SEC Basketball Power Rankings: Week 2

Andrew Kaufman@akaufman23Senior Analyst INovember 19, 2012

SEC Basketball Power Rankings: Week 2

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    Some SEC teams have distinguished themselves during the first week of non-conference play, while others have shown clear needs for improvement.

    While the teams at the top of the league have mostly performed as expected, there have been some ugly results from certain rebuilding programs.

    It's still very early in the non-conference slate, so teams like Alabama do not receive much of a bump in the rankings just yet. Close losses were not too harmful either, but a few distinctly poor performances shook up the lower half of the rankings.

14. Auburn (2-2 Overall)

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    Auburn started the season at the bottom of these rankings, and their initial performance did nothing to move them out of that slot.

    While a road win against Charleston was a decent result, a 10-point loss to Dayton and a 20-point loss to Murray State showed that the Tigers are not yet ready to compete against SEC-caliber teams. Credit Auburn for scheduling difficult games early, but it is important to at least put forth a decent showing. Trailing by 26 points at the half to any opponent is unacceptable.

    Frankie Sullivan is scoring early in the season, averaging 19 points per game, but he is shooting 43 percent from the field and is the only Auburn player averaging double-figures in scoring.

13. Mississippi State (1-1 Overall)

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    One of the big questions surrounding the Bulldogs was how they would respond to a transitional season, and so far this team is not off to the best start.

    The Bulldogs failed an unanticipated test in their season-opener, falling 56-53 to Troy. The game was played on the road, but this is the same Troy team that lost by 24 points to Louisiana Tech on Sunday. Mississippi State rebounded with an easy victory over Florida Atlantic, but it will take a more significant win to outweigh the sting of this defeat.

    Mississippi State also must contend with the loss of Jalen Steele, who is out six weeks after fracturing his right wrist in the victory over Florida Atlantic.

12. Vanderbilt (1-1 Overall)

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    Vanderbilt is the one team that takes a significant fall in this week's rankings, as the Commodores completely laid an egg in their first game against tough competition.

    Oregon is a good team, but it is not an elite team. So the Commodores' 26-point loss to the Ducks, in which they scored only 48 points, is pretty alarming. Vanderbilt committed 18 turnovers to only nine assists and was never competitive in the game.

    Given the overall inefficiency of the Vanderbilt offense, guard Kyle Fuller's performance was particularly impressive. The junior's six-for-nine night dwarfed his team's .340 field goal percentage, though his six turnovers were pretty much in line with the Commodores' level of play.

11. LSU (2-0 Overall)

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    The Tigers didn't have much to prove this week, but LSU rises in the rankings due to the poor performances of the Bulldogs and Commodores.

    LSU hasn't yet tested itself this season, but at least the Tigers were able to procure double-digit victories over UCSB and McNeese State. There is something to be said for a younger team getting a few wins under its wings early in the season.

    Forwards Shavon Coleman and Johnny O'Bryant III have gotten off to good starts against the lesser competition, combining to average 28 points and 15 rebounds. But O'Bryant missed the McNeese State game with a strained calf, and it is unclear how long he will be out for.

10. South Carolina (2-0 Overall)

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    Like LSU, the Gamecocks benefited from the poor play of others to move up a couple spots in this week's rankings. An overtime escape against Wisconsin-Milwaukee certainly helped things, but a win is a win.

    Frank Martin's debut in the SEC is yet unblemished, and while South Carolina has not faced any marquee teams their initial opponents were a step up from those faced by LSU. Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Morgan State are not the linchpins of an NCAA Tournament resume, but they are not completely walks in the park either.

    Freshman Michael Carrera's performance in the Gamecocks' overtime victory against Wisconsin-Milwaukee was particular encouraging, as the forward poured in 17 points and added 15 rebounds (seven offensive) in the win. Of some concern is the fact that no South Carolina player is currently averaging more than two assists per game.

9. Georgia (1-2 Overall)

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    Georgia remains a team that has a lot of potential, and that potential keeps the Bulldogs ahead of LSU and South Carolina in this week's rankings. But Georgia has not gotten off to an encouraging start to its 2012-13 campaign.

    The Bulldogs lost twice this week, following up an uninspiring 12-point defeat to Youngstown State with a tight two-point loss to Southern Miss. The second loss is entirely acceptable, while the first loss clearly is not.

    Georgia has yet to reach the 70-point plateau this season, despite Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's early 20.3 point per game average. It probably doesn't help that Caldwell-Pope has required 17 shots per game to achieve that average and is shooting only 35 percent from the field. Monday's matchup with No. 1 Indiana will certainly be an interesting one for the Bulldogs.

8. Texas A&M (3-0 Overall)

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    As expected, the Aggies remain unproven and untested following their first week of games. The struggles of Georgia and Vanderbilt enabled Texas A&M to rise two slots in these rankings, but if they are to rise any further a strong performance in this week's Hall of Fame Classic is crucial as it represents one of the Aggies' few opportunities to procure a marquee win.

    To their credit, the Aggies did take care of business, and the Troy team that they defeated by 18 points does hold an early season victory over Mississippi State.

    Texas A&M has displayed a pretty balanced offense this season, with five players averaging 2.7 assists or more.

