Solomon Washington, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC Basketball

George Bagwell gives his SEC basketball power rankings for week 16 of the season.

 

Matchup of the week: Texas A&M vs. Tennessee

Sneaky good matchup of the week: Kentucky vs. Auburn

All game times are in EST.

1) Alabama Crimson Tide

Last week’s ranking: 1 (-)

Record: 23-4 (13-1)

Last week: @ #10 Tennessee (L) 59-68, Georgia (W) 108-59

Next week: @ South Carolina (Feb. 22 – 9 p.m.), Arkansas (Feb. 25 – 2 p.m.)

Best wins: @ Houston, @ Missouri, @Arkansas, Michigan State, Auburn, Memphis, Liberty, North Carolina

Worst losses: Oklahoma

Current Tournament Position: 1 seed (Making the Madness, Waldo’s Watchlist, Matty Brackets, ESPN, CBS Sports)

Everybody keep calm, it’s happening. The mighty Alabama basketball team has lost a conference game for the first time. Kudos to Tennessee, but the Crimson Tide are still the best team in the conference by a considerable margin.

They showed that in their next game, a home matchup against Georgia. A 108-59 victory felt unfair for the Bulldogs, who were simply out-matched by a team that could very well go to the Final Four. Alabama shot 61.9% from the field and made 16 threes. Nick Pringle scored 19 points off the bench. 

Next week, Alabama has a bit of an easier week, taking on South Carolina on the road in Columbia, where the Gamecocks haven’t won a conference game yet this year. Then, the Crimson Tide play Arkansas at home. 

2) Texas A&M Aggies

Last week’s ranking: 2 (-)

Record: 20-7 (12-2)

Last week: Arkansas (W) 62-56, @ Missouri (W) 69-60

Next week: #11 Tennessee (Feb. 21 – 7 p.m.), @ Mississippi State (Feb. 25 – 3:30 p.m.)

Best wins: Missouri (x2), Arkansas, Auburn (x2)

Worst losses: Murray State, Wofford

Current Tournament Position: 7 seed (Making the Madness), 9 seed (ESPN, Matty Brackets), 10 seed (CBS Sports,Waldo’s Watchlist)

Texas A&M continues to roll, roll, and roll. Now 12-2 in SEC basketball play, they’re only one game back of Alabama in the standings. (Surprise, surprise, the last game of the regular season is Texas A&M vs. Alabama.) Two nice wins over Arkansas and Missouri moved the Aggies back into the AP Top 25 Poll for the first time since week 2. Wade Taylor IV continues to excel, but it’s a true team effort every game. 

However, the gauntlet isn’t over. This week, the Aggies have a home game against #11 Tennessee followed by a road test against Mississippi State. While 2-0 is entirely possible, 1-1 still likely won’t be considered a horrible week. 

3) Tennessee Volunteers

Last week’s ranking: 4 (+1)

Record: 20-7 (9-5)

Last week: #1 Alabama (W) 68-59, @ Kentucky (L) 54-66

Next week: @ #25 Texas A&M (Feb. 21 – 7 p.m.), South Carolina (Feb. 25 – 6 p.m.)

Best wins: Kansas, Alabama, Texas, Maryland, Auburn, USC

Worst losses: Colorado, @ Vanderbilt

Current Tournament Position: 2 seed (Matty Brackets,), 3 seed (ESPN, CBS Sports, Making the Madness, Waldo’s Watchlist)

Tennessee. Congratulations. I said in last week’s edition that a win over the #1 ranked team in the country would automatically grant said team the #1 overall spot in the vaunted SEC basketball power rankings. I lied. What are you going to do about it? Nothing. This list is an autocracy. But big congrats to Tennessee for their 68-59 home win, one that will go a long way on Selection Sunday. Holding Alabama to under 60 points is exceptional, even for one of the best defenses in the nation.

However, that defense gave up 66 points in a loss to Kentucky in the very next game, the second loss to the Wildcats this year for the Vols. 

