SEC Power Rankings: Five clubs rule the roost
FEB 03, 2014 6:50p ET
Florida certainly hopes that opening a season by winning 19 of 21 games for just the third time in program history yields similar results as the previous two.
The Gators opened 19-2 during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 campaigns that resulted in consecutive national championships. Winner of a program-best 27 straight home games dating back to last season, Florida currently ranks No. 3 in the country in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and has an RPI of 5th nationally, according to NCAA.com.
With league play hitting the halfway point this week, it's not too early for teams to start jockeying for NCAA Tournament at-large berths, should they not win the league tourney in Atlanta next month (automatic qualifier).
Other than No. 18 Kentucky (No. 13 RPI), there are no other tourney locks just yet.
Tennessee has a respectable RPI (37th), but from there it drops to a pack of three teams -- Missouri (No. 50), LSU (No. 54) and Ole Miss (No. 57) -- within seven RPI points and holding bubble-at-best resumes thus far.
Heading into Week 5 of league play, here are the SEC Power Rankings:
1. Florida (19-2, 8-0)
A game pitting the SEC's best defense against the worst offense showed those numbers don't lie when Florida beat visiting Texas A&M on Saturday, 69-36. It's the fewest points scored against the Gators since 1950, while the Aggies had their lowest point total in 59 years.
2. Kentucky (16-5, 6-2)
The Wildcats split a week of tough road trips, losing 87-82 at LSU (Tuesday) before holding off Missouri 84-79 on Saturday. The SEC's best shooting team (47.4) shot a solid 53.6 percent in answering every Missouri surge, including a nifty reverse layup by freshman guard Aaron Harrison with 19 seconds left to seal the game.
Against Missouri, 7-foot freshman center Dakari Johnson made his first start, tallying two points. At LSU, he scored a career-high 15 points. Against LSU, sophomore forward Alex Poythress became the 144th player in UK history to score 500 career points.
3. Tennessee (14-7, 5-3)
Junior forward Jarnell Stokes, the league's top rebounder (10.2), had a season-high 22 points and 16 rebounds for his 30th career double-double, most of any active SEC player.
With the win at Alabama, the Vols are 14-3 in February under third-year coach Cuonzo Martin. They are also 40-8 overall under Martin when leading at halftime. Freshman point guard Darius Thompson has started four straight games and leads Tennessee in steals (1.04).
4. Ole Miss (15-5, 6-2)
Ole Miss leads the SEC in 3-pointers made per game (8.0) and second in 3-point shooting (36.9). Senior guard Marshall Henderson makes more triples per game (4.3) than any SEC player, but ranks only ninth in 3-point percentage (36.3). In the loss at Tennessee, he scored a team-high 26 points.
5. LSU (14-6, 5-3)
For LSU's efforts in home wins over Kentucky and Arkansas, junior forward Johnny OâBryant III was named SEC Player of the Week for the first time, while forward Jordan Mickey earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for a third time.
O'Bryant had 29 points and nine rebounds against Kentucky. He followed that with 23 points and nine rebounds against the Razorbacks.
Mickey is the SE's top shot blocker (3.8). With 75 blocks, he is 25 shy of joining former center Shaquille OâNeal in being the only Tiger to have 100 blocked shots in a season.
6. Missouri (16-5, 4-4)
The league's leading scorer (20.4) and 3-point shooter (47.7), junior guard Jabari Brown has made 23 of his last 35 3-pointers (65.7). He tried to shoot the Tigers over Kentucky, netting a career-high 33 points, including a four-point play on a deep 3-pointer late in the game.
In beating Arkansas for the first time at Bud Walton Arena, Missouri made all 16 free throws in the second half. Freshman forward Johnathan Williams had a game-high 12 rebounds in leading the Tigers to a 42-26 rebounding edge.
7. Vanderbilt (12-8, 4-4)
Despite having only seven scholarship players, the Commodores are on a modest run of three straight wins, including a 55-49 home win Saturday over Mississippi State. Junior guard Dai-Jon Parker played all 40 minutes for a fourth straight game.
Junior forward Rod Odom scored a game-high 18 points against the Bulldogs and didn't commit a turnover in 39 minutes. In getting to Georgia for a 59-54 win, the Commodores had to re-route their flight from Atlanta to Greeneville, S.C., to avoid an ice storm. They bused to Athens the day of the game.
8. Georgia (10-10, 4-4)
After opening 4-1 in league play, the Bulldogs are slipping back to the middle of the pack or lower -- as predicted. Sophomore guard Kenny Gaines returned after missing two games with a knee injury and scored nine points in Saturday's loss at Auburn.
Despite getting 20 points from sophomore guard Charles Mann, the Bulldogs shot a season-low 27 percent from the field in a loss to Vanderbilt. The defeat snapped an eight-game home winning streak, longest under fifth-year coach Mark Fox.
9. Mississippi State (13-8, 3-5)
The Bulldogs have lost three straight, including Saturday at Vanderbilt, where they gave up 24 points off 18 turnovers, including 16 points in the first half. In the loss, Mississippi State attempted 20 triples ... but only six free throws.
Two days earlier, the Bulldogs hung around for a while before falling to visiting Florida. They would make only 1 of 6 free throwss. Sophomore guard Craig Sword leads Mississippi State in scoring (13.4), assists (2.6) and steals (2.1).
10. Arkansas (13-8, 2-6)
The Razorbacks allowed LSU to shoot 64 percent from the field in Saturdayâs road loss. Freshman Bobby Portis, a 6-10 forward, had 15 points. The former Arkansas prep player of the year is second on the team in scoring (12.3) and leads in rebounding (6.5).
In the home loss to Missouri, the Hogs made more 3-pointers (12) than standard field goals (11) for the first time in 12 years. The game was No. 350 at Bud Walton Arena, where Arkansas owns a 282-68 all-time record.
11. Alabama (9-12, 3-5)
The game at rival Auburn was moved back a day (Thursday), due to inclement weather, and the Crimson Tide was cold from the field in the 74-55 loss -- shooting 36 percent, including 19 percent on threes (3 of 19).
Senior guard Trevor Releford (15 points) was the only Alabama player to score in double figures.
In the loss to Tennessee, Releford notched 23 points to reach double figures in 22 straight games, dating back to last year. He also had a season-high six assists. Alabama's bench outscored the Vols 19-3 and has outscored opponents 14 times this season (18 of 21 games).
12. Auburn (10-9, 2-6)
The Tigers had been close in several tough losses, but they broke through at home with wins over Alabama and Georgia. For the first time since 2010 (SEC play), all five Auburn starters scored in double figures in beating the Bulldogs.
Freshman point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen held Releford, Alabama's top scorer, to 15 points.
13. Texas A&M (12-9, 3-5)
The Aggies' first game at South Carolina turned into a blowout loss to a team that was 0-6 in league play. Down by 20 points at halftime, Texas A&M did not have a double-figure scorer.
After losing by 28 at lowly South Carolina, the Aggies must have figured they didn't have a chance Saturday at Florida. They were correct with the 33-point loss. Once again, no Aggie scored in double figures. Even so, sophomore guard Alex Caruso leads the SEC in assists (4.6).
14. South Carolina (8-13, 1-7)
The Gamecocks finally got off the SEC schnide with a win over Texas A&M. The good news: They were led by freshmen guards Duane Notice (season-high 19 points) and Sindarius Thornwell (19 points).
The Aggies shot only 35.6 percent from the field.
South Carolina nearly made it a sweep for the week Saturday, but couldn't make several double-digit leads in the second half stand up.
Thornwell continued to impress with 20 points and a season-high six assists. He leads the Gamecocks in scoring (13.5).