Kentucky Wildcats mascot, SEC basketball

George Bagwell gives his SEC basketball power rankings for week 17 of the season.


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

Sneaky good matchup of the week: Arkansas vs. Kentucky

All game times are in EST.

1) Alabama Crimson Tide

Last week’s ranking: 1 (-)

Record: 25-4 (15-1)

Last week: @ South Carolina (W) 78-76, Arkansas (W) 86-83

Next week: Auburn (Mar. 1 – 7 p.m.), @ Texas A&M (Mar. 4 – Noon)

Best wins: @ Houston, @ Missouri, Arkansas (x2), Michigan State, Auburn, North Carolina, Memphis, Liberty

Worst losses: Oklahoma

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

By playing Brandon Miller against South Carolina and Arkansas, Nate Oats showed he has guts. He also showed he doesn’t have a heart. After clinging onto the fact that his star freshman hadn’t done anything wrong *legally*, having to walk back a statement that Miller was in “the wrong place at the wrong time,” despite Miller delivering a weapon that would be used to commit a murder of a young mother, refusing to answer questions post-game about the situation, and “not being aware” of Brandon Miller’s pre-game entrance of being patted down as if checking for weapons, it’s clear Oats hasn’t had control of this situation from the moment shots were fired.

In fact, it would be quicker at this point to make a list of things Oats *IS* aware of. #1? His team would suffer from the loss of a special player like Miller. And that, apparently, isn’t a risk Oats is willing to take.

Make no mistake, Alabama is a very good team. But even if they end up winning a championship this year, the yellow and red tape will always be stuck to the Tide’s final record, no matter how much Oats tries to rip it off. Sometimes in life, we are faced with very difficult situations that have very easy answers. Congrats Nate Oats, you chose the wrong one.

As for the games, Alabama did look beatable this week. In fact, they were a Brandon Miller traveling call away from losing to SEC basketball sandbag South Carolina in Columbia. Then, at home, they beat Arkansas by just three. Maybe off-the-court situations affect on-the-court performance. Just maybe. 

Looking ahead to this week, the Tide have a rivalry game against Auburn at home before playing a road game at Texas A&M that could clinch the SEC regular season title outright for Alabama. 

2) Texas A&M Aggies

Last week’s ranking: 2 (-)

Record: 21-8 (13-3)

Last week: #11 Tennessee (W) 68-63, @ Mississippi State (L) 62-69

Next week: @ Ole Miss (Feb. 28 – 9 p.m.), #2 Alabama (Mar. 4 – Noon)

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

Worst losses: Murray State, Wofford

Current Tournament Position: 6 seed (ESPN), 7 seed (CBS Sports, Waldo’s Watchlist), 8 seed (Making the Madness), 9 Seed (Matty Brackets)

The Aggies lost again, for the first time in February. However, making it almost a full month without losing is still a big accomplishment. (Does February count as a full month?) They did, however, before the loss to the Dawgs of Starkville, beat #11 Tennessee. So Buzz Williams’ squad isn’t struggling by any means. However, a win could have meant an outright SEC title for the Aggies since they have an upcoming SEC finale in College Station against…

Alabama. The Aggies can still win a share of the title with a win over Ole Miss on the road and some help from Auburn, but the Aggies are likely locked into the #2 spot in the SEC Tournament. They’ve already clinched a double-bye. 

3) Kentucky Wildcats

Last week’s ranking: 4 (+1)

Record: 20-9 (11-5)

Last week: @ Florida (W) 82-74, Auburn (W) 86-54

Next week: Vanderbilt (Mar. 1 – 7 p.m.), @ Arkansas (Mar. 4 – 2 p.m.)

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

Worst losses: South Carolina, @ Georgia

Current Tournament Position: 6 seed (Making the Madness), 7 seed (CBS Sports) 8 seed (ESPN, Waldo’s Watchlist), 10 seed (Matty Brackets)

Kentucky, I must say I was not expecting this from you. Beating Florida and Auburn, sure, but beating Auburn by 32 points leaves me speechless. I’m still not sold on Kentucky’s merit as a tournament contender, but I will eat my words from a few months ago about the Texas job opening up. Sorry, Coach Cal. Now that those three words have been said and never to be repeated by me, it’s worth noting that the Wildcats haven’t hit 10+ losses yet. They were 10-6 at one point. 