The road doesn’t get any easier, at least for a couple of days. Rick Barnes’ squad next has to travel to College Station to play the second-best team in the conference, Texas A&M. Then, the road will admittedly get easier with a home matchup with South Carolina. Every game is crucial for the Vols’ seeding in both the NCAA and SEC Tournament. 

4) Kentucky Wildcats

Last week’s ranking: 9 (+5)

Record: 18-9 (9-5)

Last week: @ Mississippi State (W) 71-68, #10 Tennessee (W) 66-54

Next week: @ Florida (Feb. 22 – 7 p.m.), Auburn (Feb. 25 – 4 p.m.)

Best wins: Tennessee (x2), Texas A&M, @ Mississippi State, Michigan

Worst losses: South Carolina, @ Georgia

Current Tournament Position: 9 seed (CBS Sports, Making the Madness, Waldo’s Watchlist), 10 seed (Matty Brackets), Last 4 In (ESPN)

What a difference a week makes. After living on the fringes of the bracket two weeks ago, Kentucky righted the ship last week, beating a good Mississippi State team on the road and then defeating Tennessee for the second time this season. Oscar Tshiebwe recorded a double-double against the Bulldogs, while Chris Livingston did the same against the Volunteers. Kentucky now has some breathing room in the eyes of the committee. (They should, at least.)

This week, Kentucky plays a road game against an injured Florida team before a tough matchup with Auburn at Rupp. They are both winnable, and a 20-9 Kentucky team (as much as name recognition shouldn’t matter in March, it, unfortunately, does carry weight) is hard to leave out of the March Madness field no matter what happens the rest of the regular season. 

5) Vanderbilt Commodores

Last week’s ranking: 7 (+2)

Record: 15-12 (8-6)

Last week: @ South Carolina (W) 75-64, Auburn (W) 67-65

Next week: @ LSU (Feb. 22 – 7 p.m.), Florida (Feb. 25 – 6 p.m.)

Best wins: Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Arkansas, Auburn, @ Florida

Worst losses: Grambling State

Current Tournament Position: OUT

Vanderbilt, I’m speechless, truly. After beating South Carolina and Auburn last week, the ‘Dores are 5-0 since losing to Alabama 101-44. The team used an early run to dispatch the Gamecocks, but a tough physical game against Auburn was barely enough to beat the Tigers, a great win for Jerry Stackhouse’s team. Ezra Manjon contributed 11 assists and a game-winning bucket over the past two games, with Liam Robbins continuing to do Liam Robbins things. 

Looking ahead, the Vanderbilt streak (yes, that’s a real statement) will likely continue this week when they travel to a struggling LSU team before playing Florida at home. Is it too late for Vanderbilt to join the bubble? Asking for a friend. 

6) Missouri Tigers

Last week’s ranking: 3 (-3)

Record: 19-8 (7-7)

Last week: @ Auburn (L) 56-89, Texas A&M (L) 60-69

Next week: Mississippi State (Feb. 21 – 7 p.m.), @ Georgia (Feb. 25 – 1 p.m.)

Best wins: @ Tennessee, Iowa State, Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas

Worst losses: N/A

Current Tournament Position: 7 seed (CBS Sports, Waldo’s Watchlist), 8 seed (ESPN, Matty Brackets) 10 seed (Making the Madness)

Missouri took a step back last week, causing them to slip a bit in the rankings. Averaging just 58 PPG, the Tiger defense couldn’t make up for their offensive shortcomings against Auburn and Texas A&M. While Texas A&M was a close game by the end, the loss to Auburn was a clean, old-fashioned blowout from start to end at Neville.

However, the (Mizzou) Tigers are still projected as safe in the field, and this week is a great opportunity to bounce back. Missouri plays a home game against Mississippi State that’s crucial for both teams, before traveling to Athens to play a must-win against Georgia. The Tigers cannot afford a loss there. 

7) Arkansas Razorbacks

Last week’s ranking: 6 (-1)

Record: 18-9 (7-7)

Last week: @ Texas A&M (L) 56-62, Florida (W) 84-65

Next week: Georgia (Feb. 21 – 9 p.m.), @ #2 Alabama (Feb. 25 – 2 p.m.)

