SEC Power Rankings: Gators continue to roll

Just two weeks into conference play, Southeastern Conference preseason
favorite Florida and surging Ole Miss are the only teams remaining
unbeaten in league play.

Here’s an updated look at the SEC Power Rankings:

1. Florida (14-2, 4-0) 

Coach
Billy Donovan picked up career win No. 400 in 17 seasons at Florida
with an 83-52 blowout at home of then-17 Missouri, pushing his overall
record to 435-180. Only two other coaches – Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp and
LSU’s Dale Brown — have won 400 games at a SEC school. The Gators held
Mizzou standout point guard Phil Pressey to two points and 10 turnovers
in a 31-point home win. Couple that with a 21-point win at Texas A&M
two days earlier, and the Gators have won four league games by an
average margin of 26.8 points per game. Since 2010, Florida is 15-1 in
Thursday-Saturday league games.

2. Ole Miss (15-2, 4-0)

The
Rebels haven’t started 4-0 in league play since the 1936-37 season.
Even a long power outage during the first half of Saturday’s home win
over Arkansas couldn’t deter Ole Miss, which has beaten the Razorbacks
in 22 of their last 30 meetings. Off their emotional home win over
Missouri a week ago Saturday, the Rebels figured to come out somewhat
flat Tuesday at Vanderbilt. And they did. If not for a 3-pointer at the
buzzer by Marshall Henderson to force overtime, Ole Miss would have been
upset by the Commodores. It was the Rebels’ first win at Vandy since
2001.

3. Missouri (13-4, 2-2)

The
Tigers are 1-2 without senior forward Laurence Bowers, who’s sidelined
indefinitely with a knee injury. Missouri wasn’t been competitive in
back-to-back Saturday road losses to teams ranked ahead of them in the
SEC Power Rankings, getting blown out at Missouri and Florida. Pressey
may be pressing a bit to take up the slack for the injured Bowers. He
hit only 1-of-7 shots against Florida. Five Tigers scored in double
figures in a 17-point mid-week win at Georgia, but one of them wasn’t
Pressey, who had five points, well below his current average of 12.2
points per game.

4. Kentucky (12-5, 3-1)

Sophomore
Kyle Wiltjer wasn’t one of the ballyhooed freshmen to turn pro after
last year’s national championship. But while playing in all 40 games as a
reserve, he flashed glimpses of keen offensive capabilities. While a
new class of freshmen titillates the Wildcats’ faithful, the 6-10
Wiltjer came off the bench to score 17 points in each win last week over
visiting Tennessee and at Auburn. His presence seemed to stabilize the
youthful Wildcats. Even so, youth will still be served at UK. Freshman
forward Nerlens Noel had 10 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks
against Auburn. Freshman point guard Ryan Harrow has scored in double
figures in eight straight games.

5. Alabama (11-6, 3-1)

Three
league wins in a row, including a one-pointer at home over Texas
A&M and a 32-point win at Mississippi State last week, have the
Crimson Tide feeling good about themselves. Getting lone senior Andrew
Steele back after missing seven games with a sports hernia is key. With
Steele out, the Tide went 2-5. Since his return, they are 9-1.  Leading
scorer, junior guard Trevor Releford, did not play at Mississippi State
with an ankle sprain, but he came back to come off the bench to score a
game-high 15 against Texas A&M.

6. Arkansas (11-6, 2-2)

After
playing evenly at Ole Miss in the first half Saturday, Arkansas didn’t
react well to a 25-minute power outage in the first half. The Razorbacks
were outscored 10-5 in the first half when play resumed. “It was a
bizarre game,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “I have never been a
part of something like that.” The Hogs won an important home game in
double-overtime against visiting Auburn on Wednesday. Junior Marshawn
Powell had his third double-double with 28 points and 11 rebounds.

