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SEC Power Rankings Week 1

After a 6 month hiatus college basketball is back, and with it, the return of the SEC Power Rankings.

Do you hear that? That's the sound of laces being tied, of courts being waxed and round orange balls being bounced and thunderously dunked through a net.

College basketball my friends, is back! Tonight, 13 SEC teams are in action starting at 4:00 PM with Ole Miss taking on Northwestern State and closing out at 8:30 PM when Texas A&M tips off against something called a South Carolina Upstate, with South Carolina just having to be different not starting until tomorrow against Norfolk State, a team no Missouri fan has ever heard of.

With all that said, it was time to get the band back together, so to speak. As we did in this space last year, representatives from all 14 SEC school were given the opportunity to rank each team and provide commentary on why and how they came to the conclusions that they did.
To clean this space up a big from last year's paragraph dump I'll be putting all 14 teams into tiers based on how our voters are feeling, much like cities are put into tiers in the association world...Anaheim, you are too highly ranked at tier 2. 
Anyway, let' get to it!

Tier 1

I mean, at this point we could just rename Tier 1, the Kentucky Tier because our voters still don't see anyone challenging them for conference supremacy in 2015 - 2016. Last year the Wildcats stayed on top of our rankings for the entire season, and sure they had some competition from Arkansas, but from start to finish they ruled. This year does not appear to be any different with Calipari reloading after a final four trip that ended at Wisconsin's hands when the Wildcats forgot how to shoot a three pointer. 
Joining the Wildcats in Tier 1 and a close second are the Tigers of LSU. Johnny Jones brings back a strong team from last year and complements this group with Ben Simmons, one of only four freshmen ever to be put on the preseason all american list, and Sam Snelling's SEC player of the year. With the way things are going recruiting wise in Baton Rouge you'd think this season would be a slam dunk, but then one must consider the Johnny Jones factor. Can he coach this team to where their talent level should take them? Or will he just take the team for ice cream instead? 
Also in the big time of Tier 1 we've got sexy sleeper pick and owner of the worst court in college basketball, the Commodores of Vanderbilt. After a few lean years where Vandy could barely field a full roster, whether through attrition, suspension or injury the fancy pirates of Nashville are stacked having lost no one from last year's hot shooting team. Leading Kevin Stallings' charge will be already NBA declared prospect Damian Jones, and if this team can keep it going from the outside and in, should be a tough out all season long. 
Finally, rounding out Tier 1 we've got the Big 12 interlopers the Aggies of Texas A&M. A&M put together a nice little season last year beating all the teams they were supposed to but not really winning any games they could hang their hats on come March. Getting bounced in round 2 in Nashville certainly didn't help their fortunes any either. Billy Kennedy brings back an experienced roster rounded out by a terrific recruiting class, the only question remains whether they've learned to win or not?

Tier 2

Tier 2, teams that should be in the conversation for a bid to the big dance all season long and could do some good for the rest of the conference, are headlined by NCAA tournament team, the Georgia Bulldogs. Last year's Georgia squad, by the end of the season was being held together by tape and wood glue. The same will be the case this year, can the dawgs stay healthy? If they can they should be dancing again and taking UGA fans minds off of the whole football thing.
Also in Tier 2 we've got the Gators of Florida, now under the leadership of Mike White after Billy Donovan departed for the chance to lead the Thunder of OKC in the NBA. This Florida team is extremely talented and if they can get their "s" together should be competing with the teams in Tier 1 for SEC supremacy. Or I suppose we could have a repeat of last year, where nothing works and Florida decides to focus on the joys of winning a down SEC East. But White's the truth, count on him to get it done.
The final team in Tier 2 are the Bulldogs of Mississippi State. What a difference a year makes. With the hiring of Ben Howland the Bulldogs have become nationally relevant locking up legacy five star recruit Malik Newman, along with two four star kids in Quinndary Weatherspoon and Aric Holman. Obviously without having seen this team play as yet this ranking is based on potential, but this speaks volumes as to what a new coach can do for a team in just 6 months.

Tier 3

Welcome to Tier 3, the sticky gooey middle of the SEC. Our voters aren't really sure how to judge these teams with rankings as high as 7th (and a strange 3rd) to a low of 12th. These teams all have questions, but they're still not in Tier 4 so, hey bonus!
Leading the Tier 3 pack are the Gamecocks of South Carolina who started the year on fire last season, tearing through the nonconference season with some strong wins, but then faltering in conference play. It's year 4 in the Frank Martin era and if he's going to turn the corner it's going to have to happen now or it may be time for a change.
Also in the middle we've got Ole Miss and Stefan Moody, and that's pretty much what Ole Miss has got going for it...that and a brand new arena opening in early 2016. So while our voters aren't sure what to make of the Rebels we do know they will be in a fancy new arena at least where when the lights go out, it will be on purpose.
Joining the Gamecocks and Rebels we've got the Bruce Pearl led Tigers of Auburn. The voters, media and everyone all seem to be in agreement that the Tigers are a year away before Pearl's work comes to fruition and Auburn takes the next step and joins the powers of the SEC.
Finally, rounding out Tier 3 we've got Arkansas...and I'll be honest I think this is merely a leftover of the fact that someone has to be ranked 11th and they play a tempo at home that wins them games. Because this team looks to be in a little trouble...