Best wins: San Diego State, @ Kentucky, Texas A&M, Missouri, Fordham

Worst losses: N/A

Current Tournament Position: 8 seed (Making the Madness), 9 seed (Waldo’s Watchlist), 10 seed (CBS Sports, ESPN), 11 seed (Matty Brackets)

Arkansas, despite a 1-1 showing last week, looked a bit improved compared to the week before. Sure, they lost to Texas A&M, but who hasn’t at this point in conference play? Especially on the road in College Station, such a result isn’t the end of the world.

A win over Florida was expected with Colin Castleton out, but the Razorbacks did it without really breaking a sweat. Jalen Graham scored a team-high 26 points against Florida and was a force in the paint. While they’re a bit on the high seed mark, Arkansas could improve their standing with a 2-0 mark this week.

Looking ahead, they play a home game against Georgia that they should win, before having to travel to Alabama to take on the Crimson Tide. A loss to Nate Oats’ team won’t hurt the Hogs, but a win certainly could boost them up.

8) Auburn Tigers

Last week’s ranking: 8 (-)

Record: 18-9 (8-6)

Last week: Missouri (W) 89-56, @ Vanderbilt (L) 65-67

Next week: Ole Miss (Feb. 22 – 9 p.m.), @ Kentucky (Feb. 25 – 4 p.m.)

Best wins: Northwestern, Missouri, Arkansas, Saint Louis

Worst losses: N/A

Current Tournament Position: 7 seed (Making the Madness), 8 seed (ESPN, Waldo’s Watchlist, Matty Brackets), 9 seed (CBS Sports

Auburn, you gave me just a bit of confidence with a great win over Mizzou. A complete offensive and defensive performance at home led to a 33-point victory over a tournament team and perhaps their best win of the year, one that’ll go far in the eyes of the committee. Johni Broome led the way with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Then, Saturday happened. In a Nashville environment that had just as many Tiger fans as ‘Dores, (say what you want to about the Auburn fanbase, but they can travel) Vanderbilt beat Auburn in a 67-65 thriller thanks to a clutch shot by Ezra Manjon and the ‘Dores going 20-of-27 from the FT line. I ended up on Auburn Twitter somehow and I can’t figure out how to leave it, but I’ve learned that a vocal portion of the Tigers’ Tweeters is upset with the free-throw discrepancy in recent games. Just foul less. That’s it. That’s the solution. Go Tweet about it. 

Looking ahead, Auburn plays at home against Ole Miss in what should be a win for Bruce Pearl’s squad before they have to travel to Rupp. The matchup against Kentucky should be a good one, not just in terms of the quality of the game but also tournament seeding implications. 

9) Mississippi State Bulldogs

Last week’s ranking: 5 (-4)

Record: 18-9 (6-8)

Last week: Kentucky (L) 68-71, @ Ole Miss (W) 69-61

Next week: @ Missouri (Feb. 21 – 7 p.m.), #25 Texas A&M (Feb. 25 – 3:30 p.m.)

Best wins: Marquette, TCU, Missouri, @ Arkansas, Utah

Worst losses: N/A

Current Tournament Position: Last Four In (CBS Sports, Making the Madness, Waldo’s Watchlist), First Four Out (ESPN), OUT (Matty Brackets,)

Mississippi State had a golden opportunity to improve to 19-8 and a safe spot in the field of 68 with a 2-0 week last week, but they stumbled against Kentucky at home before escaping Oxford with an OT win thanks to Tolu Smith. The Bulldogs are right on the bubble according to most mock brackets, so the next two weeks are crucial for the team. After starting 1-7 in conference play, the fact that they’re still in tournament contention is worthy of praise by itself.

Looking ahead to this week, the good news is that Mississippi State has two opportunities for Quad 1 wins. The bad news is that Mississippi State has two opportunities for Quad 1 losses. It won’t be easy, with the team playing Missouri on the road and a now-ranked Texas A&M team at home. But, as we have learned basically every week, anything can happen in the Southeastern Conference.  

