So, the Gators are even better than I thought, an assessment I made after their lopsided victory over Florida State on Wednesday night. The rest of the SEC, however, is quite confusing. Most of the league's programs still have a lot of work to do. Good thing it’s still early.
1. Florida. The Gators are definitely the best team in the SEC right now. The annihilation of Florida State was another showcase of their dominance thus far. They’ve defeated Wisconsin, Marquette and Florida State by an average of 25.3 points.
2. Missouri. The Tigers slipped early against Southeast Missouri State -- they were down by 10 at halftime of Tuesday’s 81-65 victory -- but eventually recovered. But it was another effort that exposed their backcourt limits (Frank Haith’s three starting guards were 5-for-22), an issue they’ll have to address without the services of former standout Michael Dixon Jr.
3. Kentucky. With so many potential pros on the roster and John Calipari on the sideline, I’m confident the Wildcats can fix their kinks in the coming months. But their losses to Notre Dame and Baylor illustrated their ballhandling woes (28 turnovers in the two games).
4. Ole Miss. Its strength of schedule (324) is clearly a factor in its 6-0 start. The Rebels have averaged 87.0 points per game in that stretch (No. 2 in the country) and they’ve also been relentless on defense (17th in defensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy). But their nonconference schedule is so light that we really won’t know what they’re made of until SEC play begins, although Saturday’s matchup at Middle Tennessee won’t be an easy test to pass.
5. Texas A&M. The Aggies’ 62-54 win over Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday was their fourth consecutive victory. They’re ranked 68th in adjusted offensive efficiency and they’ve compiled a nonconference slate that’s rated 20th nationally in strength of schedule, according to ESPN.com. They’re 2-0 against squads in the top 25 of the RPI.
6. Alabama. I think they’ll end up much higher by the end of the season. But the Crimson Tide lost 58-56 to Cincinnati on Cashmere Wright's buzzer-beater Saturday and against Dayton, 81-76, Wednesday. The first week of December has been a rough one.
7. Tennessee. The Vols played two of the top defensive teams in the country in their past two games. But they were still very disappointing in Friday’s 37-36 loss at Georgetown and Wednesday’s 46-38 defeat at Virginia. They’re better than this, but might not really prove it until Jeronne Maymon returns from injury.
8. LSU. Johnny Jones’ new program is off to a 5-0 start against a pedestrian slate (328th SOS). But without any signature victories, it’s tough to peg the Tigers. Their best nonconference opportunity to validate the unblemished record will come Dec. 22 when they face Marquette in Milwaukee.
9. Arkansas. BJ Young (19.5 points per game) is a special talent. But the Razorbacks can’t rely on him alone. The supporting cast has been inconsistent in a rough stretch that’s featured three losses in four games, although they’re coming off an 81-78 victory over Oklahoma on Tuesday.
10. Vanderbilt. The young Commodores earned a crucial road win over Xavier, 66-64 in overtime, Thursday night. It was just their second win in their last six games, but it’s a noteworthy divider in a conference that’s tough to sort at the bottom.
11. Mississippi State. At this point, Rick Ray’s depleted squad just needs wins. And with Tuesday’s 53-42 victory over UTSA, the Bulldogs secured their second in three games.
12. South Carolina. The Gamecocks had won five of their first six matchups to open the 2012-13 season. But they’ve lost back-to-back games to St. John’s (89-65 on the road) and Clemson (64-55).
13. Auburn. Frankie Sullivan is one of the top offensive performers in the country (19.7 ppg). But that hasn’t been enough to pull Auburn out of the SEC’s basement -- the Tigers have lost four games in a row.
14. Georgia. The Bulldogs have lost six of their past seven games. Mark Fox has been unable to find any momentum in the first month of the 2012-13 season.