Looking ahead, the Cats play a home game against Vanderbilt that they can actually afford to lose, but probably shouldn’t, followed by a road game against an Arkansas team that already beat them by 15 at Rupp. I’d be surprised if the Wildcats haven’t had that matchup circled on their calendars.

4) Missouri Tigers

Last week’s ranking: 6 (+2)

Record: 21-8 (9-7)

Last week: Mississippi State (W) 66-64, @ Georgia (W) 85-63

Next week: @ LSU (Mar. 1 – 9 p.m.), Ole Miss (Mar. 4 – 1 p.m.)

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

Worst losses: N/A

Current Tournament Position: 6 seed (CBS Sports), 8 seed (Matty Brackets), 9 seed (Making the Madness), 10 seed (Waldo’s Watchlist, ESPN)

Missouri righting the ship makes me happy as a fan of fun basketball. Nick Honor hitting a step-back game-winning three against Mississippi State while the Tigers were down just 1 point makes me happy as a fan of chaos. But as a fan of dependable, well-executed, business-like basketball, (don’t question my allegiances) Missouri’s blowout road win over Georgia makes me happy. They’re showing up around a 6-9 seed in most brackets, and they could be dangerous with the way they’re playing as of late.

Looking ahead, the Tigers have two games on the easier side this week, playing bottom-feeders LSU and Ole Miss. They can’t get caught looking ahead, however, as a top-4 seed and the subsequent double-bye is still in play for Mizzou in the SEC Tournament. 

5) Tennessee Volunteers

Last week’s ranking: 3 (-2)

Record: 21-8 (10-6)

Last week: @ #25 Texas A&M (L) 63-68, South Carolina (W) 85-45

Next week: Arkansas (Feb. 28 – 9 p.m.), @ Auburn (Mar. 4 – 2 p.m.)

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

Worst losses: Colorado, @ Vanderbilt

Current Tournament Position: 2 seed (Matty Brackets, Waldo’s Watchlist), 3 seed (ESPN, Making the Madness), 4 seed (CBS Sports)

Tennessee struggled against the red-hot Aggies but managed to beat South Carolina by 40+ points. Again. One of those results concerns me, and you can probably guess which one. Tennessee has quietly lost five of its last eight games. That ain’t good. They fouled Texas A&M 24 times, which is something no one can afford to do in March. Luckily for the Vols, it’s still February. 

Looking ahead, Tennessee has a home game against a sturdy Arkansas team that has Nick Smith back and playing well, before having to travel to Auburn at Neville in a road game that could be perceived as tough. A 2-0 week could go a long way toward quieting the Vols’ naysayers. 

6) Arkansas Razorbacks

Last week’s ranking: 7 (+1)

Record: 19-10 (8-8)

Last week: Georgia (W) 97-65, @ #2 Alabama (L) 83-86

Next week: @ #12 Tennessee (Feb. 28 – 9 p.m.), #23 Kentucky (Mar. 4 – 2 p.m.)

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

Worst losses: N/A

Current Tournament Position: 7 seed (Making the Madness) 8 seed (ESPN, Waldo’s Watchlist), 9 seed (CBS Sports), 11 seed (Matty Brackets)

Arkansas is a different team when Nick Smith is on the floor and healthy, as evidenced by their two games last week, a blowout win over Georgia at home, and a close 3-point loss to Alabama on the road. Smith averaged 25 PPG over the two contests, leading the Razorbacks in scoring in both games. Along with moving up the vaunted SEC basketball power rankings, they’re seemingly off the bubble at this point, (in a good way) but have two tough games this week. 

The Hogs travel to Knoxville first to play a ranked Tennessee before getting a ranked Kentucky at home. With the way Arkansas is playing, it’s certainly not inconceivable to say Arkansas could win at least one of those games. 

 7) Mississippi State Bulldogs

Last week’s ranking: 9 (+2)

Record: 19-10 (7-9)

Last week: @ Missouri (L) 66-68, #25 Texas A&M (W) 69-62

Next week: South Carolina (Feb. 28 – 9 p.m.), @ Vanderbilt (Mar. 4 – 8:30 p.m.)