10) Florida Gators

Last week’s ranking: 10 (-)

Record: 14-13 (7-7)

Last week: Ole Miss (W) 79-64, @ Arkansas (L) 65-84

Next week: Kentucky (Feb. 22 – 7 p.m.), @ Vanderbilt (Feb. 25 – 6 p.m.)

Best wins: Tennessee, Missouri, @ Mississippi State

Worst losses: Vanderbilt

Current Tournament Position: OUT

Florida went 1-1 last week, but a bigger loss was had outside of the box score. Star center Colin Castleton broke his hand in the win over Ole Miss, likely ending his college career and any remaining hope the Gators had of playing in the postseason.

While Castleton hopefully has a quick recovery, Florida did not look great in the first looks without him, losing to Arkansas by 19 in a game where Jalen Graham scored 26 points for the Razorbacks, mostly in the paint. In a bright spot, freshman Riley Kugel has scored in double-digits in four straight games.

Looking ahead, Florida draws Kentucky at home and Vanderbilt in Nashville, two opponents they’ve just recently lost to. The rest of the season may be a good look at what next year’s team will look like, now that Castleton is out for the foreseeable future and the postseason picture is murky at best. 

11) Georgia Bulldogs

Last week’s ranking: 11 (-)

Record: 16-11 (6-8)

Last week: LSU (W) 65-63, @ #1 Alabama (L) 59-108

Next week: @ Arkansas (Feb. 21 – 9 p.m.), Missouri (Feb. 25 – 1 p.m.)

Best wins: Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi State

Worst losses: @ Georgia Tech, Ole Miss

Current Tournament Position: OUT

Thankfully for Georgia, they managed to escape with a home win over LSU last week. Justin Hill made sure of that with a layup with seven seconds remaining in an eventual 65-63 win.

However, they had to play the most dangerous team in the land next, post-loss Alabama. That did not end as well for the Bulldogs, but a late Jaxon Etter free-throw managed to cut the lead to 105-59. Adam Cottrell then splashed a three for the Tide just to make sure the game was done to make the score 108-59 in a game where Alabama shot 61.9% from the field and 47.1% from three-point range. 

Looking ahead, Georgia plays two tough games, a road game in Fayetteville followed by a home game against Missouri. It may be tough for the Bulldogs to win either game with the way this team has been playing. 

12) South Carolina Gamecocks

Last week’s ranking: 12 (-)

Record: 10-17 (3-11)

Last week: Vanderbilt (L) 64-75, @ LSU (W) 82-73

Next week: #2 Alabama (Feb. 22 – 9 p.m.), @ #11 Tennessee (Feb. 25 – 6 p.m.)

Best wins: @ Kentucky, Clemson, Western Kentucky

Worst losses: @ George Washington, East Carolina, Davidson, Ole Miss

Current Tournament Position: OUT

Don’t look now, but South Carolina has won two of their past three games. (Please look now, they’re about to play Alabama and Tennessee and are worthy of a bit of praise before that murderer’s row.) While the ‘Cocks disappointed at home against Vanderbilt, they bounced back against LSU on the road. South Carolina hasn’t won a home conference game yet, but they’ve got three road wins to brag about. While this is still a team that isn’t close to competing with the top dogs in SEC basketball, they’ve certainly improved since the start of the year. 

Against Vanderbilt, it seemed all the momentum carried from the Ole Miss win was gone, as Vanderbilt jumped out to a 35-14 lead and didn’t look back. The Gamecocks were out-rebounded by the ‘Dores 48-34, and Liam Robbins got to the line 10 times.

However, the ‘Cocks were +8 point underdogs against LSU for some baffling reason, and they took care of business against the Tigers, shooting 15-for-32 from behind the arc and 17-for-18 from the free throw line. (An oddity for a team that ranked in the low-300s from the line entering the game.) Four of five starters scored 16+ points in a team effort. Since conference play started, South Carolina ranks 5th in the SEC in 3PT% and 3rd in 3PM. 

While the Gamecocks aren’t the best playing with home-court advantage, they actually average more than 4 PPG better on the road than they do at home. Looking ahead, they’re playing the aforementioned stretch of Alabama at home and Tennessee on the road. If they win either, I will eat my words. I will literally print out my written article and eat my words. It’s not going to happen. 