Tier 4

Welcome to the bottom! The dregs of the SEC and one team should be pretty comfortable here having spent most of last season in this spot. All three teams in the bottom are flawed in their own ways, two coming off new hires and rebuilds and the other having a perception problem to fight.
Living on the bottom you've got Alabama under new coach Avery Johnson, Tennessee under new coach Rick Barnes and Missouri under second year coach most people still haven't heard of, Kim Anderson.
All three teams have a lot to prove to our voters, but last year at this time Tennessee also lived on the bottom and acquitted themselves pretty well during the SEC season, so there's hope!

To the First Rankings!

Team Points Ranking Ranking Last Season in Final Poll Change Highest Rank Lowest Rank
Kentucky 112 1st 1st None 1st 1st
LSU 102 2nd 4th Up 2 2nd 3rd
Vanderbilt 95 3rd 7th Up 4 2nd 4th
Texas A&M 86 4th 6th Up 2 2nd 6th
Georgia 69 5th 3rd Down 2 5th 11th
Florida 68 6th 8th Up 2 4th 10th
Mississippi State 62 7th 13th Up 6 4th 11th
South Carolina 55 8th 12th Up 4 7th 12th
Ole Miss 45 9th 5th Down 4 7th 12th
Auburn 42 10th 11th Down 1 7th 12th
Arkansas 39 11th 2nd Down 9 3rd 14th
Alabama 26 12th 9th (tied) Down 3 9th 13th
Tennessee 19 13th 9th (tied) Down 4 9th 13th
Mizzou 12 14th 14th None 10th 14th

Points were distributed 1st = 14, 2nd = 13, 3rd = 12, 4th = 11, 5th = 10, 6th = 9, 7th = 8, 8th = 7, 9th = 6, 10th = 5, 11th = 4, 12th = 3, 13th = 2, and 14th = 1

Alabama may have found Mr. Right with Avery Johnson but I don't think he's Mr. Right Now. It's going to take a year or two to get his players in the system.(College and Magnolia)

The Tide have some talent to work with, but Avery Johnson will have his hands full in his first season with Levi Randolph, Rodney Cooper, and Ricky Tarrant no longer around.(Roll Bama Roll)

Coach Avery Johnson has quite a task at hand in Tuscaloosa. Early tests against Dayton, Xavier, Clemson and Oregon will make or break their season.....not like Crimson Tide fans will be paying attention anyway.(For Whom the Cowbell Tolls)

Well, if you saw my preseason game picks, I apparently really like Arkansas. I have now checked their roster, and must say I'm a damn fool. But Mike Anderson has a solid bunch of athletes for his system, with experience even if it now lacks the star power of Portis and Qualls. They'll be good, but probably not this good. But I gotta stand by my preseason picks when it's still the preseason, right? (Dawg Sports)

Probably the hardest-hit roster -- as far as not replacing your big-time talent - in the league. It might be a slog this season but Arkansas seems too consistent to be a true dredge of the league.(And the Valley Shook)

With a likely rebuilding year, Arkansas may have to resort to accepting counterfeit bills for tickets in order to boost attendance, but luckily those aren't too hard to find in Fayetteville. (Anchor of Gold)

I bet Cinmeon Bowers is the guy who in the gym loves to drop the weights while screaming with each lift and then flexes to himself hoping you'll notice him. (Rock M Nation)

Auburn's season could go a few different ways. The talent is there, the depth is not. (College and Magnolia)

Bruce Pearl's second Year One. Replacing KT Harrell and a senior-laden team that went 4-14 in conference play will be tough. (Roll Bama Roll)

The end of the Billy Donovan era will only hurt the Gators temporarily, it won't be long before Florida returns to the elite of the SEC. (For Whom the Cowbell Tolls)

This team has talent, and Donovan left behind some pretty solid athletes and perimeter pieces for new coach Michael White's fun-n-gun style. But there will be an adaptation period, and Donovan's final recruiting classes haven't lived up to their high school hype. (Dawg Sports)

There's still some interesting talent with Final 4 experience among these Gators, but the new coaching dynamic means they don't get the UF benefit of the doubt yet. (And the Valley Shook)

A weird combination of high floor/low ceiling: I can't see them missing the NCAA Tournament (at least, not by much), but I also can't see them making a deep tournament run.(Anchor of Gold)

