DJ Jeffries, Mississippi State Bulldogs, SEC Basketball

George Bagwell gives his SEC basketball power rankings heading into week 3 of the 2023 season.


Matchup of the week: Tennessee vs. Syracuse

Sneaky good matchup of the week: Texas A&M vs. Penn State

Slight disclaimer, but all preseason lists/notions are thrown out once the first ball tips off. These rankings are based purely off of what’s transpired on the court between Nov. 6 and Nov. 19, and they’ll gradually round into shape. Welcome back to SEC Basketball Power Rankings.

All games listed are EST.

1) Tennessee Volunteers

Last week’s ranking: 1 (-)

Record: 3-0

Last week: W vs. Wofford (82-61)

Next week: vs. Syracuse (Nov. 20 – 2:30 p.m., Honolulu), vs. Purdue or Gonzaga (Nov. 21 – 2:30/8 p.m., Honolulu), Maui Invitational (Nov. 22)

Quality wins: at Wisconsin

Bad losses: N/A

Tennessee had a bit of a quiet week, pulling away from Wofford after a sleepy first half. Every starter recorded at least one steal, and Jordan Gainey contributed 16 points off the bench. The USC-Upstate transfer has come off the bench all 3 games, but he’s 2nd on the team in points and has scored in double-figures in all three games as well. The other transfer, Dalton Knecht from NoCo, is leading the Vols with 19.7 PPG, and that duo is making Rick Barnes look like a genius. (He is.)

While Santiago Vescovi is 6th on the team with just 6.0 PPG, the rest of the team is stepping up in a big way on offense, while the defense is leading the SEC with just 57.7 PPG allowed. Zakai Zeigler will continue to see his role increase as he returns from a torn ACL suffered last year as the Vols travel to Hawaii this week to take on Syracuse, which is followed by an immediate test against either Purdue or Gonzaga. The other part of the field includes Kansas and Marquette, so a 2-1 or 3-0 record would be highly impressive.  

2) Mississippi State Bulldogs

Last week’s ranking: 3 (+1)

Record: 5-0

Last week: W vs. North Alabama (81-54), W vs. Washington State (76-64), W vs. Northwestern (66-57)

Next week: vs. Nicholls State (Nov. 24 – 2 p.m.)

Quality wins: Arizona State, Northwestern, Washington State

Bad losses: N/A

Mississippi State is playing offense, all without Tolu Smith and KeShawn Murphy, and they’re doing it while shooting from a much better 3P% than they had last year, due to the emergence of freshman guard Josh Hubbard, who’s been a revelation for the Bulldogs. The 5-10 frosh averaged 21.0 PPG in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off against Washington State and Northwestern. He’s integral to this Bulldog offense, which is typically second fiddle to an elite defense. Chris Jans deserves tons of credit for the 5-0 start, but so do transfers Jimmy Bell Jr. and Trey Fort. This team is already dangerous. Now imagine them with Tolu Smith back.

This week, they face Nicholls State, and will more than likely prefer to win, something LSU could not manage against the Colonels at home. A win would mean a second straight 6-0 start for the Bulldogs under 2nd-year coach Jans, who is rapidly making an impact in the conference. 

3) Texas A&M Aggies

Last week’s ranking: 2 (-1)

Record: 4-0

Last week: W at SMU (79-66), W vs. Oral Roberts (74-66)

Next week: vs. Penn State (Nov. 23 – Noon, Kissimmee, FL), vs. FAU OR Butler (Nov. 24 – 11 a.m./1:30 p.m., Kissimmee, FL)

Quality wins: at Ohio State, at SMU

Bad losses: N/A

The Aggies actually looked better on the road against SMU than in their home matchup against a Max Abmas-less Oral Roberts squad. Against the Mustangs, Tyrece Radford showed up on a day when Wade Taylor IV struggled from the field. “Boots” led the Aggies with 21 points, while Henry Coleman III was perfect from the field with a double-double against Oral Roberts. The Aggies are so far, as promised, with gritty road wins over Ohio State and SMU so far.

