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SEC Power Rankings - Post Non-Conference Play

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Auburn Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

SEC Power Rankings – Post Non-Conference Play

The non-conference season is basically over. A&M, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Georgia all have 1 more D1 non-conference game, but SEC play starts on Wednesday. So it’s time for a pre-SEC play power rankings. The SEC has been underwhelming so far so has the ACC. The Pac-12 always disappoints. The Big Ten has been disappointing meanwhile the Big 12 has been awesome.

Either way, the SEC contenders, as a whole, need to be better. Arkansas has been a huge disappointment, Kentucky has been up and down, Alabama has the best wins in the country with 3 losses, and Florida can’t decide if they are good.

With that said, the conference feels wide open. I couldn’t be more excited for SEC play to begin.

#1 – LSU (Last Week: #2)

Record: 12-0
KenPom Rating: #10

Most recent games:
Defeated KP #333 Northwestern St. at home (89-49)
Defeated KP #87 Louisiana Tech at a neutral site (66-57)
Defeated KP #258 Lipscomb at home (95-60)

LSU ran the entire non-conference unscathed. While their schedule ranks 203rd in the country, they have answered the call every time. This team is so different than any Will Wade we have ever seen before.

The Tigers ranks #1 in defensive efficiency and defensive effective FG%. This team just locks up. Opponents are shooting 33.8% from the field. That’s an insane number. They are allowing just 54. 1 points per game.

The biggest surprise of the SEC this year has to be Cincinnati transfer Tari Eason. The big man comes off the bench for LSU, but leads their team in scoring. In just 23.3 minutes a game, he is averaging 16.3 points and 7.5 rebounds.

LSU has a brutal start to SEC play so we will learn just how good they are quickly.

This week’s game:
Wednesday, Dec. 29 - KP #13 Auburn on the road

#2 – Auburn (Last Week: #3)

Record: 11-1
KenPom Rating: #13

Most recent games:
Defeated KP #287 North Alabama at home (70-44)
Defeated KP #82 St. Louis on the road (74-70)
Defeated KP #80 Murray St. at home (71-58)

Jabari Smith has been the best player in the SEC this season. He was considered a consensus Top-5 pick for next year’s NBA Draft before the season, but he has played his was to maybe being the #1 overall. Smith has been incredible. 16.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.8 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game. He shoots 45.2% from 3!

K.D. Johnson, Wendell Green, and Walker Kessler have been nice complimentary pieces.

The Tigers rank in the top 30 in scoring, block more shots than anyone in the country, and make 9 threes per game. Bruce Pearl has a really good team. Allen Flanigan finally made his debut this week. It will take him some time to get back to himself. Auburn hasn’t come close to their ceiling yet.

This week’s game:
Wednesday, Dec. 29 - KP #10 LSU at home

#3 – Kentucky (Last Week: #5)

Record: 9-2
KenPom Rating: #11

Last week’s games:
Defeated KP #36 North Carolina at a neutral site (98-69)
Defeated KP #111 Western Kentucky at home (95-60)

Kentucky finally got their signature win in the non-conference. Is North Carolina any good? Probably not, but UK did what they should do for the first time against real competition.

Oscar Tshiebwe is putting up ridiculous numbers. 16.1 points and 15.5 rebounds per game.

This is a different team for Calipari. They are an experienced laden team. When have we seen that with a Kentucky team in recent memory. The Cats have 5 double digit scorers with 4 of them as juniors or seniors. The lone freshman is point guard TyTy Washington.

Cal has 2 PGs in Washington and Georgia transfer Sahvir Wheeler. The two are averaging 10.3 assists together.

This week’s games:
Wednesday, Dec. 29 - KP #155 Missouri at home
Friday, Dec. 31 - KP #261 High Point at home

#4 – Tennessee (Last Week: #4)

Record: 9-2
KenPom Rating: #9

Most recent games:
Defeated KP #331 USC Upstate at home (96-52)
Defeated KP #7 Arizona at home (77-73)

Tennessee got a huge win over undefeated Arizona last week. They needed a win like this after their abysmal offensive performance against Texas Tech. Kennedy Chandler continues to play well and Santiago Vescovi is having his best season yet.

The scoring is very spread out for this team. Vescovi and Chandler are the only players averaging double figures, but the Vols score 78.4 points per game which is 62nd in the nation.

Defensively, this team mimics what Rich Barnes wants. They are 2nd in defensive efficiency and force a ton of turnovers.

Can Tennessee live up to the hype though? That’s been an issue in the Barnes tenure. I like their team. I have some concerns at the forward spot and their depth, but Chandler is the real deal.

