SEC Power Rankings: Gators reign despite loss

Southeastern Conference teams – most of them, anyway — worked overtime
Saturday. Four of the seven games went into overtime. But apparently
that wasn’t enough.

Tennessee took four overtimes to win at Texas
A&M, LSU beat visiting Alabama in three extra sessions, and both
Kentucky beat Missouri and Georgia topped South Carolina in overtime to
boot.

By the time the final horn sounded to end the wild day,
Florida had retained the top spot in the SEC Power Rankings that it has
held all season long. That comes even with the Gators losing at Missouri
on Tuesday for just their second league defeat.

With only two weeks remaining in the regular season, here’s an updated look at the SEC Power Rankings:

1. Florida (22-4, 12-2)

Gators
coach Billy Donovan prefers an eight-man rotation. That dropped to
seven the last five games without junior forward Will Yeguete, who is
hoping to return from knee injury next week. When freshman guard Michael
Frazier banged his head on teammate Scottie Wilbekin’s knee and
suffered a concussion while diving for a loose ball, Florida was down to
using six players in the second half of their 71-54 win Saturday over
Arkansas.

With a trip looming Tuesday to surging Tennessee, the
Gators look to freshmen Braxton Ogbueze, Dillon Graham and DeVon Walker
to fill Frazier’s minutes if he can’t go. In the loss at Missouri, the
Gators blew a 13-point lead in the second half. Florida had beaten the
Tigers by 31 in their previous meeting last month in Gainesville. At No.
8, Florida is the only SEC team ranked in the Top 25. Its RPI (Ratings
Percentage Index) is fourth nationally.

2. Kentucky (19-8, 10-4)

The
Wildcats took to the friendly confines of Rupp Arena for a three-game
home stand hoping to right the listing ship racked two weeks ago. First
came the loss of freshman star Nerlens Noel for the season, followed by
the subsequent 30-point disaster of a loss at Tennessee in the Wildcats’
first game without him. The Wildcats finally got another signature
victory to go with its win last month at Ole Miss with the overtime win
over Missouri.

Fifth-year senior Julius Mays, a Wright State
graduate who transferred to UK, scored 21 of his 24 points in the second
half, including eight in overtime, in the win over Missouri. Freshman
guard Archie Goodwin, who has struggled of late, scored all 18 of his
points after intermission. Freshman center Willie Cauley-Stein, the
replacement for Noel, had a career-high 20 points in a win over stubborn
Vanderbilt. Kentucky’s RPI this week is 46, third-best in the SEC.

3. Alabama (18-9, 10-4)

The
Crimson Tide drop a slot to third in the SEC Power Rankings after
blowing a 10-point lead in the last 3:37 of regulation in the
triple-overtime loss at LSU. Junior guard Trevor Releford played a
team-high 50 minutes and scored a career-high 36 points. He also had
three steals to become Alabama’s all-time steals leader with 178,
surpassing Senario Hillman, who had 176 from 2007-10. The game was tied
seven times and had 16 lead changes. The Crimson Tide had won five of
six games before the loss.

In the win over Mississippi State,
sophomore guard Rodney Cooper had his first double-double with 20 points
and 10 rebounds. The Crimson Tide have a winning league record a
third-straight season, best since the team did it from 1994-96. Alabama
had a season-high 18 steals against Mississippi State. Alabama’s RPI
this week is 62, sixth-best in the SEC.

4. Missouri (19-8, 8-6)

The
Tigers just don’t lose at home, now 15-0 this season and 30-1 over the
last two at Mizzou Arena after rallying past Florida on Tuesday. It’s
just the opposite on the road, where they are 1-7 following the loss at
Kentucky. Senior forward Laurence Bowers had 17 points and 10 rebounds
versus Florida. During the week, Tigers coach Frank Haith and the
university received notification from the NCAA for possible rules
violations while he coached at Miami.

Senior point guard Phil
Pressey, who has battled inconsistency, had 27 points and 10 assists
against Kentucky, which played host to Missouri for the first time. The
Tigers need one more win for a fifth-straight 20-win season. The 126
wins over five seasonsis the best such stretch in program history.
Missouri had outrebounded opponents ninestraight games before being
outdone by Kentucky. Missouri’s RPI is 38, second-best in the SEC.

5. Ole Miss (20-7, 9-5)

Senior
forward Murphy Holloway played two seasons with Ole Miss, transferred
to South Carolina in his home state but sat out a year because of the
transfer rule, and then headed back to Ole Miss the past two seasons to
finish his carer. His homecoming Wednesday that featured 19 points and
13 rebounds was marred by a one-point upset loss to the Gamecocks. After
a 13-2 run netted the Rebels a six-point lead with 5:04 to play, they
would not score again.

The recent swoon by the Rebels that
included five losses in seven games was halted by the 33-point win over
visiting Auburn. Junior guard Marshall Henderson, the SEC’s top scorer,
came off the bench for the first time and tied a school record with
eight 3-pointers and 28 points. Andy Kennedy became the program’s
all-time wins leader with 145. The Rebels’ RPI is 56, fourth-best in the
SEC.

6. Tennessee (16-10, 8-6)

In
winning the longest game in program history, the Volunteers claimed
their fifth straightand continued a late surge similar to last season
when they won eight of their last nineregular-season games. It was the
first meeting for the teams as league foes. Junior guard Trae Golden,
the SEC Player of the Week, continued stellar play of late with a
career-high 32 points, including 15 in the overtime periods. He is
averaging 20.8 points the last five games.