They’ll need to solve their issues from the perimeter this week, however, as they travel to central Florida to take on Penn State and either FAU or Butler. The Aggies are last in the conference with a 24.7% clip from deep, a figure that a program with championship aspirations cannot stoop to. Taylor IV and Jace Carter are both shooting below 20% from the perimeter, so they’ll, needless to say, need to improve. As a team, however, the Aggies are on cruise control. It’ll be a true litmus test to see if that changes this week against quality competition.  

4) Kentucky Wildcats

Last week’s ranking: 7 (+3)

Record: 3-1

Last week: L vs. #1 Kansas (84-89), W vs. Stonehill (101-67)

Next week: vs. Saint Joseph’s (Nov. 20 – 7 p.m.) vs. Marshall (Nov. 24 – 7 p.m)

Quality wins: N/A

Bad losses: N/A

How does a team move up three spots in the SEC Power Rankings after a 1-1 week? By dropping 48 first-half points on the consensus #1 team in the third game of the year with 2 freshmen in the starting lineup. While the Wildcats couldn’t close out the game, they showed a lot more than many pundits thought they could accomplish against the Jayhawks, and the offense might just be lethal. One freshman in particular, Reed Sheppard, has been extremely impressive, averaging 13.3 PPG and 4.5 “Hakeems” per game (blocks+steals) off the bench. That’s not to take away from the other freshmen, but rather just take advantage of an opportunity to praise Sheppard. The frontcourt health, however, will eventually need to be addressed, with Bradshaw and Onyenso still yet to appear in a game. (The Wildcats defeated Stonehill handily and scored 101. It went about how one would expect).

This week, there shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for the Wildcats, who take on Saint Joe’s and Marshall at home, both of whom rank below 120 in the latest KenPom ratings. It’s all about continuing to get the freshmen acclimated to Power 6 college basketball before the Wildcats take on Miami in 2 weeks. 

5) South Carolina Gamecocks

Last week’s ranking: 4 (-1)

Record: 5-0

Last week: W vs. VMI (74-64), W vs. DePaul (73-68), W vs. Grand Canyon (75-68)

Next week: OFF

Best wins: Virginia Tech, Grand Canyon

Worst losses: N/A

South Carolina has quietly blossomed into one of the best shooting teams in the SEC, which, again, feels weird to type. They are one of two SEC teams at 5-0, joining Mississippi State with a late-night win over Grand Canyon in the Arizona Tip-Off in what was essentially a road game for the ‘Cocks. South Carolina didn’t look the best against VMI or DePaul, or even in stretches against the sneakily underrated Antelopes of Grand Canyon, but they’re getting the job done while ranking 6th in the conference in strength of schedule, per KenPom. While it was Meechie Johnson who got it done against DePaul, and B.J. Mack who made the biggest difference against GCU, the team’s five wins have truly been five team wins, with the Gamecock depth shining through. This is a veteran-led, elite-shooting squad that is a lot better than what it’s getting credit for. 

The Gamecocks don’t play again until the ACC/SEC challenge, where they’ll take on Notre Dame at home. That’ll give Lamont Paris’s squad time to reload and rest up, and it’s maybe enough time for Collin Murray-Boyles to return, who’s been sidelined with mono. While the frontcourt has been playing fine, the freshman forward would be a huge addition once he’s healthy. 

6) Alabama Crimson Tide

Last week’s ranking: 6 (-)

Record: 4-0

Last week: W vs. South Alabama (102-46), W vs. Mercer (98-67)

Next week: vs. Ohio State (Nov. 24 – 7 p.m., Destin, FL), vs. Santa Clara OR Oregon (Nov. 25- 3/6 p.m)

Quality wins: N/A

Bad losses: N/A

There’s only so much a team can rise after beating two teams that had just lost to non-D-1 teams. This week, the rise for the Tide is zero, with no spots forward and no steps back. Sure, they’ve looked great on offense, against a bottom-100 schedule. Mark Sears and Aaron Estrada are certified buckets, but it’ll be nice to see the Crimson Tide against quality competition after dismantling South Alabama and Mercer. Continue to keep an eye on freshman Jarin Stevenson, who’s looked quite impressive.

