George Bagwell gives his SEC basketball power rankings for week 13 of the season.
Matchup of the week: Arkansas vs. Texas A&M
Sneaky good matchup of the week: Kentucky vs. Florida
All game times are in EST.
1) Tennessee Volunteers
Last week’s ranking: 2 (+1)
Record: 18-3 (7-1)
Last week: Georgia (W) 70-41, #10 Texas (W) 82-71
Next week: @ Florida (Feb. 1 – 7 p.m.), #25 Auburn (Feb. 4 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Kansas, Texas, USC, Maryland
Worst losses: Colorado
As predicted, the orange team won the Tennessee-Texas game, but it wasn’t as close as many thought it would be. Tennessee jumped out to an early lead and didn’t look back, leading by 20+ before eventually winning by 11. Zakai Zeigler dropped a double-double with 22 points and 10 assists. Before that game, however, the Vols made a not-bad Georgia team look like South Carolina (sorry, ‘Cocks,) with a 29-point win. They’re rolling, and with the Alabama loss, they’re now the top team yet again in the SEC Power Rankings.
This week, they play Florida on the road in what could be a trap game before Auburn comes to visit Thompson-Boling Arena. If they keep playing as they have recently, however, it’s not looking like many teams can beat Rick Barnes’s squad.
2) Alabama Crimson Tide
Last week’s ranking: 1 (-1)
Record: 18-3 (8-0)
Last week: Mississippi State (W) 66-63, @ Oklahoma (L) 69-93
Next week: Vanderbilt (Jan. 31 – 8:30 p.m.), @ LSU (Feb. 4 – 4 p.m.)
Best wins: @ Houston, Michigan State, North Carolina, @ Arkansas, @ Missouri, Memphis, Liberty
Worst losses: Oklahoma
Alabama, I’m disappointed. In case you missed it, the Tide got rolled by Oklahoma in Norman, and it wasn’t even close, 93-69. Grant Sherfield had the game of his life with a 30-point performance, and Porter Moser simply outcoached Nate Oats. With a ridiculous 69% mark from 3-point range, it was likely impossible for the Crimson Tide to win, especially when they shot just 37% from the field. After cruising since their last loss to Gonzaga, Alabama looked like they had turned a corner. It seems they still have quite a bit of work to do before they can be considered a national title favorite.
This week, they play Vandy at home and LSU on the road, a likely reprise from the tough road environment of Norman. Don’t get me wrong, Alabama is still a very good basketball team, great even. But as long as performances like the one against Gonzaga and against Oklahoma are there, there’s always a chance of this team falling flat despite its strengths.
3) Texas A&M Aggies
Last week’s ranking: 4 (+1)
Record: 15-6 (7-1)
Last week: @ #15 Auburn (W) 79-63, Vanderbilt (W) 72-66
Next week: @ Arkansas (Jan. 31 – 7 p.m.), Georgia (Feb. 4 – 8:30 p.m.)
Best wins: @ Auburn, Missouri, Florida (x2)
Worst losses: Murray State, Wofford
Texas A&M continued to do what they do best last week, taking care of business. An electric win over Auburn to snap their home-winning streak was followed by a less exciting home win over Vanderbilt, but the two count the exact same in the win column. Tyrece Radford scored 30 against Auburn, becoming the last player to do so until Eric Stevenson did it to the Tigers a few days later. The Aggies now sit at 15-6 overall and 7-1 in SEC basketball play, a dream scenario given that they started the year 6-5. 9-1 in their last 10 games isn’t too shabby.
This week, the Aggies play Arkansas on the road in a crucial game for both teams. A win could be huge for Buzz Williams’s team come Selection Sunday. They follow that game with a home date with Georgia. That should be slightly easier, but their last game against Vanderbilt showed the Aggies they’re not in a position to overlook anybody.
4) Missouri Tigers
Last week’s ranking: 6 (+2)
Record: 16-5 (4-4)
Last week: @ Ole Miss (W) 89-77, #12 Iowa State (W) 78-61
Next week: LSU (Feb. 1 – 9 p.m.), @ Mississippi State (Feb. 4 – 6 p.m.)
Best wins: Iowa State, Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky, UCF
Worst losses: N/A
Mizzou is back to making me feel like a proud dad, beating Ole Miss and Iowa State last week, both by double digits. It was good to see Kobe Brown back at 100%, and Missouri certainly plays their best with him on the court. A 20-12 double-double against the #12 team in the nation bodes well for the Tigers’ hopes in March. They had gone on a bit of a cold streak, going 2-4 in their previous six games before last week, but they seem to be back on track.
