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Despite a weird start, things in the SEC are evening out

Just like we predicted, Kentucky is in first place.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If you’d have asked me a few weeks into the season how I felt about my preseason predictions in the SEC I’d have laughed, nervously, and changed the subject. But by and large things so far in league play seem to be falling in line with expectations.

For one, after stinking it up and losing to everyone except Morehead State, Kentucky appears to be on the mend and are undefeated in conference play. What can be possible when you role out more talent than the other team on most nights, you end up winning. So the Wildcats were 1-6 and looking destined for the NIT at best, if not missing post season play all together. But a funny thing happened, the Wildcats were blessed with a reprieve in the form of a COVID pause from their first opponent, followed by a manageable two games to get right, and then yesterday a road trip to Florida. Kentucky waited until the last game to play their best, but they did and now look like they might be able to control their own destiny as much as anyone in the league.

But the rest of the league has gone mostly as we might have expected. Here are the preseason rankings from the SEC Preseason predictions:

  1. Kentucky Wildcats
  2. Tennessee Volunteers
  3. LSU Tigers
  4. Alabama Crimson Tide
  5. Florida Gators
  6. Missouri Tigers
  7. South Carolina Gamecocks
  8. Arkansas Razorbacks
  9. Auburn Tigers
  10. Texas A&M Aggies
  11. Ole Miss Rebels
  12. Georgia Bulldogs
  13. Mississippi State Bulldogs
  14. Vanderbilt Commodores

So after yesterdays results we have a decent early picture on who is playing at what level and where the power in the conference looks to be residing, at least early. Here are my current power rankings...

SEC Power Rankings

Rank Team Record Preseason Change
Rank Team Record Preseason Change
1 Tennessee Volunteers 3-1 2 + 1
2 Alabama Crimson Tide 4-0 4 + 2
3 Kentucky Wildcats 3-0 1 - 2
4 LSU Tigers 3-1 3 - 1
5 Mississippi State 3-1 12 + 7
6 Florida Gators 2-2 5 - 1
7 Missouri Tigers 1-2 6 - 1
8 Arkansas Razorbacks 2-2 8 even
9 South Carolina Gamecocks 1-0 7 - 2
10 Texas A&M Aggies 1-3 10 even
11 Auburn Tigers 0-4 9 - 2
12 Ole Miss Rebels 1-2 11 - 1
13 Vanderbilt Commodores 0-3 14 + 1
14 Georgia Bulldogs 0-3 13 - 1

As I’ve said, this year will yield some weird results. And I don’t say these rankings are concrete, but I wanted to pay some level of homage to where we are.

Starting with Mississippi State. We all saw the Bulldogs decimate our Missouri Tigers int he second half last Tuesday. And while I’m not sure I’m convinced MSU is this good, I never expected D.J. Stewart and Iverson Molinar to be as good as they are. When you rely so much on so few players to generate offense there are bound to be some ups and downs. Rarely should it look quite like the game on Tuesday, but the Bulldogs are still more formidable because of that duo, and so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt at this stage. But while State has four losses on the year, none are outside the top 100, two were in the first two games of the year and the last two were in overtime. So maybe they’re good?

I’m still ranking Tennessee over Alabama at this point, despite the Tide winning in Knoxville. But mainly due to their shooting that night. Alabama is 32.2% on the season, they’ve shot 36.7% in conference play, and they shot 50% against Tennessee.

Everyone else is right about where we thought they might be, save a spot or two. I’m not sold on Auburn being as bad as they’re ranked here, not after Sharife Cooper was reinstated. I’m not convinced the Tigers are elite, but they’ll be a lot better than their 0-4 record.

The rest of the league looks about where we thought it might. But with South Carolina and Missouri on pause it’s hard to see where they’re at in comparison.

Yesterday’s results:

  • Tennessee 68, Texas A&M 54
  • Alabama 94, Auburn 90
  • Mississippi State 84, Vanderbilt 81
  • Arkansas 99, Georgia 69
  • Kentucky 76, Florida 58
  • LSU 75, Ole Miss 61