SEC Basketball Power Rankings — 12/11

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    (Photo via Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports)

    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 week. Here is our next installment of our SEC Power Rankings for the games that have been played through Monday, December 10th.

    SEC Men’s Power Rankings (12/10)

    No. 1: Tennessee (up one spot)

    Rick Barnes picked up his first ever win over a No. 1 ranked team on Sunday afternoon, as No. 3 Tennessee (8-1) took care of Gonzaga, 76-73. Admiral Schofield stole the show, scoring a career-high 30 points. Schofield scored 25 in the second half — which matched his previous career-high — on 10-of-17 shooting from the field and 5-of-8 from beyond the 3-point line.

    What makes the win even more impressive is that the Vols were without Grant Williams and Lamonte Turner in crunch time. Williams fouled out late in the game and Turner sat out once again due to his lingering shoulder injury. Tennessee is a legitimate contender to win a national championship this season, and once Turner returns, the Vols will be even harder to stop.

    No. 2: Auburn (down one spot)

    It’s truly unfortunate that we have to wait until the final day of the regular season to see Tennessee and No. 8 Auburn (8-1) play each other. Both teams are the clear-cut No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the SEC. Honestly, they’re 1-A, and 1-B. I believe both are as good as the other, and it’s a shame we don’t get two match-ups this season.

    Over the last two weeks, Auburn has continued to take care of business, defeating St. Peter’s, UNC-Asheville, and Dayton. The Tigers will receive a boost this weekend when they face UAB in Birmingham when Danjel Purifoy returns after sitting out last season and the first nine games of this season due to his connection with Auburn’s NCAA issues. He’s a versatile player that is capable of catapulting the Tigers to another level.

    No. 3: Mississippi State (up two spots)

    No. 18 Mississippi State (8-1) is as experienced as anybody in the country, and it showed over the last two weeks with wins over Alcorn State, Dayton, McNeese, and Clemson to improve to 8-1 on the season.

    The Bulldogs are led by Lamar Peters, who has been red-hot from the 3-point line of late. Along with Schofield, Peters was named Co-SEC Player of the Week after averaging 27.5 points in two wins last week. Peters shot 66.6 percent from beyond-the-arc, connecting on 16 of his 24 attempts.

    No. 4: LSU (up two spots)

    LSU (7-2) has had a light two weeks, picking up a 78-57 win over Grambling and a 91-50 win against Incarnate Word. Darius Days led the Tigers past Grambling with 13 points and nine rebounds in his first career start, while freshmen Naz Reid and Ja’vonte Smart each performed well in the win over Incarnate Word. Against Grambling, coach Will Wade adjusted his lineup, starting Days and Kavell Bigby-Williams instead of Reid and Emmitt Williams. The move paid off for Wade, as Days and Bigby-Williams combined for 22 points and 14 rebounds on 9-of-14 shooting. Bigby-Williams added nine blocks.

    LSU has a tough challenge next. The Tigers will travel to Houston on Wednesday to take on the 22nd-ranked Cougars.

    No. 5: Arkansas (down two spots)

    The Hogs picked up impressive wins over Florida International and Colorado State, winning by 32 and 19, respectively. But then Arkansas (6-2) followed those up with an embarrassing 78-77 loss to Western Kentucky on its home court. Charles Bassey finished the game with 21 points, nine rebounds, and five blocks for the Hilltoppers and gave Daniel Gafford fits on the other end. Isaiah Joe dropped in 19 points for Arkansas, but the Hogs’ defense failed them as Western Kentucky shot 60 percent from the 3-point line in the second half.

    Free throws were the death nail for Arkansas. The Hogs were just 9-of-16 from the free throw line on the night.

    No. 6: Kentucky (down two spots)

    No. 19 Kentucky has had as disappointing a start to the season as anybody in the country. Outside of Travis Reid and Keldon Johnson, the highly-recruited freshmen haven’t performed. On top of that, Quade Green and P.J. Washington have regressed following a strong freshman campaign.

    The Cats may be 7-2 on the season, but they don’t have an impressive win on the year and haven’t won away from Rupp Arena. Kentucky was close to an impressive win over the weekend, but they fell to Seton Hall in overtime, 84-83.