Their schedule gets much easier this week, with a road date in Oxford and a home game against Mississippi State, a team that doesn’t match up well against Mizzou. I don’t want to pile on the praise for Missouri, but they’ve quietly produced a very good set of quality wins, defeating Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Iowa State. A 2-0 week this week moves Dennis Gates’s team to 18-5 in his first year. SEC Basketball Coach of the Year material? I wouldn’t object. Missouri is now the best Tiger team in the conference, yet again.
5) Kentucky Wildcats
Last week’s ranking: 5 (+0)
Record: 14-7 (5-3)
Last week: @ Vanderbilt (W) 69-53, #9 Kansas (L) 68-77
Next week: @ Ole Miss (Jan. 31 – 9 p.m.), Florida (Feb. 4 – 8:30 p.m.)
Best wins: @ Tennessee, Texas A&M, Michigan
Worst losses: South Carolina
Kentucky took care of business against Vanderbilt with a 16-point performance from Antonio Reeves, then couldn’t get it done against Kansas in Rupp. Not beating Kansas isn’t the end of the world, but given the fact that Kansas had lost three straight coming into the game and Kentucky had won four in a row, it seemed possible prior to tipoff that Kentucky could pull off a win.
Kentucky moves over Auburn in the rankings, but Mizzou leapfrogs them to keep the Wildcats at 5th. This week, it gets a bit easier for Coach Cal’s squad, taking on Ole Miss in Oxford and Florida in Lexington. Kentucky could easily go 2-0 this week, and Colin Castleton vs. Oscar Tshiebwe should be a great matchup.
6) Auburn Tigers
Last week’s ranking: 3 (-3)
Record: 16-5 (6-2)
Last week: Texas A&M (L) 63-79, @ West Virginia (L) 77-80
Next week: Georgia (Feb. 1 – 7 p.m.), @ #2 Tennessee (Feb. 4 – 2 p.m.)
Best wins: Arkansas, Northwestern, Saint Louis, Florida
Worst losses: N/A
Much like #25 Arkansas a couple weeks ago, Auburn is a ranked team on paper but fails the eye-test. Last week, the country’s longest home winning streak finally snapped at Neville against Texas A&M. An excusable loss, for sure, but a win there would have been big.
But the trip to Morgantown is one the Tigers likely want back. Facing West Virginia, who was 2-6 in the Big 12, Auburn let Eric Stevenson drop 31 points in a game that Auburn trailed by 16 at one point. (Stevenson also scored a season-high 25 points against Auburn last year with South Carolina, so maybe he just really likes playing Auburn.) Despite pulling within one point multiple times, Auburn couldn’t pull out the win.
This week, they’ve got a home game against Georgia, who has already beaten the Tigers, and a road game against #2 Tennessee. 1-1 seems likely, but the Tigers mustn’t overlook Georgia again. Going from 16-3 to 16-7 over two weeks seems like a nightmare scenario for Bruce Pearl’s squad.
7) Florida Gators
Last week’s ranking: 7 (+0)
Record: 12-9 (5-3)
Last week: South Carolina (W) 81-60, @ #5 Kansas State (L) 50-64
Next week: #2 Tennessee (Feb. 1 – 7 p.m.), @ Kentucky (Feb. 4 – 8:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Missouri, Georgia, @ Mississippi State
Worst losses: N/A
Death, taxes, and Florida basketball. In the Gators’ last seven games, the favorite has won six times, with the 2-point win over Mississippi State being the outlier. When the Gators are supposed to win, they’ll win, just like they did against South Carolina last week. When they are supposed to lose, just like against Kansas State, they’ll lose. They have no problem scoring against bad defenses. They have plenty of problems scoring against good defenses. Maybe I used the wrong idiom, but Florida basketball is the epitome of predictability.
Unfortunately for Todd Golden’s group, their next three games are against Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama. My prediction? 12-12 by the end of that stretch. Nothing more, nothing less, and nothing unexpected. Smack dab in the middle of the SEC Basketball Power Rankings seems like the only appropriate spot for the Gators this week.
8) Arkansas Razorbacks
Last week’s ranking: 10 (+2)
Record: 14-7 (3-5)
Last week: LSU (W) 60-40, @ #17 Baylor (L) 64-67
Next week: Texas A&M (Jan. 31 – 7 p.m.), @ South Carolina (Feb. 4 – 3:30 p.m.)