13) Ole Miss Rebels

Last week’s ranking: 13 (-)

Record: 10-17 (2-12)

Last week: @ Florida (L) 64-79, Mississippi State (L) 61-69

Next week: @ Auburn (Feb. 22 – 9 p.m.), LSU (Feb. 25 – 8:30 p.m.)

Best wins: Florida Atlantic, Temple, @ Georgia

Worst losses: North Alabama, Vanderbilt, South Carolina

Current Tournament Position: OUT

Ole Miss may have found their final resting spot in the SEC basketball power rankings this year. Losses to Florida and Mississippi State (albeit a close OT loss to the Dawgs) have the Rebels sitting at 2-12 in the conference, right behind South Carolina and right in front of LSU. Surely, with Georgia and Mississippi State having four more conference wins than Ole Miss, the Rebels are entrenched in the bottom three, but an upset win or two could bump the team up to #12 if they’re lucky. 

Against Florida on the road, the Rebels allowed the Gators to shoot 10-for-17 from behind the arc, which was enough to put any upset hopes away, even with Ole Miss out-rebounding Florida and Colin Castleton’s early exit with a broken hand.

Against their in-state rivals, however, the Rebels showed some fight in a defensive struggle, leading by three points with less than three minutes remaining and two points with 30 seconds to go. However, Tolu Smith tied it up for State and the Rebels got dispatched in OT.

The good news is that Ole Miss held Mississippi State to 16.7% from behind the arc and forced 19 turnovers, but the bad news is that Ole Miss only shot 13.6% from three and got out-rebounded 46-32. Matt Murrell played all 45 possible minutes in the game, but it’s worth wondering if that’s the best strategy at this point. In his last six games, Murrell is shooting 17-of-68 from the field, good for just a 25% mark, including a 4-of-17 effort against Mississippi State. 

Looking ahead, the Rebels have a tough road game against Auburn before traveling to Baton Rouge to play LSU. It’s not inconceivable to suggest Ole Miss could beat the (Bayou) Tigers, and they very well may be favorites against LSU. Maybe not against Auburn, but crazier things have happened. 

14) LSU Tigers

Last week’s ranking: 14 (-)

Record: 12-15 (1-13)

Last week: @ Georgia (L) 63-65, South Carolina (L) 73-82

Next week: Vanderbilt (Feb. 22 – 7 p.m.), @ Ole Miss (Feb. 25 – 8:30 p.m.)

Best wins: Arkansas, Wake Forest, Wofford

Worst losses: Texas Tech, @ Georgia, South Carolina

Current Tournament Position: OUT

Cellar time for the Tigers again. In a way, I feel bad for LSU. Out of all the major basketball programs that got caught up in the FBI investigation of paying players, only the Tigers seem to be in a bad spot program-wise.

Before you call me a Will Wade sympathizer, (not that much of the LSU faithful have a problem with being one at this point in the season), let it be known that I am anything but. I truly wish Will Wade does not get a college coaching job again. Please and thank you.

With their losses to Georgia and South Carolina last week, they’ve gone 0-14 in their last 14 games and haven’t won since 2022. It’s February 21st. 10 of those 14 losses have been by double digits. It’s almost March and LSU HASN’T WON A SINGLE ROAD GAME ALL YEAR.

Against Georgia, the Tigers led 63-62 with just 11 seconds left in Athens, but Justin Hill’s layup sealed the deal for the Bulldogs. Even with the Tigers out-rebounding Georgia 37-28 and getting 18 points from KJ Williams, LSU couldn’t find the elusive second conference win. At home against South Carolina, the Gamecocks led wire-to-wiretap (here’s to you, Will Wade), in a game that ended 82-73 but was never really in doubt. Cam Hayes led the Tigers with 25 points. 

Looking ahead, LSU takes on Vanderbilt at home and Ole Miss on the road this week. Vanderbilt has been on a tear recently, but Ole Miss could be a potential win for the Tigers. But whatever happens, they’ve still got Mardi Gras. King cakes and beads all around, and maybe enough drinks to forget the Tigers have a basketball team.