Four games into the Southeastern Conference schedule, we’re sure of very little.
We know that Florida is the SEC’s cream of the crop. The Gators are 15-2 and 4-0 in the SEC. Their only two losses have come against ranked teams (Wisconsin and Connecticut) with an RPI under 30.
We also know that Kentucky is very good. The problem for the 13-4 Wildcats is that they are still such a young and unproven team. On any given night an elite, final four-type squad could hit the floor or a one-and-done underachieving unit.
After the Gators and Wildcats, everyone else seems to be knocking each other around, which isn’t helping the SEC show any signs of strength.
Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas could all end up as NCAA Tournament teams, but none are playing as well as Georgia or Texas A&M, which we believe have very little shot at postseason play outside the NIT.
But we must give credit to Georgia who is 3-1 in conference play and has knocked off three SEC teams with an RPI under 70.
Here’s how we view the SEC based on perceived power right now, with no regard to where they will possibly end up (read: this is who’s hot right now).
1) Florida Gators – Florida is ranked sixth in the country and has won nine straight, mainly because it limits points by opponents with the best of the best. Teams that play the Gators only average 59.7 points per game. Only nine teams in the country give up fewer points per contest.
2) Kentucky Wildcats – The Wildcats average 80.4 points and pull down 43 rebounds per game, good for 31st and sixth in the country. There’s a lot of talk of this young group needing to gel together to get better, but I have a different idea. Kentucky ranks sixth in the country with 564 free throw attempts but only shoots 67.2 percent from the line, which puts the Wildcats worse than 249 teams at the charity stripe.
3) Georgia Bulldogs – No one expected the Bulldogs to be 3-1 in conference play, but here we are. Georgia was thumped by Florida in Jan. 14 and will likely receive similar punishment when the team travels to Rupp Arena on Saturday. But with a favorable schedule until Feb. 6, the Bulldogs could be 6-2 in conference play before the going gets tough.
4) Texas A&M Aggies – The Aggies are another surprise team near the top of the SEC. Texas A&M survives on its defense and confusing opponents and altering tempo by switching from man to zone throughout the game. Only one team in Texas A&M’s last 10 games has scored more than 70 points.
5) Tennessee Volunteers – Tennessee’s win over LSU on Jan. 7 was good and its loss to No. 13 Kentucky wasn’t terrible. But losing to Texas A&M at home on Jan. 11 hurt. Postseason dreams are crushed by home losses to teams with an RPI above 100.
6) Ole Miss Rebels – Ole Miss is 12-5 overall and 3-1 in conference play, but there are some telling signs of danger ahead. The schedule is going to get tougher soon and if the Rebels can’t slow teams down and keep them off the boards, their standing near the top of the conference will be short lived.
7) Mississippi State Bulldogs – At 12-5 overall and 2-2 in conference play, Mississippi State is playing a bit over its head. With an RPI of 150—the second worst in the SEC—and such slim margins in scoring and rebounding, it’s only a matter of time before the Bulldogs crash.
8) Missouri Tigers – For all intents and purposes Missouri is an NCAA Tournament team. But conference losses to Georgia and Vanderbilt early on leave these Tigers wondering just how to get on the right track.
9) LSU Tigers – I personally believe that there is enough talent on this roster to make a push at the NCAA Tournament. But early losses to Tennessee and Ole Miss hurt and it’s going to get ugly starting tonight with three games against tough opponents. Missouri gets things started Tuesday and then LSU travels to Alabama on Saturday and hosts Kentucky on Jan. 28. If LSU is 2-5 in conference play after that stretch, they could be in deep trouble.
10) Alabama Crimson Tide – Alabama stumbled through non-conference play yet again and hasn’t looked terribly prepared for the SEC early on. Scoring has been an issue. The Crimson Tide connected on a paltry 29.2 percent of their shots Saturday against Missouri.
11) Arkansas Razorbacks – Starting conference play 1-3 hurts. But it’s a killer when the SEC doesn’t boast a great RPI as a whole. If Arkansas can’t turn things around quickly, no one will take this team seriously come Selection Sunday.
12) Vanderbilt Commodores – Vanderbilt got a nice win over Missouri on Jan. 16, but this is still a massive rebuild project for Kevin Stallings.
13) Auburn Tigers – Yeah, the Tigers haven’t won an SEC game yet, but they aren’t getting blown away either. Auburn’s four conference losses have been by a combined 23 points and two have been by three points or less.
14) South Carolina Gamecocks – South Carolina hasn’t won a road game all season and has started conference play 0-4. The Gamecocks rank dead last in field goal percentage in the SEC.