Football season is coming to an end, signaling the beginning of basketball season. Just a couple of years ago, SEC basketball was the laughing stock within the college basketball world. Now, the conference is arguably one of the top two leagues in the country.
As the season moves along, we’ll rank the teams in the SEC each Monday. Here is our second installment of our SEC Power Rankings for the games that have been played through Monday, Nov. 26.
SEC Men’s Power Rankings (11/26)
No. 1: Auburn (-)
The Tigers remain No. 1 in my power rankings following an impressive showing at the Maui Invitational over Thanksgiving break. Bruce Pearl’s goal was to win two games, and they began with an 88-79 win over Xavier. It then fell short, 78-72, to then-No. 1 Duke. The Tigers closed out the tournament with an impressive 73-57 win over Arizona.
Jared Harper continues to impress as a 5-foot-10 guard, as he’s averaging an SEC-best 6.8 assists per game. Fellow guard Bryce Brown is also off to a tremendous 2018-19 campaign, scoring 17.0 points per game, fourth-most in the conference. Behind the veteran guards, Pearl showed off his team’s depth in Maui.
Brown was named Co-SEC Player of the Week, averaging 20.3 points per game last week.
No. 2: Tennessee (-)
I believe Tennessee is better than Auburn, but at the moment, the Tigers’ resume is better. Tennessee has wins over Georgia Tech and Louisville — two ACC programs that are rebuilding. Auburn, on the other hand, has wins over a top 25 Washington team, Xavier, and Arizona.
Grant Williams was named the Co-SEC Player of the Week on Monday following a standout week, averaging 21.0 points and 8.5 rebounds in games against the Cardinals and No. 2 Kansas. Williams is playing the best basketball of his career to start the season. Through five games, he’s averaging 21.6 points per game, most in the SEC. It was clear just how important No. 2 is to the Vols when he fouled out at the end of the game against Kansas.
No. 3: Arkansas (up four spots)
The Razorbacks are coming off a week in which they went 2-0 with blowout wins over Montana State and UT Arlington. Led by 21 points from Daniel Gafford, Arkansas is now 4-1 to start the season.
Following several departures from last year’s squad, Gafford has been forced into a leadership role, and to this point, has thrived in it. Over the last three games, he’s made 26 of his last 33 shots. Arkansas will go as Gafford goes this season. So far, the big man has looked like a lottery pick.
No. 4: Kentucky (up two spots)
Since the embarrassing opening night loss to Duke, Kentucky hasn’t played high-level competition. Fortunately for Big Blue Nation, the Cats have handled business, winning five straight to improve to 5-1. Last week, Kentucky beat Winthrop 87-74 and Tennessee State 77-62.
Keldon Johnson averaged 20 points and eight rebounds in the wins, including a career-high 27 points against Tennessee State. Johnson’s outburst was the most points a Kentucky player has scored this season.
No. 5: Mississippi State (down two spots)
State falls in this week’s rankings due to a 72-67 loss to Arizona State, and a close 61-57 win over St. Mary’s. The Bulldogs trailed the Sun Devils by 15 at the half, but following five early second half 3’s, they climbed back into it. But because Arizona State out-hustled Mississippi State in the first half, the difference was too much to overcome. In the first half, the Bulldogs were out-rebounded 27-12, 10 of which were on the offensive glass, and Arizona State scored 14 second-chance points.
Against St. Mary’s, State trailed 60-58 with six minutes to go, but they went on a 6-0 run to pull out the win. Similar to the game against Arizona State, Mississippi State trailed by 11 at one point in the first half.
Ben Howland’s squad is going to have to do a better job of getting off to a faster start because against better competition, they’ll be run out of the gym.
No. 6: LSU (down two spots)
Will Wade’s Tigers had a miserable week. LSU began the week with a 67-55 win over Charleston, but then they followed it up with back-to-back losses. Against No. 14 Florida State, the Tigers lost 79-76. They then loss to Oklahoma State 90-77.
The loss to FSU is understandable, as the Seminoles drilled a late three in overtime to pull off the win. But the loss to Oklahoma State is unacceptable. LSU has far too much talent to be losing to average at best teams such as the Cowboys. Maybe the Tigers just caught Oklahoma State on a good night, as the Cowboys shot 58 percent from the field.
No. 7: Vanderbilt (down two spots)
No team in the SEC had a rougher week than Bryce Drew’s Commodores. Not only did Vanderbilt lose to Kent State, 77-75, after squeaking out a 79-70 win over Liberty, but its star player — Darius Garland — is out indefinitely with a meniscus injury. He suffered the injury in Friday’s game against Kent State.
Garland is the heartbeat of Vanderbilt’s team. The Nashville native is averaging 16.2 points per game and is shooting 47.8 percent from three. Maxwell Evans, a sophomore, will receive more playing time in Garland’s absence. The hope is that Vanderbilt can get its star player back by SEC play.
No. 8: Alabama (-)
Alabama was one of two SEC teams not in action last week following a win over Wichita State in its last outing. The Crimson Tide turn their attention to Murray State, who they’ll play in Tuscaloosa on Monday night.
No. 9: Ole Miss (up three spots)
The Rebels have been the biggest early season surprise. In Kermit Davis’ first season as Ole Miss’ head coach, they’re off to a 3-2 start. Last week, Ole Miss fell to Cincinnati but picked up wins over Nichols and Baylor.
Breein Tyree has been tremendous, scoring a career-high 28 points in the win over Baylor. Along with 17 points from Bruce Stevens, Ole Miss turned it over just 13 times. It’s a big difference compared to where the Rebels were last season.
No. 10: Florida (down one spot)
Florida went 1-2 last week, losing to Oklahoma, 65-60, and Butler, 61-54. The Gators did blow out Stanford 72-49 in between losses, but Mike White’s squad has been a major disappointment to start the season.
The Gators have been dreadful on offense this season, scoring just 67.3 points per game, second to last in the SEC. They’re shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 31.9 percent from beyond the arc. According to KenPom, Florida is No. 55 in the country in adjusted offense. That’s a far cry from the talent it has on its roster.
No. 11: Missouri (-)
Without star player Jontay Porter for the season, Missouri lost its only game last week, 82-67, to No. 12 Kansas State. Mizzou shot 47.9 percent from the floor, but K-State was even hotter, making 12 of its 24 three-point attempts. Kevin Puryear scored just five points for the Tigers in the loss. Though Jordan Geist scored 24, Mizzou is going to need more out of Puryear.
No. 12: Georgia (down two spots)
Georgia started the season 2-1 under first-year coach Tom Crean, but have since gone 1-2. Last week, the Bulldogs beat Illinois State 80-68 but followed the win with back-to-back losses. Georgia fell to No. 16 Clemson 64-49, and they were then run out of the gym by Georgia State, 91-67. The Bulldogs are beating themselves, turning it over 17.3 times per game.
No. 13: South Carolina (-)
Along with Alabama, South Carolina did not play last week. The Gamecocks face Wofford on Monday night in Columbia.
No. 14: Texas A&M (-)
The Aggies are 2-4 on the season after losing to Washington, 71-67, and beating South Alabama, 74-62. Texas A&M’s loss to the Huskies was part of an 0-3 road trip out west. The Aggies also lost to USC and No. 1 Gonzaga.
Texas A&M continues to play without senior guard Admon Gilder. Without Gilder in the fold, who is out due to injury, the Aggies look lost.