For anyone out there that says college basketball isn't exciting especially in the SEC, they're full of it. And anyone that tells they know what's going to happen game by game and even minute by minute, they're also full of it. Kind of like my buddy who told he had figured out the Usual Suspects twist mid-way through the movie, SO full of it.
This season home court in the SEC has been an amazing equalizer as the top teams in the league (outside of Big Blue) took losses on the road that I don't think anyone saw coming. With that, the one thing we can say for sure is that SEC is a topsy turvy mess where being able to get a handle on things is difficult and maddening. Though I suppose that's what makes this SEC season so interesting!
Tier 1 has lost a member with the booting of surprise team South Carolina to Tier 2 status, and Kentucky remaining the consensus top team in the conference. Kentucky heading into last weekend had what appeared to be a sizable test on the road at SC, and handled the Cocks with ease, inflicting a 27 point beat down, which all of a sudden is becoming the norm for the Wildcats this season. Follow that up with a serviceable home win over Tennessee and Kentucky looks to be playing their best ball in February and ramping up right in time for March. In the coming weeks UK have nothing but tough tests on their schedule, most notably with a visit from Alabama on Tuesday night, the other hot team in the conference.
Coming in second this week are the confusing Aggies of A&M who after suffering four straight defeats managed to get back in the win column when they beat Ole Miss this past Tuesday at home. Before Tuesday night's game, the Aggies had lost to LSU on the road and at home to Bama, which both look to be decent losses to take at this point. If they want to get back in the conversation for a high seed in the NCAA tournament (knock on wood) tomorrow's home tilt with Kentucky would do wonders if they could pull out a win.
Staying in third but only by the slimmest of margins are the Tigers of LSU. All season we've harped on their ability to consistently bring their A game and this week was no different. After closing out a nip and tuck win over the Aggies on Saturday, the Tigers got beat by a Bama team that seems to have figured out this whole basketball thing. If LSU is to get a stronger foothold into the NCAA tournament (which right now would best be described as precarious), they're probably going to have to win out the season.
Sitting in fourth right on the heels of LSU are the Gators. The Gators are playing wonderful defense this season which is typically not the easiest on the eyes, but getting the job done in Mike White's first season. Over the past week, the Gators lost at home to the Crimson Tide (which at this point looks mostly ok) and beat Georgia on the road. The schedule still looks tricky going forward, but if they can come out of the five game stretch at 4-1 or 3-2, the Gators should feel good about dancing in March.
As it did last week and at numerous times this season Tier 2 has contained only two teams, and continues to this week, however, the teams that reside in Tier 2 have switched. Gone are Vanderbilt and Georgia and in are South Carolina coming off a loss at Mizzou and the hottest team in the SEC, Alabama. We'll start with the bad and then move to the good. South Carolina spent the past week disappointing its fans and itself. With Kentucky coming into town last Saturday, South Carolina had a real opportunity to solidify their likely NCAA tournament berth, and in their biggest game in the recent memory, got whooped by Big Blue. This after John Calipari got tossed just three minutes in. While not the result they wanted, the Cocks could get back to good with a road trip to Columbia west to play Mizzou. Things did not go well and South Carolina suffered their second straight loss. Looking at the rest of the schedule, SC's got a chance with Florida coming to town tomorrow afternoon, but after that, there isn't a game to hang their hat on.
Joining South Carolina in Tier 2 is blistering hot Alabama. The Tide are winners of five straight in a row, with the last two coming on the road at Florida and at LSU. The Tide are on a roll right now and outside of a trip to Kentucky this coming Tuesday should be favored in the rest of their games. If Bama continues to play the way they have been not only will they be dancing in March, but Avery Johnson will be your SEC coach of the year.
Tier 3 welcomes two former dwellers of Tier 2 in Vanderbilt and Georgia, along with steady mainstay Ole Miss. Vanderbilt has gotten road win at Auburn (something Kentucky couldn't do) and then lost on a buzzer beater at Mississippi State. It looks like what was once predicted to be a magical season in Nashville could be coming apart. The rest of their schedule does not ease up with games against Florida, Kentucky and Texas A&M being three of the five games. The end could be nearing for Vandy and Stallings as well...
Georgia for their part continue to play as they have all season, win some lose some, and hang around .500 in conference play from the start of conference play. Georgia heads to Vanderbilt tomorrow to try to distance themselves from the mushy middle of the SEC and perhaps attempt to do something to solidify what looks at best more and more like an NIT berth.
Finally, Ole Miss rounds out Tier 3 with after splitting with Arkansas (win) and A&M this past week. Like Georgia, Ole Miss has been consistent in their win some lose some play to date, though the schedule eases up considerably for the rest of the season. Aside from a visit to Georgia, Ole Miss looks like they'll be able to move over the .500 mark in conference by the time March rolls around.
Two thirds of the teams in Tier 4 did not have themselves the best week with both Tennessee and Arkansas who sit tied for 11th losing both of their games. Tennessee fell to Mizzou and Kentucky (not great and respectable) and Arkansas lost at Ole Miss and at home to Auburn. Let that sink in. Both teams suffered bad losses, the Arkansas home defeat to Auburn being the most confusing. If Tier 5 was not so bad, you could make a case that Arkansas should be downgraded even further.
Maintaining its spot in Tier 4 are the Bulldogs of Mississippi State. State suffered a tough home loss to Georgia this past Saturday, and then hit a dagger of a three pointer to beat Vanderbilt Tuesday night that may just have been the dagger to Kevin Stallings season and career in Nashville. State has some opportunities to build some momentum over the final weeks of the season before the SEC Tournament commences in March.