This week’s game:
Wednesday, Dec. 29 - KP #18 Alabama on the road

#5 – Alabama (Last Week: #1)

Record: 9-3
KenPom Rating: #18

Most recent games:
Lost to KP #31 Memphis on the road (92-78)
Defeated #130 Jacksonville St. at home (65-59)
Lost to KP #54 Davidson at a neutral site (79-78)

Alabama just can’t decide if they want to be elite or not. The loss to Memphis was bewildering and then to be beaten by an unathletic Davison team was confusing. Davidson plays disciplined, but Alabama’s athleticism should have won them the game.

The issue with this team taking care of the ball and playing consistent defense. They also live and die from the 3-point line. Alabama takes 29.4 threes per game. That’s 13th in the nation.

It’s impossible not to love the 3-headed monster that is Jaden Shackelford, Jahvon Quinerly, and Keon Ellis. J.D. Davison is also special. Beyond that, there’s a lot of inconsistency. The forward spot is up and down for the Tide.

This week’s game:
Wednesday, Dec. 20 - KP #9 Tennessee at home

#6 – Florida (Last Week: #7)

Record: 9-3
KenPom Rating: #30

Most recent games:
Defeated KP #238 South Florida at a neutral site (66-55)
Defeated KP #207 Stony Brook at home (87-62)

Florida took care of business to finish non-conference, but has a COVID outbreak within their program that will sideline them for the week. Their game against Ole Miss has been postponed. The Gators had a great start to the season with a big wins over Florida State and Ohio State, but have faltered since then.

Colin Castleton is a candidate for SEC POY with 14.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. This is a very important year for Mike White. Fans have no more patience for his teams underperforming for the talent they have.

Keyontae Johnson has made posts that hint at a possible return. That would be huge for this team.

This week’s game:
POSTPONED: Wednesday, Dec. 29 - KP #110 Ole Miss on the road

#7 – Texas A&M (Last Week: #8)

Record: 9-2
KenPom Rating: #63

Most recent games:
Defeated KP #149 Oregon St. on the road (83-73)
Defeated KP #333 Northwestern St. at home (80-61)
Defeated Dallas Christian(NCCAA) at a neutral site (102-52)

A&M has been a lot better than I expected so far this year and they look to push to the bubble in March. They have had zero bad losses. Undefeated at home. They are healthy.

With Buzz Williams, you know you are going to get teams that defend and play tough. The Aggie do that. They team rebound. They defend the 3 well.

Quenton Jackson is the leader of this team all while coming off the bench. He’s the lone double digit scorer and he’s a sniper from deep.

Where Buzz Williams has hit it out of the park is in the transfer portal. His 2nd, 3rd, and 4th leading scorers are all new players from the portal. Marcus Williams from Wyoming does a little bit of everything. Henry Coleman from Duke mans the post. Tyrece Radford from Virginia Tech leads the team in rebounding despite being 6-2.

The Aggies get one more non-conference tune up before starting SEC play at Georgia.

This week’s games:
Wednesday, Dec. 29 - KP #344 Central Arkansas at home

#8 – Mississippi State (Last Week: #9)

Record: 9-3
KenPom Rating: #42

Most recent games:
Defeated KP #143 Georgia St. at home (79-50)
Defeated KP #119 Furman at home (69-66)
Defeated KP #183 Winthrop at a neutral site (84-63)

I’m not sure what to make of Mississippi State so far. They have looked awesome in games against inferior competition, but when they play tougher games, they have been underwhelming.

Playing most of the season without Tolu Smith has been a huge part of it. Rocket Watts has been banged up too.

The 3 losses haven’t been bad. Just bewildering. The first loss was to Louisville by 14. MSU finished with just 58 points, but they had less than 40 for a big part of the 2nd half. That game was never close. They lost to Minnesota by 5 at home. Minnesota was picked to finish last in the Big Ten, but they have been a big surprise in CBB. The last loss came against Colorado St. who is one of the best mid-majors in the country. The best win MSU is an overtime victory over Richmond.

Iverson Molinar has led this team as expected, but the transfers have been great as expected. Garrison Brooks, D.J. Jeffries, and Shakeel Moore all contribute.

How far MSU can go will depend on how healthy Tolu Smith and Rocket Watts are the rest of the way.

This week’s game:
Wednesday, Dec. 29 - KP #43 Arkansas at home

#9 – Arkansas (Last Week: #6)

Record: 10-2
KenPom Rating: #43

Most recent games:
Lost to KP #117 Hofstra at a neutral site (89-81)
Defeated KP #278 Elon at home (81-55)

Arkansas has been a huge disappointment so far. They’ll need a great run in SEC play to ensure a bid in the NCAA Tournament. Fortunately, the SEC schedule is favorable early on.

The Hogs have a lot to figure out. Point guard play must be better. The transfers need to be as good as they were advertised. Devo Davis and Jaylin Williams need to play better. Defense must be improved.