JJ Frazier, Kenny Gaines, Turtle Jackson, and Charles Mann are in that best backcourt in the conference argument along with A&M. But both teams look potentially non existent inside. (Dawg Sports)

This team really in a word can best be described as "Fragile", you know, Italian for bowling alley. (Rock M Nation)

I *guess* they're #1, but I really don't know much about 80 percent of the players on their roster except that they were blue-chip recruits, and sometimes those don't work out. (Anchor of Gold)

I have Kentucky at #1 despite them losing seven players to the NBA. I hate you John Calipari. (College and Magnolia)

Kentucky. Surprise! (Roll Bama Roll)


A solid Top 25 team. Losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament would be a disappointment to this team. (For Whom the Cowbell Tolls)

Probably a bit of a homer pick but I truly feel like, when healthy and Craig Victor becomes eligible after the fall semester, the Tigers are the 2nd most talented SEC team. Plus, Ben Simmons just might be a transcendent player.(And the Valley Shook)

This team will only go as far as Johnny Jones lets them, and if it's far I'm convinced it will be by accident. (Rock M Nation)

How good is Malik Newman? Because if you're projecting them to make the tournament, you're basically saying Newman is Anthony Davis.(Anchor of Gold)

Mississippi State arguably scored the biggest coaching hire of the off-season with the acquisition of Ben Howland. He has already charged the Mississippi State fanbase and has added a spark to recruiting. Now, can he deliver meaningful results? (For Whom the Cowbell Tolls)

The Bulldogs finally have a solid coach and a go-to scorer in Ben Howland and Malik Newman, respectively. But the thing to like most about this team is that they have a bevy of really experienced, hungry guys who are ready to start winning some basketball games.(Roll Bama Roll)

Never would have imagined when the Tigers joined the SEC three years ago that they'd ever start a season projected to finish last in the league. (And the Valley Shook)

There's no chance it can be worse than last year, right? RIGHT?! (Rock M Nation)

Yikes. This team was bad last season, and they lost two of few guys who could play in Johnathan Williams and Montaque Gill-Caeser. Ryan Rosburg is still in Columbia though somehow! (Roll Bama Roll)

Whatever I write here is just going to get picked apart by Logo in the comments, so I'll just write "Stefan Moody!" and get it over with.(Anchor of Gold)

What's new? Still an Andy Kennedy team that isn't that bad, but not really that good either. Will probably have some runs in the season that make you think they can reach the top half of the conference, before collapsing like a flan in a cupboard. Every. Single. Year. (Dawg Sports)

Stefan Moody is a difference maker and will likely lead the Rebels to some big wins but will it be enough to break into the upper tier of an improving SEC? (For Whom the Cowbell Tolls)

Frank Martin will have this team improved again but I'm not sure how much the Gamecocks will be able to leap up the standings. (And the Valley Shook)

No, THIS is the year Frank Martin makes South Carolina a contender! It's definitely coming, last year was just another rebuild. I swear. Maybe.(Roll Bama Roll)

Frank Martin is a dormant volcano, and if this season goes badly, well Columbia East, I urge you to check out the photos of Pompeii. (Rock M Nation)

I don't know if basketball is better when Tennessee is bad, but it makes me feel better and that's what's really important. (College and Magnolia)

It's pre-season rankings, I have no idea.(Rocky Top Talk)

I'm not sold on the Rick Barnes hire here and I'm certainly not sold on the roster he's inheriting.(And the Valley Shook)

If Billy Kennedy misses the tournament with this roster, you literally have no argument for retaining him. (Anchor of Gold)

There may not be a better returning trio in the conference than Alex Caruso, Jalen Jones, and Danuel House. All three of those guys provide the kind of talent and experience combination that good teams have, and the presence of Rick Stansbury on the staff has led to a serious infux in talent. Like LSU though, Billy Kennedy has to prove that he can lead this team to the top. He really has no excuse not to. (Roll Bama Roll)

Could arguably finish anywhere between 1st and 7th. Can Billy Kennedy get the Aggies over the hump? (For Whom the Cowbell Tolls)

I'm not sure I trust Vanderbilt but my gut tells me they will challenge Kentucky for the top spot this season. Big games against Baylor and Purdue will tell us a lot about the Commodores.(For Whom the Cowbell Tolls)

I'm not exaggerating when I say this might be Stallings' best team ever.(Anchor of Gold)

Kevin Stallings was finally able to keep a freshman class together (although he did lose Shelton Mitchell), so Vandy won't be relying on new players in important positions this season. Stallings is one of the most underrated coaches in college basketball, and Damian Jones is one of the best upperclassmen in college ball this year as well. (Roll Bama Roll)


And that will do it! The non conference season kicks off tonight, so go out there and catch some SEC roundball action. We'll be here every Friday from now until the end of March, and thanks for reading!