Best wins: San Diego State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Fordham
Worst losses: @ Vanderbilt
Don’t look now, but Arkansas can very well play back into a 6-7 seed come March. They looked improved last week, even with a 1-1 record. The Hogs made quick work of LSU, holding the Tigers to just 40 points, before playing a very good Baylor team close on the road in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Still, just 3-5 in conference play, Arkansas’s next game is crucial, a home game against Texas A&M. Both teams could use a win to bolster their respective tournament hopes, and it should be highly competitive. The Hogs then travel to Columbia to take on South Carolina, a true must-win.
Davonte Davis has scored 16+ points in all of his last six games, and if he continues scoring like that in the absence of Nick Smith, perhaps the Razorbacks will be ok after all.
9) Georgia Bulldogs
Last week’s ranking: 8 (-1)
Record: 14-7 (4-4)
Last week: @ #4 Tennessee (L) 41-70, South Carolina (W) 81-78
Next week: @ #25 Auburn (Feb. 1 – 7 p.m.), @ Texas A&M (Feb. 4 – 8:30 p.m.)
Best wins: Auburn, Notre Dame, Mississippi State
Worst losses: @ Georgia Tech
This sounds counter-intuitive, but a win at home over South Carolina could build momentum for Mike White’s squad. Hear me out. After getting pummeled by Tennessee as most squads do, Georgia looked lost at home against the Gamecocks for the first 35 minutes of basketball. But, somewhere in between the 10-point deficit and the final buzzer sounding, Georgia found their way. Opportunistic defense coupled with aggressive offense and a dosage of Kario Oquendo made for just a close call rather than a shocking defeat.
Now that they’ve battled whatever demons they were fighting against the ‘Cocks, the Bulldogs can try and get back on track with two road games this week, one against an Auburn team they already beat and one against a red-hot Texas A&M squad. This team, despite recent issues, is still 4-4 in SEC basketball play and capable of making some noise in the next few weeks. As for now, though, they’re sandwiched between Arkansas and Mississippi State in the SEC Power Rankings. An enviable position? Meh.
10) Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last week’s ranking: 11 (+1)
Record: 13-8 (1-7)
Last week: @ #2 Alabama (L) 63-66, #11 TCU (W) 81-74
Next week: @ South Carolina (Jan. 31 – 6:30 p.m.), Missouri (Feb. 4 – 6 p.m.)
Best wins: TCU, Marquette, Utah
Worst losses: Drake
Congratulations, ‘Dawgs. That’s right, I said ‘Dawgs. After a win over #11 TCU, Mississippi State gets the title of Dawg this week, because Georgia clearly didn’t want it. Coming into the week, I had said Mississippi State would be 12-9, “barring a miracle.” Consider the miracle…unbarred? After an oh-so-close 3-point loss to #2 Alabama, a 81-74 win over the ‘Frawgs(?) was carried by Tolu Smith’s 27-13-5 performance, who led the team in all three major stat categories.
It was an impressive win for a team that desperately needed one, and could bring some momentum into this week when they play South Carolina on the road and Missouri at home. While they’re still not likely to make the tournament, the TCU win could be a signature win for Chris Jans.
11) Vanderbilt Commodores
Last week’s ranking: 9 (-2)
Record: 10-11 (3-5)
Last week: Kentucky (L) 53-69, @ Texas A&M (L) 66-72
Next week: @ #4 Alabama (Jan. 31 – 8:30 p.m.), Ole Miss (Feb. 4 – 1 p.m.)
Best wins: Arkansas, Pittsburgh, @ Temple
Worst losses: Grambling State
Vanderbilt, I promise this hurts me just as much as it hurts you. I didn’t want to do this, but someone had to move down with Mississippi State’s win, and no one else quite deserved it. They played valiantly, keeping it “close” against Kentucky and keeping it close for real against Texas A&M on the road, thanks to 22 points from Myles Stute. The two losses unfortunately mean the ‘Dores are one of three SEC basketball teams with a losing record, joining Ole Miss and South Carolina.
But this isn’t a bad team, and they are much better than non-conference Vanderbilt. That being said, conference Vanderbilt is still stuck at 11th. At least it’s not the bottom three. This week, they have to travel to Alabama before an easier game against Ole Miss at home, one they should win.