This week, Alabama takes a short bus ride down to Destin, where they’ll build some sand castles and get some (likely) closer games against Ohio State and one of Santa Clara (who beat Stanford) or Oregon (who beat Georgia). While it’s not going up against Purdue or Kansas, like some SEC schools are doing, it’s still a better test of the Tide’s true strength than the 4 low-majors Alabama’s faced so far. A 2-0 week is expected. 

7) Auburn Tigers

Last week’s ranking: 9 (+2)

Record: 3-1

Last week: W vs. Notre Dame (83-59), W vs. St. Bonaventure (77-60)

Next week: vs. Alabama A&M (Nov. 21 – 8 p.m)

Quality wins: St. Bonaventure

Bad losses: N/A

If I was a better man, I’d put Auburn above Alabama. But I write SEC Power Rankings as a hobby, so here we are. This team looks so much more balanced and improved compared to last year. They’re making threes, (3rd in the SEC with a 38.9% clip from deep) sharing the ball, (20.3 APG), and protecting the rim (6.3 BPG). The only complaints, besides the loss to Baylor, are the fouls (21.5 per game, leading the conference) and the lack of perimeter defense (last in the SEC with 5.3 SPG). Johni Broome is his normal dominant self, while Aden Holloway seems like a sure-fire all-freshman pick at the end of the year for the conference. 

This week, the Tigers will likely not have to sweat as much as they did last week (they barely broke a sweat, that’s the joke) when they face Alabama A&M in a late-November buy game. Getting a handle on defensive discipline and limiting fouls is paramount before the SEC/ACC challenge. 

8) Florida Gators

Last week’s ranking: 11 (+3)

Record: 3-1

Last week: W vs. Florida A&M (89-68), W vs. Florida State (89-68)

Next week: vs. Pitt (Nov. 22 – 9:30 p.m, Brooklyn), vs. Oregon State OR Baylor  (Nov. 24 – 3/5:30 p.m., Brooklyn)

Quality wins: Florida State

Bad losses: N/A

Florida beat two other Floridas, A&M and State, pretty handily last week, in a nice bounce-back after a tough loss to Virginia to start the year. Both games actually had the exact same result, an 89-68 Gator win at home. Zyon Pullin returned against the Seminoles after a three-game suspension, and he recorded a 15-5-4 statline off the bench, though the Gators’ turnover woes continued with 20 against Florida State. That’s about the only nitpick this week, as Florida was dominant. Freshman Thomas Haugh recorded 10 rebounds against the Seminoles. 

This week, Florida heads to New York, where they’ll face Pitt and either Oregon State or Baylor. One of those teams is not like the other. The Bears are the favorites to win the NIT Tip-Off, but anything can happen. The Gators are hoping they’ll take the trophy back to the ‘Ville, but they’ll have to beat Pitt if they want a chance to take down Baylor. Pittsburgh has improved mightily in Jeff Capel III’s last two seasons at the helm. A 2-0 weekend would likely get the Gators ranked, (granted one win is over Baylor) but a 1-1 finish isn’t the end of the world. An 0-2 mark, however unlikely, would raise some questions. With the addition of Pullin to the backcourt room of Kugel, Richard, and Clayton Jr., the Gators have a better chance of winning the tip-off than going winless. 

9) Arkansas Razorbacks

Last week’s ranking: 5 (-4)

Record: 3-1

Last week: W vs. Old Dominion (86-77), L vs. UNCG (78-72)

Next week: vs. Stanford (Nov. 22 – 7:30 p.m., Nassau), vs. Michigan or Memphis (Nov. 23 – 5/7:30 p.m., Nassau)

Quality wins: N/A

Bad losses: UNCG

Last year, Trevon Brazile was lost for the year with an injury against the Spartans. This year, UNCG outplayed the Razorbacks en route to a 78-72 shocker. Arkansas just needs to stop scheduling UNCG. That loss is enough to move them down several spots in the SEC Power Rankings, while Arkansas didn’t look particularly impressive earlier in the week against Old Dominion, either, despite a bevy of talent in the backcourt. The Hogs were out-rebounded in the paint against UNCG, and were out-shot on the perimeter, making only 17.4% of their threes compared to the Spartans’ 37.5% clip. Shoutout Keyshaun Langley, who scored 23, and the rest of the Spartans, but this is not a loss Arkansas needed on their resume, especially as they jump up a level in competition this week. Eric Musselman needs to seriously consider putting Khalif Battle in the starting lineup in the stead of El Ellis. Battle leads the team with 16.5 PPG and is shooting 47.4% from deep on 4.8 attempts per game. 

