Monday, January 23, 2012
Conference power rankings: SEC
By Andy Katz
After a banner weekend in the SEC during which a pair of midlevel teams (Arkansas, Tennessee) beat ranked foes (Michigan, Connecticut) in nonconference play, let's attempt to rank the conference 1 to 12:
1. Kentucky: The Wildcats got pushed by Alabama more than I thought they would. That's a credit to the Tide. Kentucky still won but has to get tougher.
2. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs again looked like the second-best team in the league with a gritty overtime win at Vanderbilt on Saturday night. If they had played like that to start the SEC, they wouldn't have ever slipped out of this slot in the first place.
3. Vanderbilt: The Commodores had the Bulldogs beat -- at the half. But Vandy allowed MSU back in it and then failed to make a stop in overtime. Tough home loss. This team still can't quite find its footing.
4. Florida: The Gators are now getting the consistent play from Erik Murphy and Bradley Beal that will make a difference in March. Now can this group consistently win on the road? Big one Thursday at Ole Miss.
5. Alabama: The Crimson Tide did lose twice this week, at home to Vandy and at Kentucky, but the effort and production at Rupp on Saturday proves this team has the potential to be a pest going forward.
6. Tennessee: The Vols pulled off a huge win over Connecticut, the second signature victory under Cuonzo Martin. The addition of just-turned-18 freshman Jarnell Stokes makes this team a tough matchup to deal with. Expect a few more upsets out of UT.
7. Arkansas: The Razorbacks held off Michigan at home for another quality win at Bud Walton Arena. Mike Anderson's chore is to get the Hogs to hunt their shots on the road, too.
8. Ole Miss: Andy Kennedy has done a great job of rallying this team after some off-the-court turmoil. The Rebels beat Mississippi State at home and won at Georgia last week. They aren't at-large worthy, but can make the NIT.
9. LSU: The Tigers have been given a reality check lately and it hasn't been pretty, having dropped four of their past six games. It's evident LSU is still a young team learning how to win on the road.
10. Georgia: The Bulldogs can't seem to break through with that signature conference win this season, even though they did gut out an OT win against Tennessee. But would it have been too much to ask for a follow-up home win against Ole Miss?
11. Auburn: The Tigers need to ensure they have an identity during this rebuilding phase and at least they're proving themselves to be a tough out at home. They've knocked off South Carolina and Ole Miss in Auburn and pushed Kentucky 'til the final few minutes.
12. South Carolina: The Gamecocks have become a team you can pick up a win against. That needs to change fast or Darrin Horn is in trouble.