SEC power rankings: Two home wins have Mizzou on the rise
FEB 17, 2014 3:51p ET
Two-thirds of the way through the SEC's 18-game season, the question remains: Who's No. 3?
The answer still could be Missouri. After a three-game losing streak, the Tigers have climbed back to .500 in the conference and, in fact, are considered No. 3 in the conference based on RPI rankings and the latest bracket projections.
At 39th, the Tigers have the third-highest RPI in the SEC. In cbssports.com's latest projections, the Tigers are listed as a No. 10 seed. ESPN.com has Missouri as an 11 seed in its latest projections.
Whether the Tigers actually have pulled away from the pack is questionable. At 6-6, they're one of six teams separated by two games in the conference standings.
This isn't questionable, though: The Tigers control their own destiny.
Win the remaining six regular-season games and they'll finish with a better conference record than last season. Win five of six and they likely would enter the SEC tournament as a top-four seed.
With no games left against the Gators or Wildcats, winning out is within the Tigers' reach. Only one game remains against a plus-.500 team, at Georgia next Tuesday. The Tigers will have a little extra motivation for that one, anyway, because the Bulldogs opened conference play with a victory in Columbia.
Conference power rankings at the 12-game mark:
1. Florida (23-2, 12-0)
This week: Auburn on Wednesday, at Mississippi on Saturday
Last week: Won at Tennessee 67-58, won at Kentucky 69-59
Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, a leading contender for SEC Player of the Year, has set a new career high in scoring three times in the past four games, including 23 points in the victory at Kentucky.
2. Kentucky (19-6, 9-3)
This week: At Mississippi on Tuesday, LSU on Saturday
Last week: Won at Auburn 64-56, lost to Florida 69-59
The Wildcats stayed even with the Gators until the final eight minutes, when Florida's experience came through. Or did a technical foul on John Calipari prove to be a turning point? The Gators outscored Kentucky by 11 after the technical.
3. Georgia (14-10, 8-4)
This week: At Tennessee on Tuesday, at South Carolina on Saturday
Last week: Won at Mississippi State 75-55, beat Mississippi 61-60
Bulldogs coach Mark Fox should be the front-runner for SEC Coach of the Year considering his team went 6-6 in non-conference play and was picked in the preseason to finish 11th in the SEC. Only Florida has held opponents to a lower shooting percentage in conference play.
4. Mississippi (16-9, 7-5)
This week: Kentucky on Tuesday, Florida on Saturday
Last week: Lost at Alabama 67-64, lost at Georgia 61-60
Marshall Henderson didn't start for the first time in two months, but he wasn't in trouble. "I was just trying to change his mojo," coach Andy Kennedy said. The change worked as Henderson scored a game-high 24 points, but Mississippi still suffered a tough loss at Georgia.
5. Missouri (18-7, 6-6)
This week: Vanderbilt on Wednesday, at Alabama on Saturday
Last week: Beat Arkansas 86-85, beat Tennessee 75-70
Nothing like a week at home to get the Tigers back on track. The best development of the week was the emergence of freshman forward Torren Jones against Tennessee's rugged front line. Jones made four of five shots and pulled down five rebounds. His eight points doubled his previous high.
6. Tennessee (15-10, 6-6)
This week: Georgia on Tuesday, at Texas A&M on Saturday
Last week: Lost to Florida 67-58, lost at Missouri 75-70
The Volunteers could have virtually assured themselves of a trip to the NCAA tournament with two wins last week, but two losses left them in the thick of the SEC's muddled middle of the pack.
7. Arkansas (16-9, 5-7)
This week: South Carolina on Wednesday, at Mississippi State on Saturday
Last week: Lost at Missouri 86-85, beat LSU 81-70
The Razorbacks were encouraged by their close call on the road at Missouri. As junior forward Alandise Harris pointed out, most of Arkansas' road losses under Mike Anderson have been by a lot of points. Still, the Razorbacks are shooting just 39.6 percent on the road, compared with 46.9 percent at home.
8. LSU (15-9, 6-6)
This week: Mississippi State on Wednesday, at Kentucky on Saturday
Last week: Lost at Texas A&M 83-73, lost at Arkansas 81-70
Led by Johnny O'Bryant III, the SEC's top big-man scorer in conference play, the Tigers aren't having trouble on offense. But they've allowed at least 80 points in six of their past seven games. Four of them have been losses.
9. Vanderbilt (14-10, 6-6)
This week: At Missouri on Wednesday, at Auburn on Saturday
Last week: Lost at South Carolina 65-59, beat Texas A&M 57-54
You don't see this every day: The Commodores made only 3 of 26 3-pointers and shot a season-low 30.9 percent but still came away with a victory against Texas A&M.
10. Auburn (12-11, 4-8)
This week: At Florida on Wednesday, Vanderbilt on Saturday
Last week: Lost to Kentucky 64-56, beat Mississippi State 92-82
The Tigers have won four of six since their 0-6 SEC start. They were overmatched at Kentucky, though, putting up a season low in points and shooting a season-low 32.7 percent. Good luck at Florida this week.
11. Alabama (10-15, 4-8)
This week: At Texas A&M on Thursday, Missouri on Saturday
Last week: Beat Mississippi 67-64, lost at South Carolina 67-66
Don't blame senior guard Trevor Releford for the Tide's woes. He scored 25, 26 and 27 in his past three games, is averaging 19.5 in conference play and is shooting 90 percent on free throws.
12. Texas A&M (14-11, 5-7)
This week: Alabama on Thursday, Tennessee on Saturday
Last week: Beat LSU 83-73, lost at Vanderbilt 57-54
Count coach Billy Kennedy among those who finds Vanderbilt's home court a tough place for visitors. "Vanderbilt has the best home-court advantage I've ever played against," he said after A&M's overtime loss Saturday. With the bench on the baseline instead of the sideline, Kennedy said he couldn't clearly see what was happening on a crucial late call.
13. Mississippi State (13-12, 3-9)
This week: At LSU on Wednesday, Arkansas on Saturday
Last week: Lost to Georgia 75-55, lost at Auburn 92-82
In their seven-game losing streak, the Bulldogs have come within less than 10 points in only one game.
14. South Carolina (10-15, 3-9)
This week: At Arkansas on Wednesday, Georgia on Saturday
Last week: Beat Vanderbilt 65-59, beat Alabama 67-66
The Gamecocks enjoyed their best week of the conference season, but they need another like it to move out of the bottom of these rankings.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at email@example.com.