This week, the Hogs travel to The Bahamas (who, if I’m not mistaken, have a few islands where wild pigs just roam around, so Arkansas should feel right at home) and take on multiple Power 6 opponents. Stanford is first up, followed by either Memphis or Michigan. A 2-1 or 3-0 week would swing the momentum back in the favor of the Razorbacks. 

10) Georgia Bulldogs

Last week’s ranking: 10 (-)

Record: 2-3

Last week: L vs. #12 Miami (79-68), L vs. Providence (71-64)

Next week: vs. Winthrop (Nov. 24 – 5 p.m.)

Quality wins: Wake Forest 

Bad losses: N/A

Georgia is the only team in the SEC with a losing record, but they’re also the only team in the SEC that’s played three teams in the KenPom top 50. Give this schedule to every other SEC team, and maybe only Tennessee will come out unscathed. Credit Mike White for scheduling Georgia’s metaphorical final exams in the first week of classes. There have been quite a few bright spots, like the emergence of Jabri Abdur-Rahim, who’s averaging 14 PPG, and freshman point guard Silas Demary Jr., who’s 2nd on the roster in MPG and RPG while leading the Bulldogs in APG and SPG. Though two losses weren’t what the team was likely hoping for in The Bahamas, they looked competitive against two likely tournament teams in Miami and Providence. Noah Thomasson averaged 16.5 PPG in the two games in Nassau, a good sign to come in terms of the transition from low-major Niagara to the big leagues in Athens.

This week, the Bulldogs get a brief reprieve from playing big competition, as they host Winthrop. The Eagles are 3-2, but they got handled quite easily against Clemson. The Bulldogs shouldn’t have trouble putting Winthrop away on Friday as they try to get back to .500 on the year. 

11) LSU Tigers

Last week’s ranking: 13 (+2)

Record: 3-2

Last week: L vs. Dayton (70-67), W vs. North Texas (66-62), W vs. Wake Forest (86-80)

Next week: vs. North Florida (Nov. 24 – 8 p.m)

Quality wins: North Texas, Wake Forest

Bad losses: Nicholls State

It’ll take a while to get over the sting of the Nicholls State home loss, but the Tigers might have been inflicted by an even worse sting last week, courtesy of Dayton. The Tigers were up 60-45 with nine minutes left, and ended up losing by three in Charleston on a late dagger from Nate Santos, marking the second loss for LSU via a late three-pointer. The Tigers cleaned up nicely in their next two games in the Holy City, however, beating North Texas and Wake Forest in two tightly contested games against similar competition. Those two contests were all about Will Baker, as the Nevada transfer averaged 19.5 PPG and 7.0 RPG in the two wins for LSU. 

That might be the momentum the Tigers needed, but they’ll still need to figure out some sort of consistency at the point guard position with the Jalen Cook waiver denial. This week, they’re back in Baton Rouge against North Florida. The Tigers cannot afford to overlook the Ospreys, who have already beaten Charleston Southern, Northwestern State, and Maine. Trae Hannibal and Mike Williams II will need to contain Chaz Lanier, the A-Sun sharpshooter, who’s averaging 17.5 PPG on 45.7% from deep. 

12) Ole Miss Rebels

Last week’s ranking: 8 (-4)

Record: 4-0

Last week: W vs. Detroit Mercy (70-69), W vs. Sam Houston State (70-67)

Next week: at Temple (Nov. 22 – 3:30 p.m.)