Finally in the bottom of the conference power rankings we have Auburn and Mizzou, same as last week, but both teams looking just a bit different. Auburn suffered a severe beatdown against Vandy on Saturday, but then beat Arkansas in Fayetville in the same manner that they beat Kentucky, under a barrage of threes. I'm not sure if this says more about Auburn or Arkansas, but it does appear that the wheels may be coming off in Hog country. Then there's Mizzou, cellar dwellers for two straight years now, and they reside in the same spot in this poll, but this time coming off two straight home wins over Tennessee and South Carolina. The UT win was nice but not totally unexpected (the Vols play on the road like the Hogs this season), but the SC win was something else, perhaps something to build on for a little end of the season surge. A road date at suddenly vulnerable looking Arkansas looms tomorrow to give Tiger fans a better idea if this means anything.
To the Rankings!
|Ranking Last Week
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 is surging at just the right time and could very realistically earn a tournament bid. (Fox Sports Knoxville)
Aside from Kentucky, they may be playing the best basketball in the league right now. Avery Johnson should be Coach of the Year. (Anchor of Gold)
Things got ugly in January, but a 5 game winning streak, including the last three coming against A&M, then @ FLorida and @ LSU? Yeah, that'll vault you up the charts. (Dawg Sports)
Losing at home to Auburn, that's inexcusable. (Rock M Nation)
Lost the last three games by a combined 52 points, to the murderer's row of the Mississippi schools and Auburn. Yeah, they deserve to be last. (Anchor of Gold)
Mike Anderson may not be in trouble right now, but next year is going to be pretty, pretty, pretty important after 5 years with just one NCAA appearance. (Dawg Sports)
They got torched at home by Vandy before going to Bud Walton and winning. Gotta love the #fever. (Dawg Sports)
Offense has devolved into firing up terrible shots from 25 feet. Unfortunately for Arkansas, they made a bunch of them. (Anchor of Gold)
I think Auburn just hit another three pointer at Bud Walton. (Rock M Nation)
If they could fall ass backwards into an offense this team would have elite 8 potential. (Rock M Nation)
I thought the rules changes were supposed to do something about games like that...(Anchor of Gold)
Yeah, they lost to Alabama, but everyone's doing that these days. They played ugly but won in Athens, and a win Saturday at South Carolina would lock them into the dance, and possibly with a nice seed. (Dawg Sports)
Fun fact: it's been almost three weeks since the last time their offense hit 70. (Anchor of Gold)
The senior guards are struggling, the offense is teetering on disaster, and trips to Nashville and Auburn could cause the wheels to fall off over the next week. (Dawg Sports)
The Georgia v Florida game the other day was our punishment for the first Kansas - Oklahoma game that went to three overtimes. (Rock M Nation)
Kentucky finally looks like the best team in the league. (Fox Sports Knoxville)
I'd say they are the only team immune to the #fever, but those losses to Auburn and Tennessee did happen. (Dawg Sports)
Since the Tennessee loss earlier this month, they've turned into a buzzsaw. (Anchor of Gold)
Now THERE'S the inexplicable loss we've been waiting for. (Anchor of Gold)
Have lost two of their last three, but the game they won was over A&M, and when combined with others losing too, their conference record and Ben Simmons keeps them near the top. (Dawg Sports)
If anyone has any idea what LSU is going to do from game to game, raise your hand? No one? Bueller....Bueller? (Rock M Nation)
They've gone 4-4 since that 0-5 start to conference play. Maybe they aren't that bad. (Dawg Sports)
Dagger!!!(Rock M Nation)
Yeah, to be fair, that win over Vandy was kind of a gift...(Anchor of Gold)
THEY WON GAMES. (Anchor of Gold)
Dismiss the team's best player, beat South Carolina, yup that's the result everyone expected Tuesday mid afternoon. (Rock M Nation)
WINNING STREAK! (Dawg Sports)
Honestly this is what happens when you open a new gym mid season Rebels, you did this to yourselves! (Rock M Nation)
10 years now, and just 2 NCAA appearances, with those being the only years he wasn't .500 in SEC play give or take one game. Steady as a Swiss watch that Andy Kennedy. (Dawg Sports)
They've become that annual SEC team I forgot exists. They're just sort of... there. (Anchor of Gold)
Slotting them 6th is unfair due to one road game. But it was Missouri they lost too. The Saturday afternoon affair hosting the Gators will be their last chance for a strong win until the tournament. (Dawg Sports)
They picked a bad week to quit sniffing airplane glue. (Anchor of Gold)
It's always important to get that bad loss out of the way, most teams just don't wait until late February to do it. (Rock M Nation)
Until Rick Barnes busts out a ridiculously orange suit, the Vols will continue to struggle on the road...it is known. (Rock M Nation)
Yeah, they hung with Kentucky. They still stink. (Dawg Sports)
Loses by 11 at Mizzou and by 10 at Kentucky... makes sense. (Anchor of Gold)
They stopped the bleeding, and with their remaining schedule it won't be a surprise if they finish strong. (Anchor of Gold)
They'd dropped 5 straight in conference until beating Ole Miss the other night. That's not good. Neither is a Saturday evening visit from Kentucky, but at least it's followed by games against Miss St, Mizzou, and Auburn to get back on track going into March. (Dawg Sports)
It's almost as if they enjoy bubble talk. (Rock M Nation)
I'm not saying the poor play has anything to do with the rules adjustment about coaches walking the sidelines at Vandy...but it's an interesting coincidence. (Rock M Nation)
All of a sudden, the AD is hinting at a coaching change, and the head coach is hinting that he knows its coming. (Anchor of Gold)
Making the NIT with this much talent has to get Kevin Stallings in danger, especially considering it's been 5 years since his last dance invitation. (Dawg Sports)
Another week in the books! We've got some fun SEC games with implications for post season play tomorrow so lock out your loved ones and settle in for some of the weirder basketball you're going to see this season.
Enjoy the games everyone!