As the SEC completes non-conference and prepares to enter conference play, some SEC teams have been disappointing, but have also shown why most people saw this as a top-level conference this season.
The conference has shown much more depth than in the last couple of seasons and could possibly see 5-6 teams selected for NCAA tournament play.
This look into the power rankings will show how the teams stack up with one another and where they could land after season's end.
Coaches Rank: No. 2
RPI / SOS: 12 / 87
Big Games: W vs. North Carolina, W vs. Louisville, L @ Indiana, W vs. Kansas (in New York)
While the three big games Kentucky has won, they did struggle on the road against a surprising Indiana. The games outside of the big games are kinda soft, but the games against big competition will help UK grow up fast while giving them the big games they need to impress the committee.
Where do begin.
This team is loaded with talent across all positions. If I had to pick three guys to watch, I would say Kidd-Gilchrist, Davis and Lamb. Lamb brings some experience while Kidd-Gilchrist and Davis bring in talent that is really unmatched by any other team at the freshman level. This doesn't even include other stud players that can stand up and perform if any of those three struggle.
Biggest Game Left: March 4th at No. 14 Florida
This could end up being the regular season conference championship game if both teams perform up to their standards.
This team is loaded as usual, but there is even some more experience than normal with Lamb and Jones as sophomores and Miller helping as a senior.
The problem—as always—remains the youth and inexperience in road game situations. It has already cost them once. Another issue is depth.
Foul trouble could end up costing them a game or two, but at the end of the day they are the best team in the SEC and I expect them to win both the regular season and tournament title. They should also receive a No. 1 seed come NCAA tournament time.
Coaches Rank: No. 14
RPI / SOS: 38 / 129
Big Games: L @ Ohio State, L @ Syracuse
While Florida has met preseason expectations for the most part, their schedule has not.
Including Ohio State and Syracuse, Florida's schedule had five ranked teams. Three of Florida's wins they thought would help (Arizona, Texas A&M and Florida State) have all failed to reach expectations.
The loss at Rutgers hurts, but upsets happen in basketball a lot, so Florida should be fine would one not-so-great loss.
Beal and Young are nice, but Kenny Boynton (19.5 ppg) is the stud on this team. He is a real scorer from anywhere on the floor and his leadership helps keep the young bucks in line.
Biggest Game Left: February 28th @ Vanderbilt
If KY can do what they did two seasons ago and control the SEC, the road contest at Vanderbilt could be huge to help seeding for UF in both the NCAA and SEC Tournament.
This team's backcourt is one of the tops in the country, but can it carry this team all season?
If they can continue to do what they have accomplished this season, they will win most of the games they should and struggle versus the best of the best. A Top Four seed is easily attainable for this team, and a deep run again should be expected from this team.
Coaches Rank: No. 16
RPI / SOS: 55 / 149
Big Games: L @ Baylor, W vs. Texas A&M
Like Florida, both Arizona and Texas A&M looked like big games and good wins entering the year, but both have underachieved. Baylor was almost a great win, but State came up just short of a huge win.
A loss to Akron doesn't help. Outside of Baylor, there isn't much there with the schedule but State did avoid getting upset more than once.
Dee Bost is the clear leader of this team and will control whether this team will have sustained SEC success. Arnett Moultrie has been a very pleasant surprise averaging 16.8 ppg and 11.4 rpg after transferring from UTEP. Both can take this team to great heights.
Biggest Game Left: February 21th @ No. 2 Kentucky
Mississippi State believes they can win the SEC. To do that they must make it this far and then win this game.
This team seems to have better chemistry and less friction than last year's problem team. Moultrie adds that extra stud needed to make a move, and if Sidney could ever live up to expectations than State could easily challenge for the conference title.
A Top Five seed is something they can accomplish if they can avoid the issues that killed this team last season.
Coaches Rank: 33
RPI / SOS: 25 / 25
Big Games: L vs. Georgetown, W vs. Wichita State, W vs. Purdue, L @ Dayton, L @ Kansas State
Alabama has put together the SEC's second-toughest schedule without any top tier teams except Georgetown (who was unranked when they played). The schedule has turned up really well with most teams on it overachieving.