Eric Musselman needs to be better. Schematically, what they have planned for hasn’t worked for the most part. Rotations have been all over the place in order to find what works. They just haven’t found it yet.

J.D. Notae is among the best in scoring in the SEC, but beyond that, it is a lot of inconsistency.

This week’s game:
Wednesday, Dec. 29 - KP #42 Mississippi St. on the road

#10 – Ole Miss (Last Week: #11)

Record: 8-4
KenPom Rating: #110

Most recent games:
Defeated KP #203 Middle Tennessee St. at home (62-52)
Defeated KP #105 Dayton at home (76-68)
Lost to KP #236 Samford at home (75-73)

Ole Miss was building momentum heading into SEC play, but then they suffered one of the worst losses in the SEC this year at home to Samford. Fans are beginning to be disgruntled with Kermit Davis.

Jarkel Joiner does it all for Ole Miss, the Rebels just can’t score. They rank 228th in effective FG%. Ole Miss did play 8 games without freshman PG Daeshun Ruffin, but he’s now. Ruffin is their 2nd leading scorer in just 17.5 minutes a game. The definition of a high volume shooter and scorer.

This week’s game:
POSTPONED: Wednesday, Dec. 29 - KP #30 Florida at home

#11 – Vanderbilt (Last Week: #12)

Record: 8-4
KenPom Rating: #73

Most recent games:
Defeated KP #294 Austin Peay at home (77-51)
Defeated KP #239 Hawaii on the road (68-54)
Defeated KP #27 BYU at a neutral site (69-67)

Vanderbilt is another team that struggles offensively, but they may have found their groove. The Commodores went to Hawaii for a MTE over Christmas and came away as Champions. They beat Hawaii and got a huge win over BYU. The final game was supposed to be a matchup against Stanford, but the game was cancelled due to COVID issues.

Rodney Chatman made his season debut last week and he was greatly needed. He is a great defender and was immediately inserted into the starting lineup.

Scotty Pippen Jr. and Jordan Wright have been outstanding for Vandy.

If they can get Liam Robbins back soon then VU should be an NIT team and may find themselves on the bubble.

This week’s games:

#12 – South Carolina (Last Week: #10)

Record: 9-3
KenPom Rating: #96

Most recent games:
Defeated Allen(D2) at home (110-51)
Lost to KP #38 Clemson on the road (70-56)
Defeated KP #269 Army at home (105-75)

South Carolina is a team I can’t figure out. They beat Florida State, but lose to Princeton. They aren’t competitive with Clemson, but score 105 on Army. Frank Martin has changed over the past 3 years. He has gone to a very up tempo play style. This team is no different ranking 37th in tempo.

They play good defense from an analytics standpoint, but offensively they struggle. SC has struggled with injuries. They have had 11 different players start a game as Martin looks for the right combinations. Especially at the forward spot.

SC needs more consistency from Keyshawn Bryant. He was viewed as SC’s best player coming into the season. After a suspension, he has had a problem shaking off the rust as he is shooting just 38.5%.

This week’s game:
Wednesday, Dec. 29 - KP #328 South Carolina St. at home

#13 – Missouri (Last Week: #14)

Record: 6-6
KenPom Rating: #155

Most recent games:
Defeated KP #72 Utah at home (83-75)
Lost to KP #14 Illinois at a neutral site (88-63)

I was right about this Missouri team. They just aren’t good. Cuonzo Martin had to replace a lot and putting new pieces together takes time. My issue with this roster was asking a lot of former mid-major players to be impact players in arguably the best conference in college basketball. That’s a big ask.

Kobe Brown has been exactly what Missouri needed from its’ lone returner from last season. He’s pushing double double territory at 14.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.

Missouri is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country. They rank 356th out of 258 teams in 3-point percentage at 24.7%.

This week’s game:
Wednesday, Dec. 29 - KP #11 Kentucky on the road

#14 – Georgia (Last Week: #12)

Record: 5-7
KenPom Rating: #186

Most recent games:
Lost to KP #127 George Mason at home (80-67)
Defeated KP #298 Western Carolina at home (85-79)
Lost to KP #150 East Tennessee St. at home (86-84)

Two losses to mid-major opponents at home sums up what Georgia is this year. The loss to ETSU was as bad as any of them. Georgia gave up a 12-2 run to end the game and lose by 2.

The roster construction of this team is very poor. They have a lot of players that do the same thing. Injuries to P.J. Horne and now Jailyn Ingram limits their option at forward. Their guards haven’t been consistent too.

The bright spots have been UCI transfer Braelen Bridges and JUCO transfer Kario Oquendo. Oquendo is a high flyer who makes highlight plays nightly.

This seems to be the end of the road for Tom Crean unless they turn it around in a drastic way.

This week’s game:
Wednesday, Dec. 29 - KP #215 Gardner-Webb at home