Kentucky is No. 1. That much we know. The rest is anyone's guess at this point. Vanderbilt's games at Alabama and against Mississippi State this week should tell us a lot about slots 2 through 5. But for now ...
1. Kentucky: The Wildcats struggled in two road games at Auburn and Tennessee. But they still found ways to win. UK has two consistent stars in freshmen Anthony Davis (now at both ends of the court) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist; look for those two to continue to shine at home this week against Arkansas and Alabama.
2. Vanderbilt: The Commodores have won seven straight, including three in a row in the SEC. But it was against three of the league's worst teams. Now Vandy gets to the thrust of its schedule with games against Alabama, Mississippi State, rival Tennessee and then one of the surging teams outside the Big Six in Middle Tennessee State.
3. Mississippi State: Some nerves were frayed in Starkville last week after nail-biting wins over Tennessee and Alabama. But the threesome of Arnett Moultrie inside and Dee Bost and Rodney Hood on the perimeter make the Bulldogs a formidable force.
4. Florida: The Gators finally won a road game, albeit against struggling South Carolina. Freshman Brad Beal is starting to find his groove. If that continues, the Gators will be in the thick of this race in March.
5. Alabama: The Crimson Tide weren’t able to steal a road win at Mississippi State, but the game was in the 50s, a real indication of how tough Bama is defensively under Anthony Grant. But the schedule continues to get tougher with Vanderbilt and a road game at Kentucky this week.
6. Tennessee: The Volunteers didn’t beat Mississippi State or Kentucky, but they came darn close, and Tennessee's effort and overall quality of play against three of the top four teams in the SEC tells me UT will end up finishing in the upper half of the conference.
7. Arkansas: The Hogs had a disappointing loss at Ole Miss, but recovered by beating LSU by nine. Mike Anderson has again made Bud Walton Arena one of the toughest places to play for opponents. Michigan had better be on upset alert Saturday when the Wolverines come to Fayetteville.
8. LSU: The Tigers were one of the surprise teams in the SEC a few weeks ago, but LSU is starting to show its inexperience. That’s why beating Auburn is a must, and giving a great show at Florida later in the week would also be encouraging.
9. Auburn: Meanwhile, these Tigers deserve plenty of credit for the way they played last week, even in a losing effort against Kentucky. Auburn was in the game well into the second half, flustering UK multiple times. Then the Tigers held on to beat Ole Miss by one in double overtime.
10. Ole Miss: The Rebels are a thin bunch after multiple dismissals. But they’ve remained competitive at least after an initial drubbing at LSU. Ole Miss beat Arkansas and then lost a heartbreaker at Auburn.
11. Georgia: The Bulldogs are better than their talent has shown of late. Georgia has really struggled to score in its first three SEC games, getting blown out against Alabama and at Florida before a better effort in a loss at Vandy.
12. South Carolina: The Gamecocks had a rough schedule to start the SEC with a road trip to Kentucky and visits from Vanderbilt and Florida. But the difference between a team like South Carolina and Tennessee is the home court. The latter has a distinct advantage in that category.