Sophomore forward
Jarnell Stokes had his 12th double-double with 20 points and 16
rebounds. In the win over LSU, junior guard Jordan McRae hit all six
3-point attempts and notched a career-high 34 points. Since going to a
four-guard starting lineup, the Vols are 4-0. The Vols could claim a
signature win for their NCAA resume with a win Tuesday over visiting
Florida. UT’s RPI is 57, fifth-best in the SEC but only one point behind
Ole Miss.

7. Arkansas (17-10, 8-6)

Junior
forward Coty Clarke hit all eight shots and scored 18 points to go with
a team-high seven rebounds in the loss Saturday at Florida. Trailing by
only four points at halftime, the Razorbacks watched Florida open the
second half on an 11-0 run and quickly open the lead to 20 points.

Sophomore
guard B.J. Young’s right-handed scoop shot with six seconds to play
proved to be the game-winner shot in beating visiting Georgia. Freshman
Anthlon Bell came off the bench to score a career-high 17 points off
five 3-pointers. The Hogs have an RPI of 80.

8. LSU (16-9, 7-7)

Thirty-five
years before Saturday’s triple-overtime win over visiting Alabama, LSU
beat then-No. 1 Kentucky in overtime. Ironically, that team was honored
at Saturday’s game in Maravich Assembly Center. Sophomore forward Johnny
O’Bryant played 51 minutes with 24 points and 10 rebounds. He had 24
and eight in the Tuesday loss at Tennessee. Senior guard Charles
Carmouche got the iron man award witha game-high 54 minutes played.

The
loss at Tennessee was the Tigers’ third game in six days. LSU has won
sevenof their last 10 games. Visiting Arkansas on Wednesday is a key
game for both teams’ tourney resume. LSU’s RPI is 97.

9. Georgia (13-14, 7-7)

The
streaky Bulldogs had to overcome a four-point deficit in the final
minute to join the overtime parade. They then outscored the Gamecocks
9-1 in overtime to snap a three-game losing skid. Before that, Georgia
had won five in a row.

Sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
notched two more games scoring in double figures to keep his streak of
doing so in every game this season. He’s the only SEC player and one of
only 11 Division I players nationally to do so, heading into the week.
Georgia’s RPI is 123.

10. Texas A&M (16-11, 6-8)

While
the four-overtime game was a record for Tennessee, the Aggies had
played a five-overtime game—a 116-110 loss to Baylor on Jan. 23, 2008.
Senior guard Elston Turner had 38 points during a school-record 58
minutes, breaking his own Reed Arena single-game scoring record of 37
scored earlier this season. Returning after missing a game with a
sprained ankle, freshman guard J’Mychal Reese scored 13 points. Four
Aggies fouled out, compared to none for Tennessee.

The Aggies
missed their first 13 shots in the mid-week win at Auburn. Freshman
guard Alex Caruso had 14 points and eight rebounds, both career highs.
The Aggies made 13-of-14 second-half free throws, including all six in
the final 27 seconds. Texas A&M’s RPI is 86.

11. Vanderbilt (11-15, 5-9)

After
nearly beating Kentucky in Rupp Arena Wednesday, the Commodores took
that road confidence to Mississippi State Saturday for a 72-31 blowout
win. It was the largest SEC win for the Commodores since they beat
Kentucky by 41 points in 2008. Vanderbilt out-rebounded State 49-17, its
largest margin of the year. The Commodores continue to get production
from various young players, including sophomore guard Dai-Jon Parker,who
had 13 rebounds versus State; and two freshmen, forward Sheldon Jeter
and guard Kevin Bright, who had a game-high 15 points.

The
Commodores turned a 14-point deficit into only two in the second half
beforefalling by four at Kentucky. Unlike against Mississippi State, the
Commodores were manhandled on the boards 38-24 by the Wildcats. They
had no answer for Kentucky center Cauley-Stein.
 
12. South Carolina (13-14, 3-11)

First-year
Gamecocks coach Frank Martin has his team improving and being a pest,
just ask Ole Miss, which got a full dose of freshman forward Michael
Carrera with 13 points and 13 rebounds, his fifth double-double this
season.

South Carolina held the Rebels’ Henderson to 11 points,
eight points below his league-leading average. In the loss to Georgia,
the Gamecocks missed all seven shots and scored only one point in the
overtime period.

13. Auburn (9-18, 3-11)

The
Tigers were on the wrong end of Ole Miss angst in Saturday’s 33-point
loss. The only bright spot for the Tigers was freshman guard Shaquille
Johnson scoring a career-high 18 points.

In the home loss to
Texas A&M, the Tigers shot to an early 12-0 lead and even led by one
midway through the second half, but they would end up shooting just 26
percent after intermission as the Aggies held off several rallies.

14. Mississippi State (7-19, 2-12)

In
losing their 12th game in a row, the Bulldogs hit rock bottom with the
embarrassing 72-31 home loss to Vanderbilt. They went without a field
goal the first 11 minutes of the game, and finished shooting an anemic
17.5 percent from the field. They made only 4-of-22 shots in the first
half. “It all starts with making shots,” Bulldogs first-year coach Rick
Ray said. The Bulldogs are down to only eight regulars on the roster.