    No. 7: Florida (up three spots)

    After a sloppy start to the season, Florida (5-4) has bounced back to a certain degree and are playing better basketball. Following a dominating win over North Florida, the Gators beat a solid West Virginia team 66-56 thanks to 19 points from KeVaughn Allen. Florida never trailed in the game thanks to a terrific defensive effort.

    Florida then returned home to face No. 10 Michigan State and though they played well, lost to the Spartans 63-59. The Gators have a team built to be a 3-point shooting team, but they were just 6-of-24 from the three. Florida’s defense continues to impress, but the Gators need to find more offense from somebody other than Allen.

    No. 8: Alabama (-)

    Nobody has been more up-and-down than Alabama. The Crimson Tide (6-3) were upset by Georgia State 83-80 on a last-second three following a 70-64 loss to UCF, but then they followed that up with a 76-73 win over Arizona.

    Alabama struggled to knock down shots against UCF, while its defense was lackluster against Georgia State. Against Arizona, though, the Crimson Tide played as complete of a game as they have all year. Freshman Kira Lewis Jr. drained a three and hit two important free throws in the final moments of the game in a 20-point performance. Alabama has the tools to be one of the better SEC basketball teams, but it has to learn to finish. The Arizona game was a step in the right direction.

    No. 9: Vanderbilt (down two spots)

    It’s hard to gauge this Vanderbilt (6-2) team at the moment. Since Darius Garland was lost for the season due to a knee injury, the Commodores have beat down inferior opponents, but they lost by 15 to NC State.

    In its first game without Garland, Vanderbilt trounced Savannah State, winning 120-65. In the following game, the offense didn’t show up and the defense had a rough day, as Vandy lost to the Wolfpack 80-65. Semisola Shittu and Saben Lee combined for 30 points, almost half of the scoring production. The Commodores’ bench was out-scored 37-21.

    Against MTSU, the defense showed up, and along with Shittu’s 15 points, Matthew Moyer stepped up and dropped in 14 points. The win ended a three-game losing streak to the Blue Raiders.

    No. 10: Ole Miss (down one spot)

    Ole Miss (6-2) is another team that is hard to gauge at the moment because it hasn’t necessarily played a strong opponent over the last two weeks. In their last three games, the Rebels have beat San Diego 93-86, UL Monroe 66-56, and Illinois State 81-74.

    The early returns of Kermit Davis in year one in Oxford are good. Last season, the Rebels were 1-10 in true road games. This season, Ole Miss already has a true road win. But most importantly,  the Rebels are winning the games they’re supposed to, something they didn’t do last season.

    No. 11: Missouri (-)

    The loss of Jontay Porter is evident every time Mizzou (6-3) takes the floor, but the Tigers are beginning to adjust to life without their best player. After a close loss to Temple, Missouri has beaten UCF in overtime, UT-Arlington, and Oral Roberts.

    We’ll learn a lot about the Tigers over the next month. Three of their next four games are against tremendous teams. Missouri will face Xavier in its next match-up before a date with Illinois. After a contest with Morehead State, Mizzou will then take on No. 3 Tennessee to start SEC play.

    No. 12: Georgia (-)

    Yet another team difficult to gauge because of the level of competition it has faced over the last two weeks. Georgia (5-3) is on a two-game winning streak thanks to a 84-51 win over Kennesaw State and a 92-75 win over Texas Southern. Nicolas Claxton and Rayshaun Hammonds are leading the way for the Dawgs, averaging 12.5 and 14.4 points per game, respectively.

    No. 13: Texas A&M (up one spot)

    Texas A&M (3-4) has only played one game – an 80-54 win against Northwestern State – over the last two weeks following its contest with Boston College being cancelled. Apparently mechanical issues with Boston College’s plane and bad weather prompted the cancellation.

    No. 14: South Carolina (down one spot)

    South Carolina (4-5) continues to have a miserable season less than two years removed from a Final Four appearance. Over the last two weeks, the Gamecocks lost to Wofford by 20, squeaked by Coastal Carolina 85-79, lost to Wyoming 73-64 ,and despite a solid effort, fell to Michigan 89-78.

    Credit Frank Martin’s squad for a much better effort against a very good Wolverines team, but life is hard in Columbia at the moment.