Here we go. The weekly SEC power rankings:
1. Florida. I wouldn’t recommend panic mode after that weird loss to Arkansas. It was shocking because the Gators had actually orchestrated one of the most dominant in-conference stretches in recent college basketball history. But they didn’t look good in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks looked great. That game could be an anomaly for both teams. I’m still picking the Gators to win the SEC, although the Will Yeguete injury (will miss four to six weeks with a knee injury) could be a factor in the final weeks of the season.
2. Kentucky. The Wildcats are coming. Maybe. No team has shot over 40 percent against the Wildcats during their four-game winning streak. Their 37.8 field goal percentage defense is second in the SEC. Willie Cauley-Stein is back. That certainly helps. But the team’s defensive surge is the most promising development.
3. Ole Miss. The Rebels’ nonconference season was defined by balance. Their struggles in SEC, however, are tied to their imbalance. They’re one of the most potent offensive units in the country (75.2 points per game). But giving up 69.2 PPG to its opponents, even in a struggling league such as the SEC, is a problem. Their potential, however, outweighs those concerns. Few teams in this conference possess the defensive prowess to stall this squad’s powerful offense.
4. Arkansas. I think the Razorbacks’ double-digit win over the Gators allowed Mike Anderson’s squad to showcase its potential. Arkansas is a talented offensive team. If you can put up 80 points on the Gators, who hadn't given up more than 67 points this season before playing Arkansas, then you have a capable offense. But their defense hasn’t played with the same intensity. (The Gators shot under 30 percent in the first half.) And they’ve been poor from the perimeter (8-for-18 from beyond the arc). I’m not convinced that the win was anything more than a freak occurrence for the Razorbacks.
5. Missouri. The Tigers are a mess. I don’t doubt their talent or potential. Laurence Bowers, Phil Pressey, Keion Bell and Alex Oriakhi may ultimately anchor a team that advances in the NCAA tournament. But the Tigers aren’t there. They’re here. This team committed 16 turnovers in a road loss to Texas A&M on Thursday night.
6. Texas A&M. There’s good Texas A&M and bad Texas A&M. Bad Texas A&M is ranked 110th in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy. But the Aggies’ grit has helped them overcome those problems in multiple games this season. They held a double-digit lead over Missouri in the last six minutes of Thursday’s win. They squandered that advantage but made big plays down the stretch. (Fabyon Harris hit a game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds.) That was good Texas A&M. The Aggies have wins over Missouri, Kentucky and Arkansas.
7. Alabama. Bama’s loss at Auburn on Wednesday summed up the state of the SEC. The Tigers are in the league’s basement. The Crimson Tide, fourth in the conference, had defeated Arkansas, Kentucky and Texas A&M in recent weeks. But Bama scored 37 points against Auburn. Just 37 points. Anthony Grant’s squad didn’t score for nine minutes in the second half. Welcome to SEC men’s basketball, folks. Bama has the worst scoring offense in the SEC with an average of 58.6 PPG.
8. Georgia. Check out this turnaround. The Bulldogs lost their first three SEC games (Florida, Mississippi State and Missouri) by an average of 20.3 points per game. Since that rocky opening stretch, however, the Bulldogs have won five of six games. How? With a defensive effort (fourth in the SEC in scoring defense at 63.2 PPG allowed) that has held four of its past six opponents under 60 points.
9. LSU. The Tigers’ win over Missouri last week commenced a three-game winning streak. Two of those three wins were one-point victories over Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. But the victory over the Tigers was a highlight for Johnny Jones’ program. LSU is not an SEC contender. But the team has made strides during this run. For everything that LSU does wrong (39.1 percent from the field, 13th in the SEC), it also does a few things right, such as defending the 3-point line (opponents shooting 29 percent from beyond the arc, second in the conference).
10. Tennessee. Cuonzo Martin’s program has lost three of its past five. The Vols’ struggles have overshadowed Jarnell Stokes’ recent success (four consecutive double-doubles).
11. Auburn. Auburn’s win over Alabama on Wednesday ended a six-game losing streak for the Tigers. It solved little within the SEC, though. The most bizarre element of the game was that leading scorer Frankie Sullivan scored only seven points in the win.
12-14. Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State. They’re all 2-7 in the SEC entering the weekend. They’re all shooting below 41 percent from the field, too.