Five teams in the RPI Top 37 with just a few bottom feeders make for a deeper schedule than it appears on the surface.
The big three of Trevor Releford, Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green have produced as expected—leading the team in scoring. The stud freshman are still growing and have shown sparks of greatness as well.
Biggest Game Left: January 19th vs. Vanderbilt
Alabama enters SEC play with a bang with two tough road games at Mississippi State and at Kentucky with Vanderbilt squeezed in between. That home game becomes very important, as they need to win it so they do not fall out of the SEC race early.
Early road games will prove tough as this team is still growing up with six first-year players. The big three must carry them, but if the youth can learn to handle road games, Bama could be right near the top of the SEC. The return of Andrew Steele definitely helps with experience.
Bama should get a bye in the SEC tournament and a Top Five seed in the NCAA tournament.
Coaches Rank: No. 28
RPI / SOS: 44 / 23
Big Games: L @ Louisville, W @ Marquette
Vanderbilt is one of the disappointments of the early season, but are beginning to come around to the team people expected them to be.
An early loss to Cleveland State showed early signs of struggle. Losses to Louisville and Xavier (before they collapsed) are not bad losses, but the Indiana State loss definitely did not help. This team showed their stars at Marquette when they finally had a full team.
John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor have not disappointed both averaging over 17.5 points. The return of Ezeli really helps the inside game.
Biggest Game Left: January 19 @ Alabama
This game looms large for Vanderbilt to prove that the game against Marquette was not a fluke and this team is back to expectations.
Vanderbilt has the talent and experience to win the SEC. Twelve or thirteen wins in-conference is not out of the question, and they can beat anyone if Jenkins and Taylor are shooting well.
The Dores also still have a chance to pull in a No. 2 or 3 seed come March. They are still greatly talented and the same team that was preseason Top 10. If not for the losses, they would be higher up.
Coaches Rank: NR
RPI / SOS: 79 / 124
Big Games: W vs Marquette, L vs Virginia
An average strength of schedule provided little opportunity to see this team's real colors. LSU has showed sparks of strength with wins over Marquette and at Rutgers and even close losses to Virginia and Northwestern.
They also showed that they could be a cellar dweller in losses to Coastal Carolina and South Alabama.
LSU has no real star power with just two players averaging double digits. Justin Hamilton has been their best player averaging 12.3 and 6.9. The Tigers play lots of players with 10 players averaging double digits in minutes. Only one averages less than seven.
Biggest Game Left: January 11th @ Alabama
If LSU wants to show that they can compete with the upper half of the SEC, they will have a great road opportunity at Alabama early on. A win can give LSU an early push for a tournament bye.
Although the Tigers have overachieved to some extent, they still have a lot to do to match the quality at the top of the conference. Finishing with 10 wins in-conference would be astounding, but I expect around eight or nine SEC wins. Depending on if they can pull some upsets, they could compete for a tournament slot.
It'll come down to them and Ole Miss for the sixth slot if the SEC can get six bids this year.
Coaches Rank: NR
RPI / SOS: 56 / 72
Big Games: L @ Dayton, L vs. Marquette
Ole Miss has been quite hidden early on with little TV time. Some nice games against other big conferences help their RPI, but the Rebels were handled in their two biggest games of the season.
Ole Miss, like LSU, has little real star power, but Terrance Henry and Murphy Holloway stand out more as their two go-to guys.
Biggest Game Left: January 7th @ LSU
The Rebels will likely fight LSU for sixth place in the conference and a possible sixth bid in the NCAA tournament.
With a solid RPI and SOS, the Rebels could sneak their way into the NCAA tournament. Last year they also had a solid RPI, but failed to reach enough SEC wins to convince the committee. They need to pull in eight or nine wins to get in, but will likely finish again in the NIT.
NOTE (1/5/12): Leading scorer Dundrecous Nelson (11.6 ppg) kicked off team one day after being arrested. Jamal Jones (1.8 ppg) also kicked off team.
Coaches Rank: NR
RPI / SOS: 113 / 261
Big Games: L @ UCONN
Very weak non-conference makes it hard to judge Arkansas' early 11-3 record.
Marshawn Powell has been a good Arkansas player since his arrival, but this year he has become a real scorer with over 19 points a game.