Best wins: Marquette, TCU, Texas A&M, @ Arkansas, Missouri, Utah

Worst losses: N/A

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

Mississippi State picked up a very important win over Texas A&M at home last week, but a road win against Mizzou was oh-so-close to being theirs as well before Nick Honor hit the Bulldogs with a nasty step-back. But, focusing on the Texas A&M win, it’s huge for the Bubbledogs as they try to navigate a path to the NCAA Tournament. Beating the streaking Aggies was no easy feat, and it’ll likely carry over to Selection Sunday. 

Looking ahead to this week, the Bubbledogs have two must-win games coming up against South Carolina and Vanderbilt. With Mississippi State clinging to Last Four In territory, they can’t afford a loss. 

8) Auburn Tigers

Last week’s ranking: 8 (-)

Record: 19-10 (9-7)

Last week: Ole Miss (W) 78-74, @ Kentucky (L) 54-86

Next week: @ #2 Alabama (Mar. 1 – 7 p.m.), #12 Tennessee (Mar. 4 – 2 p.m.)

Best wins: Northwestern, Missouri, Arkansas, Saint Louis

Worst losses: N/A

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

Don’t look now, but Auburn could very well end the season 19-13 before Selection Sunday. (Look now, actually, before I end up looking dumb.) They squeaked by Ole Miss in Kermit Davis’ last game as a Rebel before getting absolutely smacked in Kentucky by the same margin the Tigers had beaten Mizzou just a week earlier. A demoralizing loss has sent Auburn down to #9 and #10 seed territory in recent brackets, and they need to right the ship soon before they start flirting with Joe Lunardi’s “Last 4 In” segment. 

Looking ahead, the road isn’t any easier for Bruce Pearl and his Tiger squad. They’ve got a road game against arguably the best team in the nation in Alabama, then draw a home game at Neville with Tennessee. That’s two ranked opponents, and while it’s an opportunity to spurn the bubble, it’s also an opportunity to land on it.

9) Vanderbilt Commodores

Last week’s ranking: 5 (-4)

Record: 16-13 (9-7)

Last week: @ LSU (L) 77-84, Florida (W) 88-72

Next week: @ #23 Kentucky (Mar. 1 – 7 p.m.), Mississippi State (Mar. 4 – 8:30 p.m.)

Best wins: Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Arkansas, Auburn, 

Worst losses: Grambling State, @ LSU

Current Tournament Position: OUT

Oh, Vanderbilt. I’m so sorry. I was rooting for you. But to lose to a team that had yet to win in 2023 in the midst of a 5-game conference winning streak is just so tough. It stings. I’ve never had a 5-game winning streak before, but I imagine it must sting. LSU simply outplayed Vanderbilt, which feels weird to say it feels weird to type, but the Baton Rouge Bengals must’ve done it for Mardi Gras. There’s no other explanation, and Vandy must tumble in the SEC basketball power rankings. They did beat Florida (again), but all that will be remembered in a month is the LSU loss.

Looking ahead, the ‘Dores play Kentucky on the road and Mississippi State at home. While Vandy’s tournament hopes are dashed, they have the opportunity to play spoiler against Mississippi State.

10) Florida Gators

Last week’s ranking: 10 (-)

Record: 14-15 (7-9)

Last week: Kentucky (L) 74-82, @ Vanderbilt (L) 72-88

Next week: @ Georgia (Feb. 28 – 7 p.m.), LSU (Mar. 4 – 6 p.m.)

Best wins: Tennessee, Missouri, @ Mississippi State

Worst losses: Vanderbilt (x2)

Current Tournament Position: OUT

Florida, along with South Carolina, Ole Miss, and LSU, now joins the losing record club. As it turns out, losing your best player does impact a team. With losses to Kentucky and Vanderbilt (both for the second time this year), the Gators are 0-3 since Colin Castleton broke his hand. Hopefully, he heals quickly, but it’s time to look at year two of Todd Golden now. 

This week, the Gators travel to Athens before coming home to take on the cellar-dwellers of the SEC basketball power rankings, LSU. The Gators will want to win against Georgia to avoid having to play in the first round of the SEC Tournament. 

