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Monday, March 5, 2012
Conference Power Rankings: SEC

By Andy Katz

Kentucky’s undefeated run through the SEC has to go down as one of the most impressive feats in the league’s history.

The Wildcats were pushed at times, but there was more dominance than anyone would have predicted in the preseason. Now the Big Blue move into the SEC tournament as the favorite en route to a likely No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

On to the final conference power rankings:

1. Kentucky: The Wildcats continue to handle every road challenge in the SEC, the final one coming Sunday at Florida. Not to worry. Just another double-digit win. Hey, even Anthony Davis made a 3-pointer. Scary.

2. Tennessee: The Vols swept Florida and then handled rival Vanderbilt at home Saturday. It says here that UT is the second-best team in the SEC and a deserving at-large candidate in the NCAA tournament. If John Calipari is SEC Coach of the Year, then Cuonzo Martin must be 1A.

3. Vanderbilt: The Commodores lost on the road at rival Tennessee, but they still finished in a tie with the Vols and Florida for second place. Vandy is flawed and has a weak bench, but the Commodores have done enough to be considered a top-three SEC team.

4. Florida: UF played well in spurts against Kentucky on Sunday, but once again couldn’t close it out against an elite team. Still, the Gators will do well in the NCAA tournament if they make 3s. It’s that simple for Florida.

5. Alabama: The Crimson Tide finished 9-7 in the SEC and have consistently been one of the top defensive teams in the league. But Bama struggles to score and that won’t be solved this week in the conference tournament.

6. Ole Miss: Andy Kennedy should get plenty of credit for rallying the Rebels despite a number of setbacks, including losing two key rotation players and being on the wrong end of a few blowouts. Ole Miss still found a way to finish 8-8 in SEC play.

7. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are one of the more enigmatic teams in the country. The talent says this team should be top four in the league, but the results don’t back it up. The infighting died down last week and MSU won two games it had to have (overtime at South Carolina, and crushed Arkansas by 20). Mississippi State now has to avoid losing to Georgia in the first round of the SEC tourney.

8. Arkansas: The Hogs slumped down the stretch and lost five of their last six games. And losing at home to Ole Miss, Florida and Alabama took away some of the good vibe this team built at Bud Walton Arena earlier this season. Playing LSU in the SEC tournament could mean an early exit.

9. LSU: The Tigers finished with an improved 7-9 record as Trent Johnson has continued the rebuilding effort in Baton Rouge. But the three-game slide to end the regular season took some of the buzz out of the season. LSU can still salvage a possible postseason appearance with a win or two in New Orleans.

10. Georgia: The Bulldogs beat South Carolina by 12 to close the regular season with wins in two of their last three games. Mark Fox’s team can make perimeter shots, and if that happens this team can be a possible spoiler in the SEC tournament.

11. Auburn: The Tigers had a solid 15-point win over LSU to bookend a five-game set that started with a win over Mississippi State before they lost three in the middle. Auburn has had trouble scoring at times, but finally found production against the Tigers.

12. South Carolina: Darrin Horn is hoping he can continue to be the head coach of the Gamecocks, with a young team that will only improve in the offseason. There is talent in place, and there's no reason this team can’t climb a bit next season. Will Horn be around to see it?