Conference Power Rankings: SEC

January, 2, 2012
1/02/12
9:30
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Conference play begins Saturday. Before then, let's take another stab at ranking the SEC teams in terms of how they're playing right now:

1. Kentucky: The Wildcats have the most talent and now may have the top defensive player (Anthony Davis), two of the best freshmen (adding in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) and could end up with the SEC player of the year, too (MKG).

2. Vanderbilt: The Commodores had the second-best win of the week with a convincing road victory at Marquette, a game they dominated from start to finish. So the Dores make a leap in these snapshot rankings and suddenly look like a league contender again. Now let's see some consistency.

3. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs lost to Baylor by one possession in Dallas. No shame in that. Mississippi State still has the frontline to contend with any team in this league.

4. Florida: The Gators lost in double overtime at the RAC. That’s always been a tough place for road teams, but Rutgers is still a bottom-feeder in the Big East. That was a bad, bad loss.

5. LSU: The Tigers head into their game against Virginia with a chance for another significant home win. If LSU beats the Cavaliers, it must be taken seriously as a possible NCAA tournament team.

6. Alabama: The Tide seemed to have found their footing again. Alabama easily coasted past Jacksonville and heads into two games in the state of Georgia (struggling Georgia Tech and UGA) with a chance to get on a bit of a roll.

7. Georgia: The Bulldogs continue to move toward relevancy with five straight wins. Georgia heads into its SEC home opener against Alabama with a chance to get the rest of the league’s attention.

8. Arkansas: The Hogs have also won five straight. All were at home against softer competition, but if Arkansas can knock off Mississippi State in the SEC home opener Saturday, the Razorbacks should be taken seriously.

9. Ole Miss: The Rebels have a frontcourt that can cause problems, but this team consistently has missed opportunities in the nonconference to jump up and get everyone’s attention.

10. South Carolina: The Gamecocks have the most intriguing talent of any of the bottom-level SEC teams. Let’s see if they can turn that into wins here soon. It won't help confidence levels that South Carolina opens the SEC at Kentucky.

11. Auburn: The Tigers stumbled in Hawaii and then got back to beating lesser competition. The problem for the Auburn will be the next three games. AU has a chance at Florida State, but then going to Vandy and hosting Kentucky will certainly tell a lot about this team’s growth.

12. Tennessee: This is a major rebuilding project for Cuonzo Martin. The Vols are taking small steps in becoming relevant again and will certainly get a boost from freshman Jarnell Stokes in mid-January.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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