Quality wins: N/A

Bad losses: N/A

Ole Miss has consistently looked like the worst team in the conference, which is about the only consistency they’ve had through two weeks. Though they’re undefeated at 4-0, one of just six SEC teams that can say that truthfully, they’ve beaten four low-major opponents all ranked below 150 in the KenPom rankings by an average margin of 71.0-64.8, scraping by through the skin of their teeth, mostly due to the fact that the trio of Allen Flanigan, Matthew Murrell, and Jaylen Murray are averaging a combined 45+ PPG. The team as a whole is only shooting 28.6% from beyond the arc, 13th in the conference, ahead of only Texas A&M. The Rebels faced a >50% chance of losing in portions of the 2nd half against both Detroit Mercy and Sam Houston State, but somehow pulled out the win in both. 

This week, the Rebels are facing their toughest test of the year so far, a road game against a Temple team that’s actually ranked below Sam Houston State in the latest KenPom ratings. The Owls are shooting 83.8% from the line, so Ole Miss needs to play a disciplined 40 minutes and avoid getting into foul trouble. At the end of the day, even though this team’s playing at the lowest level out of all teams in the SEC, I can’t put an undefeated team at the bottom of the cellar and feel good about it. 

13) Missouri Tigers

Last week’s ranking: 12 (-1)

Record: 3-2

Last week: W vs. SIUE (68-50), W at Minnesota (70-68), L vs. Jackson State (72-73)

Next week: vs. South Carolina State (Nov. 22 – 7 p.m.), vs. Loyola MD (Nov. 25 – Noon)

Quality wins: N/A

Bad losses: Jackson State 

Missouri was about three seconds away from going 3-0 this week, which was great. Then, the Tigers’ (Jackson State variety) Chase Adams hit a fadeaway jumper to stun the Tigers (Mizzou variety) at home, for the third (likely) Quad 4 loss by an SEC team this year. (Presbyterian and Nicholls State included.) That’s tough, no matter which way it’s spun, especially after coming back from 20 down to beat Minnesota earlier in the week and holding SIUE to 28.6% from the field in the Tigers’ most complete defensive performance of the season so far. Now sitting at 3-2 with an 0-2 record against Tiger mascots and a 3-0 record against any other matchup, it might be best to stop scheduling other Tiger teams. Offensive consistency has been one of Mizzou’s main concerns, and they’ve struggled to get buckets for stretches of time. Sean East II has been a bright spot, as has Noah Carter.

This week, Missouri has two chances to get back on track after Sunday’s alarming loss. They play South Carolina State and Loyola (MD), both whom have been beaten by low-major competition already. There’s no sugarcoating the Jackson State loss, however, and it’ll take a lot more than two more home wins this week to forget Sunday. The Tigers (Jackson State variety) had already lost to Cal Baptist and San Diego by double digits. Missouri joins Ole Miss and Vandy in the cellar. I’m so sorry, Missouri faithful. I’m as sad as you are. This pains me, but it’ll get better. Trust the process (Dennis Gates).

14) Vanderbilt Commodores

Last week’s ranking: 14 (-)

Record: 3-1

Last week: W vs. UNCG (74-70), W vs. Central Arkansas (75-71)

Next week: vs. NC State (Nov. 23 – 10 p.m., Las Vegas) vs. Arizona State OR BYU (Nov. 24 – 7:30/9:30 p.m.)

Quality wins: N/A

Bad losses: Presbyterian

A win’s a win, sure. But not all wins are the same. In four games this year against Presbyterian, USC-Upstate, UNCG, and Central Arkansas, the ‘Dores are 3-1 with a scoring margin of just 285-276, or a 71.3-69.0 average. The best game out of that quartet was against UNCG, where Jerry Stackhouse’s group shot 94.4% from the line, a good sign of improved shooting to come, especially once Tyrin Lawrence comes back. Presbyterian’s also 5-1 to start the year, so while the loss is still bad, it’s not quite as embarrassing as it felt on opening night. No surprise, but Ezra Manjon is leading the team in PPG (18.8) and APG (4.0). Without him, there’s little chance this team is even at .500. Sophomore forward Colin Smith is also a nice surprise, averaging 9.5 PPG and 9.5 RPG through the first four games.

The competition ramps up rapidly this week, though, as Vanderbilt is guaranteed to face their first two Power 6 opponents of the year, NC State and one of Arizona State or BYU. Manjon has done a valiant job of holding down the ship (anchor down) in Lawrence’s absence, but getting the star shooting guard back as soon as possible is paramount for this team. 

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