9 p.m.), @ Texas A&M (Jan. 28 – 8:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Arkansas, Pittsburgh, @ Temple, @ Georgia
Worst losses: Grambling State
Don’t look yet, but Vanderbilt is actually .500 in the conference through 6 games with wins over Arkansas and Georgia. Despite losses to Southern Miss and Grambling State in non-conference play, the Commodores have looked like a completely different team against good competition. After not getting blown out by Alabama (no easy task,) they managed to beat Georgia on the road. They’re playing a very satisfying brand of basketball as of recently, and Jerry Stackhouse’s squad is very team-oriented and unselfish. As an objective, non-biased enjoyer of good basketball, Vanderbilt’s film makes me smile. That may be the first time I’ve ever typed that sentence. Well done, Jerry, well done.
This week, they have a home game with Kentucky before traveling to College Station to play Texas A&M. It’s a tough week, certainly, but a win isn’t out of the question with the way the Vandy Boys have been playing. Can the ‘Dores stay at .500? Time will tell.
10) Arkansas Razorbacks
Last week’s ranking: 9 (-1)
Record: 13-6 (2-5)
Last week: @ Missouri (L) 76-79, Ole Miss (W) 69-57
Next week: LSU (Jan. 24 – 7 p.m.), @ #17 Baylor (Jan. 28 – 4 p.m.)
Best wins: San Diego State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Fordham
Worst losses: @ Vanderbilt
Arkansas dropped a close game against a motivated Mizzou team looking for revenge early in the week, before taking care of a struggling Ole Miss team last Saturday. It’s imperative that Arkansas rights the ship before Nick Smith returns, and that’s if Smith actually does make a return. A home game with LSU bodes well for the Razorbacks’ chances, but a road test against a very good Baylor team will likely be a much stiffer challenge.
It’s still January, but Arkansas needs to be worried about March right now. The Selection Committee won’t just let Arkansas sleep through SEC play and save them a spot on Selection Sunday based on name recognition and preseason polls. This is a team that is currently flawed, especially on the offensive side. 8 of the last 11 conference games are against teams currently with a .500 or better record in the conference, and Arkansas is already sitting at 2-5 in the SEC.
11) Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last week’s ranking: 12 (+1)
Record: 12-7 (1-6)
Last week: #9 Tennessee (L) 59-70, Florida (L) 59-61
Next week: @ #2 Alabama (Jan. 25 – 9 p.m.), #11 TCU (Jan. 28 – 4 p.m.)
Best wins: Marquette, Utah, Ole Miss
Worst losses: Drake
Two points were all that separated Mississippi State from snapping their three-game losing streak, but the streak lives on to four. It was a tough night against Florida for the Bulldogs, who shot just 23% from 3PT range. In a two-point loss, that makes all the difference. They’re still shooting 61% from the FT line and just 28% from behind the arc, and it’s hard to win a game in the SEC with those numbers. Tolu Smith leads the team in PPG, and is shooting 55% from the field, but is only shooting 52% from the line. It’s Chris Jans’s first season, sure, but it’s not to be disappointed after such a good start to the season for the Bulldogs.
Barring a miracle, the Bulldogs will likely fall to 12-9 after their games this week, a road game against Alabama and a home matchup with TCU in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
12) LSU Tigers
Last week’s ranking: 11 (-1)
Record: 12-7 (1-6)
Last week: #16 Auburn (L) 49-67, #9 Tennessee (L) 56-77
Next week: @ Arkansas (Jan. 24 – 7 p.m.), Texas Tech (Jan. 28 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Arkansas, Wake Forest, Wofford
Worst losses: N/A
LSU looks lost, and a map may not be located anywhere close to Baton Rouge. After a 12-1 start, they’ve stumbled to a 6-game losing streak with the last 3 defeats all by 20+ points. It’s clear a team that at one point had every player from the previous year off the roster or in the transfer portal will need some time to become a quality program. The non-conference schedule was fun, but having to face quality teams week in and week out has exposed the Tigers.
This week may not be too different, as they have to travel on the road to play Arkansas before drawing Texas Tech in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. If they do win either game, it’ll likely have to be on the back of another high-quality KJ Williams performance.
They drop a spot this week from 11 to 12. Significant? Not in the grand scheme of things, but it is the first time the Tigers have fallen into the SEC Basketball Power Rankings Bottom 3, a space I thought would have been reserved for some combination of South Carolina, Georgia, and Vanderbilt before the season. So much for that.
13) Ole Miss Rebels
Last week’s ranking: 14 (+1)
Record: 9-10 (1-6)
Last week: @ South Carolina (W) 70-58, @ #25 Arkansas (L) 57-69
Next week: Missouri (Jan. 24 – 7 p.m.), @ Oklahoma State (Jan. 28 – 8 p.m.)
Best wins: Florida Atlantic, Temple, Stanford
Worst losses: North Alabama
Congrats, Ole Miss, for immediately leaving the SEC Basketball Power Rankings cellar the week after getting into it. The win over South Carolina on the road means every SEC team now has a conference victory, and all but 4 have a conference road win. (LSU, Mississippi State, Arkansas, and Missouri are the odd ones out.) The win, however, was immediately followed by a double-digit loss to an Arkansas team that entered with a 1-5 conference record. It might be time to start looking to next year for the Rebels, who would likely have to win every game of the rest of the season to have a chance on the bubble.
On the bright side, their win over Florida Atlantic is actually looking really good. The Owls’ only loss so far this season has been to Kermit Davis’s squad. This week, the Rebels have a tough home draw against Missouri before having to travel to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State. Even though the Cowboys are close to the bottom of the Big 12 standings, any Big 12 opponent is a tough matchup for Ole Miss.
14) South Carolina Gamecocks
Last week’s ranking: 13 (-1 )
Record: 8-11 (1-5)
Last week: Ole Miss (L) 58-70, #16 Auburn (L) 66-81
Next week: @ Florida (Jan. 25 – 7 p.m.), @ Georgia (Jan. 28 – 6 p.m.)
Best wins: Clemson, @ Kentucky, Western Kentucky
Worst losses: @ George Washington, East Carolina, Davidson, @ Vanderbilt, Ole Miss
It was a fun ride, Carolina. At least y’all got out of the cellar for a week for some fresh air. Everyone needs some fresh air every once in a while, but it’s Ole Miss’s turn to get out after the Gamecocks shot 36% from the field and got out-rebounded by a margin of 43-31. Then, the ‘Cocks looked competitive for about 15 minutes of the Auburn matchup. The only issue is that games are typically 40 minutes long.
But I can’t always be so cynical towards my university, and I have some positivity to report. GG Jackson scored 30 points against the 10th-ranked KenPom defense, Auburn. It’s a career-high for the star freshman, who’s averaging almost 16 PPG as the #1 target on every coach’s defensive gameplan. Good job, GG. Also of note, the Gamecocks’ top three scorers all share a last name with a former president. (Jackson, Meechie Johnson, and Chico Carter.) This is the type of basketball snippet the readers of the SEC Power Rankings come to expect, and I will not fail to deliver.
Looking ahead to this week, two road games await Lamont Paris’s squad, one against Florida and one in Athens against Georgia. Not the most difficult of games, but it would still be a surprise if South Carolina can split the two or even go 2-0.