7. Mississippi (3-0 Overall)

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    Like Texas A&M, Ole Miss should expect to see its ranking remain relatively unchanged as its soft schedule continues through January.

    The Rebels rolled this week, winning their three games by an average of over 30 points, but the quality of their opposition was particularly unimpressive. Coastal Carolina was the best team Ole Miss faced, and that will not change much until a Dec. 1 tilt with Rutgers (which is not necessarily a resume-building game in its own right).

    Sharpshooter Marshall Henderson is off to a strong start to the season, averaging over five three-pointers made per game against the inferior opposition. Murphy Holloway is in good form as well, averaging 10 rebounds per game and shooting over 65 percent from the field.

6. Arkansas (2-0 Overall)

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    Arkansas also feasted on cupcakes this week, but the Razorbacks get a bit of a pass as their schedule will quickly get more difficult in the coming weeks.

    Sam Houston State actually gave the Razorbacks a game in their season opener, but Arkansas was able to pull away and should remain unblemished heading into upcoming games against Arizona State, Syracuse, Oklahoma and Michigan.

    BJ Young was suspended for the Razorbacks' season-opening victory, but he scored 23 points in his debut as Arkansas cruised against Longwood Sunday.

5. Alabama (4-0 Overall)

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    Alabama has probably had the most impressive opening week of any SEC team, and the only reason the Crimson Tide didn't rise in these rankings is that the top four are relatively entrenched at this point.

    But if Alabama keeps up this level of play, the top four may shortly become a top five. After a narrow opening night escape against Nate Wolters and upset-minded South Dakota State, the Crimson Tide won the 2K Sports Classic in impressive fashion, beating Villanova by 20 points in the title game.

    The Crimson Tide's commitment to defense has remained strong thus far, as Alabama has allowed no more than 67 points in any of its four games and held the Wildcats to only 55 points in its tournament-clinching victory.

4. Tennessee (3-1 Overall)

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    The Volunteers got off to a rocky start, but Tennessee rediscovered its identity against UMass and preserved its status among the SEC's elite.

    Tennessee played a pretty ugly game against Oklahoma State in the semifinals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, suffering their first loss of the season in the process. Jarnell Stokes established himself Sunday against UMass, however, scoring 24 points and adding 12 rebounds as the Vols pulled away from the Minutemen in the second half.

    The Vols continue to await the return of forward Jeronne Maymon, who is out another two to four weeks while he recovers from a knee injury.

3. Missouri (3-0 Overall)

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    Like Arkansas, Missouri will face several tests in non-conference play this season. The Tigers just haven't faced any yet.

    The Tigers cruised to wins against three overmatched opponents this week, and while this alone does not serve as a true affirmation of Missouri's status it is not a strike against them either. The Tigers will have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves.

    UConn transfer Alex Oriakhi has added an immediate source of muscle to the Tigers' game, as the center is averaging 12 points and 12 rebounds so far this year.

2. Florida (3-0 Overall)

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    While Florida's opening night matchup against Georgetown was canceled, the Gators did not pass up the opportunity to record their first marquee win of the 2012-13 season.

    The Gators will certainly not often shoot over 60 percent from the field against good opposition, so Florida's blowout victory over the Wisconsin Badgers has to be taken with a bit of a grain of salt. But Florida still held Wisconsin 56 points, and Erik Murphy's 10-for-10 night is impressive nonetheless.

    Florida must be excited about Murphy, who contributed eight rebounds (four offensive) in the victory over Wisconsin as well. If he can provide an additional inside presence to complement Patric Young, the Gators will be in good shape.

Kentucky (3-1 Overall)

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    The Wildcats do have an early blemish to their name, but a loss to a Duke team that would rank No. 1 in the SEC is not nearly enough to drop Kentucky out of the top slot.

    Duke is simply a more experienced team than Kentucky at this point in the season, and the Wildcats have not reached their full potential yet. A season-opening squeaker against Maryland showed that this team was not going to be as dominant as Anthony Davis' squad, and the Duke game only reinforced that.

    That said, Kentucky can take some positives from the Duke loss, notably Nerlens Noel's all-around contribution. In addition to his solid scoring and rebounding numbers, Noel accumulated four steals and three blocks in the game. He is clearly and athletic force to be reckoned with.

Three Games to Watch

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    1. Georgia vs. Indiana: Monday, 5:30 p.m.

    Despite their loss to Youngstown State, the Bulldogs "advanced" to the knockout round of the Legends Classic, where they will get their shot against Cody Zeller and No. 1 Indiana. It would be a huge surprise if Georgia won the game, but a competitive performance would be a nice step up for the Bulldogs.


    2. Texas A&M vs. Saint Louis: Monday, 7:30 p.m.

    Given Texas A&M's soft non-conference schedule, it is absolutely critical that the Aggies put forward a good performance at the Hall of Fame Classic this week. This semi-final matchup against the Billikens is a big part of that, as a win would likely mean a second game against Kansas instead of Washington State.


    3. Missouri vs. Stanford: Thursday, 1 p.m.

    The Tigers begin their Battle 4 Atlantis tournament with this Thanksgiving matchup against the Cardinal. Potential high-profile opponents include Louisville in the semi-finals and Duke in the finals, so if Missouri can get past Stanford it will have the opportunity to record at least one big early-season victory.