11) Georgia Bulldogs

Last week’s ranking: 11 (-)

Record: 16-13 (6-10)

Last week: @ Arkansas (L) 65-97, Missouri (L) 63-85

Next week: Florida (Feb. 28 – 7 p.m.), @ South Carolina (Mar. 4 – 1 p.m.)

Best wins: Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi State

Worst losses: @ Georgia Tech, Ole Miss

Current Tournament Position: OUT

I wanted to move Georgia up a spot to #10 because Florida looks lost without Colin Castleton, but Georgia looks lost with everyone healthy, so they’ve got to stay where they are. In admittedly two tough games, Georgia got outscored by an average of 27 points in two defeats against Arkansas and Missouri. There’s no way to move the Bulldogs up this week. 

This week, though, they get a Todd Golden opportunity to move up when they play Florida. Mike White Revenge Game 2.0 incoming. After that home game, they’ve got to travel to Columbia to take on the ‘Cocks. Don’t look now, but that could very well end up with Georgia finishing the regular season at 18-11. Not good enough for the tournament, but triple their win total from last year. 

12) South Carolina Gamecocks

Last week’s ranking: 12 (-)

Record: 10-19 (3-13)

Last week: #2 Alabama (L) 76-78, @ #11 Tennessee (L) 45-85

Next week: @ Mississippi State (Feb. 28 – 9 p.m.), Georgia (Mar. 4 – 1 p.m.)

Best wins: @ Kentucky, Clemson, Western Kentucky

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

Current Tournament Position: OUT

South Carolina. Oh boy. So close. Seconds away in regulation. Inches away in overtime. Up early and late against Alabama, the Gamecocks had their best home conference showing against the Tide, but ultimately came up short. In a raucous environment, (I would know, I was there) the program showed life at Colonial Life for the first time since the Clemson win back in November. However, the magic wore off on the road against Tennessee, losing by 40+ to the Vols for the second time this year. Tough.

Looking ahead, they’ve got a tough road matchup with Mississippi State on the horizon before playing a bit of an easier matchup with Georgia at home. 

13) Ole Miss Rebels

Last week’s ranking: 13 (-)

Record: 11-18 (3-13)

Last week: @ Auburn (L) 74-78, LSU (W) 82-69

Next week: Texas A&M (Feb. 28 – 9 p.m.), @ Missouri (Mar. 4 – 3:30 p.m.)

Best wins: Florida Atlantic, Temple, @ Georgia

Worst losses: North Alabama, Vanderbilt, South Carolina

Current Tournament Position: OUT

I didn’t expect to be saying this so early yet so late, but happy trails Kermit Davis. I sincerely hope you get back on your feet soon, because you’re quite a good coach, it just didn’t work out in Oxford. The firing was announced after the close road loss to Auburn, and the team now belongs to what Will Wade couldn’t do: Win Case. The interim coach led the Rebels to a victory over the Tigers in his first game as the head man for Ole Miss, making him currently the only active undefeated D1 coach.

He’ll get two more chances to Win against Texas A&M and a road game against Mizzou. That’s a bit of a step up from the Tigers at home, but here’s to hope and Winning. I like his name, if you couldn’t tell. 

14) LSU Tigers

Last week’s ranking: 14 (-)

Record: 13-16 (2-14)

Last week: Vanderbilt (W) 84-77, @ Ole Miss (L) 69-82

Next week: Missouri (Mar. 1 – 7 p.m.), @ Florida (Mar. 4 – 8:30 p.m.)

Best wins: Arkansas, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt

Worst losses: @ Georgia, South Carolina, @ Ole Miss

Current Tournament Position: OUT

Congrats LSU. I can finally stop doing my “LSU hasn’t won since 2022. It’s [insert date].” The Tigers beat Vanderbilt *at home*, so they still haven’t won on the road since February 8 (2022). The win was against a Vanderbilt team that had won five straight coming in, so it’s certainly a nice victory for Matt McMahon’s squad. Unfortunately, they’ll stay in the cellar after losing to Ole Miss later in the week, but the win is a very nice consolation.

Looking ahead, the Tigers have a tough home game against Mizzou before a (winnable?) road game against a Colin Castleton-less Florida team. LSU might have a chance to finally pick up a win on the road this year.