Now that Florida has clearly established itself as the top challenger to No. 1 Kentucky, here is where we stand in the Southeastern Conference.
1. Kentucky: Anthony Davis is having not just an SEC Payer of the Year season but is now a serious candidate for the national honor. He was simply dominant against Tennessee and South Carolina.
2. Florida: The Gators are making 3s in bunches, beating Vanderbilt to set up a top-10 showdown at Kentucky on Tuesday. The Gators can shoot the 3-pointer as effectively any team in the country. Now they’ve got to board and defend.
3. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs need to continue to hold serve at home, but that 91-88 victory over Auburn on Saturday was a little too close for comfort. Though after losing to rival Ole Miss last month, any win over the Rebels this week would be welcome.
4. Vanderbilt: The Commodores had a rough road swing, losing at Arkansas and at Florida. The Commodores had chances in both games but still aren’t ready to win and close out late. I’m still convinced the Dores can advance in March in a single-elimination format.
5. Alabama: For now, at least, the Crimson Tide have re-emerged as a top-five SEC team after a much-needed double-overtime win over Ole Miss. Bama easily could have given this game away but made the necessary plays down the stretch, notably guard Andrew Steele, who was clutch from the field and the free throw line. Remember, Steele was out with concussion symptoms earlier this season.
6. Ole Miss: Coach Andy Kennedy has had to remake this team and has turned Ole Miss into a tough out. But the Rebels continue to fall flat in crucial moments. They had a double-figure lead on Florida and couldn’t hold the Gators down in Oxford and had multiple shots to beat the Tide in Tuscaloosa. Those wins have to come soon if we're to take them seriously as a bubble team.
7. Arkansas: Coach Mike Anderson has Bud Walton Arena rocking again, but now the challenge is for the Hogs to bottle up that consistency when they hit road. Don’t hold your breath just yet. That weekend loss in Baton Rouge was highly disappointing for a team that had started to talk bubble.
8. Auburn: The Tigers nearly clipped Mississippi State on the road in Starkville. Auburn has suddenly found its offense and has a legit shot to upset archrival Alabama this week.
9. LSU: This group has meandered through the season without any kind of flow. But LSU's home victory over Arkansas may change the confidence level of this crew. The problem is that a trip to Nashville to face Vanderbilt is next.
10. Tennessee: The Vols are one of the hardest-working teams in the SEC, but the consistent results aren’t there yet. Tennessee is tough at home but pretty awful on the road. Give coach Cuonzo Martin time and this team will be a factor again.
11. Georgia: The Bulldogs have struggled to score during a four-game losing streak, failing to reach 64 points in any of the four games. Playing three of the next five on the road won’t help cure the offensive woes.
12. South Carolina: The Gamecocks got obliterated at home by Kentucky 86-52, and it wasn’t ever close. South Carolina can’t allow itself to get run out of its own house like that against anyone.