12) LSU Tigers
Last week’s ranking: 12 (+0)
Record: 12-9 (1-7)
Last week: @ Arkansas (L) 40-60, Texas Tech (L) 68-76
Next week: @ Missouri (Feb. 1 – 9 p.m.), #4 Alabama (Feb. 4 – 4 p.m.)
Best wins: Arkansas, Wake Forest, Wofford
Worst losses: Texas Tech
LSU stays where they are after a week of struggling against opponents who were also struggling, just not against LSU. A loss to Arkansas in which the Tigers fell behind 38-14 at half after scoring three points in 10 minutes preceded a loss to a Texas Tech team that, at the time, hadn’t even won a conference game in the Big 12. (Not an easy task for the Red Raiders, but every other team had managed it, so I don’t want to hear excuses.)
No player even managed double figures against Arkansas, and the Tigers combined to shoot 11% from three-point range. Against Texas Tech, the team played slightly better, with Adam Miller breaking out of his cold streak with a 20-point performance. The team still allowed Texas Tech to connect on 61% of their threes, though.
This week, the Tigers have a tough draw, playing a hot Mizzou squad on the road before having to play Alabama at home (they already beat LSU by 40 points a few weeks ago.) Matt McMahon’s squad has the longest losing streak in the conference, and it likely won’t stop this week.
13) Ole Miss Rebels
Last week’s ranking: 13 (+0)
Record: 9-12 (1-7)
Last week: Missouri (L) 77-89, @ Oklahoma State (L) 60-82
Next week: Kentucky (Jan. 31 – 9 p.m.), @ Vanderbilt (Feb. 4 – 1 p.m.)
Best wins: Florida Atlantic, Temple, Stanford
Worst losses: North Alabama
It’s time to start looking at replacements for Kermit Davis. Four teams sit at 1-7 in the conference. Three of those teams have a first-year head coach. The Rebels are in Davis’s 5th season, and, after double-digit losses to Missouri and Oklahoma State, currently sit at 9-12, a mark the Rebels had yet to fall to through 21 games in Davis’s first four seasons. It’s arguably his worst team in Oxford, and that’s not a good title in year five. By no means is Davis a bad coach. It takes just one look at his successful tenures at Idaho and MTSU to see that. Sometimes, a coach just isn’t the right match for the school and the school isn’t the right match for the coach. And that’s ok to admit.
If there is a positive, the schedule gets a bit easier over the next few weeks for the Rebels. Five of their next six opponents are not currently predicted to make the Big Dance, including Vanderbilt this week.
There’s also another positive, and that’s the fact that Ole Miss is still not last in the SEC Power Rankings despite the losses and turmoil. They can thank South Carolina for that.
14) South Carolina Gamecocks
Last week’s ranking: 14 (+0)
Record: 8-13 (1-7)
Last week: @ Florida (L) 60-81, @ Georgia (L) 78-81
Next week: Mississippi State (Jan. 31 – 6:30 p.m.), Arkansas (Feb. 4 – 3:30 p.m.)
Best wins: @ Kentucky, Clemson, Western Kentucky
Worst losses: @ George Washington, East Carolina, Davidson, @ Vanderbilt, Ole Miss
South Carolina stays in the SEC Basketball Power Rankings cellar, again. But this week they were actually close to leaving it. After a game to forget in Gainesville in which Hayden Brown fouled out in nine minutes of game time, the Gamecocks were up double digits with just six minutes left against former Gator Mike White, but a flurry of mistakes and a missed opportunity at the end of regulation let Georgia avoid the upset at home. GG Jackson led the team in scoring again, and he’s averaging 22.6 PPG over his last three games. Unfortunately, the team has given up 81 points in every one of those games. No joke, South Carolina’s last three opponents have all scored exactly 81 points.
In a bright spot, Carolina’s depth has stepped up recently, with both games last week having a bench player score in double figures. The ‘Cocks also outrebounded Florida by a margin of +9 and Georgia by +11. Unfortunately, they committed a combined 33 turnovers and forced just 16, which pretty much negates any positives gained by the rebounding margin.
This week, however, the Gamecocks are playing for something crucial: their first conference lead at home. That’s right. The team has yet to lead at any point at home in SEC play. In 4 games. At any point. Not even 2-0. They’ve got two chances to score first at home this week, once against Mississippi State and once against Arkansas. While it would be unwise to suggest a win, perhaps they’ll find their elusive first lead.