Biggest Game Left: January 7th vs. Mississippi State
Arkansas wants to return to SEC and national relevance and they get a great opportunity with their first game against Mississippi State at home. We will figure this team out really fast.
It's hard to know much—considering the schedule they have played. If their trip to UCONN is any indication, they will struggle against good teams on the road. They may end up better than expected, but any postseason at all will be a success for this team.
Coaches Rank: NR
RPI / SOS: 101 / 106
Big Games: L vs Cal, L @ Xavier
Georgia struggled particularly in one stretch losing five out of six—all to big six teams. That does not look good as they head into conference play. Even games against weaker competition Georgia struggled at times.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the man to watch on this team—averaging 14 points and five rebounds a game. Although he does struggle to shoot free throws, he is likely not to be a go-to guy in a clutch situation.
Biggest Game Left: January 24th vs. No. 2 Kentucky
Kentucky tends to be a big game for everyone in this conference, and with Georgia not really fighting for much, pulling a huge upset could change that in a hurry.
Georgia will likely will not be playing in the postseason, but their RPI is solid enough to where they could make some NIT noise if they can get a couple of big upsets and get some wins against the porous bottom of the conference.
Coaches Rank: NR
RPI / SOS: 190 / 339
Big Games: L @ Seton Hall, L @ Florida State
Very weak non-conference makes it hard to judge Auburn's early record, although they did lose their three games against Top 100 teams handily.
Frankie Sullivan Kenny Gabriel make these Tigers go, but Sullivan is the one to watch as he has shown the ability to score quickly.
Biggest Game Left: February 7th vs. Alabama
Auburn does not look to have a great season in-conference, so their biggest rival becomes their biggest game. Knocking off your rival always helps dull a painful season.
Auburn still has little talent and depth on this team, and expecting much more than what they accomplished last year is farfetched. Their total wins will go up, but that is only thanks to a very weak non-conference schedule that is only a few spots away from last in the nation.
Coaches Rank: NR
RPI / SOS: 174 / 179
Big Games: L vs. Ohio State, L vs. North Carolina
South Carolina has played a few good teams out of conference and has looked okay in some—and even quite good in a home game vs. Ohio State. Bad losses did tend to kill their RPI.
Malik Cooke is the only Gamecock to average double digits in scoring.
Biggest Game Left: February 4th vs. No. 2 Kentucky
Two seasons ago, Carolina did the unthinkable and knocked off No. 1 Kentucky in Columbia. It's a stretch to say they'll do it again, but you never know with a young team on the road like Kentucky.
South Carolina will likely lose many more games than they win. With the offensive struggles, even upsets will be hard to come by. South Carolina can only hope for an upset or two and hope to maybe go to postseason play next season.
At least Tennessee's women will win some games this year.
Coaches Rank: NR
RPI / SOS: 273 / 299
Big Games: L @ Duke, L @ Memphis, L vs. Pittsburgh
A very weak non-conference schedule outside of these games provide little hope as they won none of them. Losses to many small conference teams definitely hurts.
Trae Golden averages 15, three and five to lead the volunteers. If anyone can help possibly bring them out of last place, it is him. Also watch Jarnell Stokes—incoming freshman who may play as early as January 12—could make a huge impact on a very struggling team.
Biggest Game Left
Any game against lower SEC teams as any win will be a big deal for this team, until Stokes clears the NCAA.
The Volunteers have been as disappointing as any team in SEC memory with an absolutely awful RPI and SOS and still managed seven losses. Early indications in Maui actually showed that they might overachieve, but once leaving Maui, they fell apart.
Even with Stokes, four wins might be a great success for this team. Without him, any wins in-conference should be greatly celebrated. Serious rebuilding and NCAA issues are obviously taking a toll on this program with so much recent success.
But hey, the Lady Vols are still in the Top 10.
NCAA Tournament Teams
- Kentucky (No. 1-3 Seed)
- Florida (No. 2-4 Seed)
- Mississippi State (No. 4-10 Seed)
- Alabama (No. 4-10 Seed)
- Vanderbilt (No. 3-6 Seed)
Postseason (NCAA or NIT)
- Ole Miss
Hoping For Luck
Better Luck Next Year
- South Carolina