7. Texas A&M (12-5, 2-2)

The
Aggies burst onto the SEC scene with wins over traditional powers
Arkansas at home and Kentucky on the road. But they returned to earth
after being blown out at home by Florida before losing a one-point
decision at Alabama. The Aggies held Alabama to only 15 points in the
first half, but watched the Tide go on a 19-5 run after intermission.
The Aggies were totally outclassed by Florida in a 19-point loss. Coming
off scoring 40 points in the win at Kentucky, Elston Turner managed
only four points on 1-of-10 shooting, well below his 17.1 points per
game average.     

8. Auburn (8-9, 2-2)   

After
starting league play 2-0 for the first time since 2001 with wins over
lowly LSU and South Carolina, the Tigers stepped up in class with a trip
to Arkansas followed by a visit by Kentucky in front of a sell-out
crowd. Auburn will lament the double-overtime loss at Arkansas,
especially with senior guard Frankie Sullivan scoring 23 of 26 points
after halftime to go with a career-high nine rebounds. Until junior
forward Allen Payne hit a 3-pointer to force the first overtime with 5
seconds remaining, Auburn had gone more than 6 minutes without scoring.
In the loss to Kentucky, Auburn went 0-for-15 on 3-point shots to miss
every trey attempt in a game for just the third time in program history.

9. Tennessee (9-7, 1-3)

After
opening league play with three losses, the Vols avoided opening league
play 0-4 for the first time since 1993-94. They got off the schneid with
a 15-point home win Saturday over Mississippi State behind 18 points
and 11 rebounds from sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes, whose play had
been slowed somewhat with the loss for the season of fellow forward
Jeronne Maymon to injury. UT outscored the Bulldogs 42-16 in the paint.
The 17,854 that came to Thompson-Boling Arena helped UT remain eighth in
the nation in home attendance. Earlier in the week, UT put up a gallant
effort in a 10-point loss at Kentucky. Junior guard Jordan McRae
continued his hot hand with 23 points.

10. Mississippi State (7-9, 2-2)

Ole
Miss wasn’t the only gym experiencing a power outage Wednesday night.
State’s Humphrey Coliseum experienced the same before the game against
Alabama. Thing is, the Bulldogs remained in the dark in the blowout loss
to Alabama, which used a 27-3 run over two halves to win going away. It
was the worst home loss to Alabama and second-worst home loss ever.
Mississippi State was outclassed at Tennessee in game of head coaches –
Rick Ray at State and Cuonzo Martin at UT – that were once former
assistants at Purdue under Boilermakers coach Matt Painter.

11. Vanderbilt (7-9, 1-3)    

After
nearly beating visiting Kentucky in the first week of SEC play and
losing to Ole Miss at home in overtime last week, the youthful
Commodores apparently feel comfortable at home, albeit without a
breakthrough win there yet. In a win Saturday at South Carolina, they
finally hit seven key free throws down the stretch and won without
depending upon sophomore Kedren Johnson, the team’s top scorer who was
held to only three points. In the loss to Ole Miss, Vandy hit a Memorial
Gym record 17 3-pointers, but could only make 10-of-23 free throws, a
bugaboo bothering Vandy all season.

12. South Carolina (11-6, 1-3)

Senior
forward Lakeem Jackson and freshman forward Michael Carrera each posted
double-doubles in an overtime win at LSU to give first-year Gamecocks
coach Frank Martin his first SEC victory. Carrera scored 21 of his
career-high 23 points after halftime.  But South Carolina couldn’t build
on the win, falling at home Saturday to Vanderbilt. Jackson grabbed his
500th rebound as a Gamecock in the loss.

13. Georgia (7-10, 1-3) 

Sophomore
guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has led the Bulldogs in scoring in 14 of
17 games, including a team-high 22 points to go with six steals in a
67-58 win Saturday over LSU for the team’s first league win. The
Bulldogs swarmed to force 21 turnovers. Georgia was outclassed Saturday
at Missouri, which outscored the Bulldogs 32-12 in the paint. Youthful
Georgia has used 11 different starting lineups in 17 games this season.

14. LSU (9-6, 0-4)

The
Tigers are the only SEC team yet to win a league game under first-year
head coach Johnny Jones, the former North Texas and Memphis head coach.
Sophomore forward Johnny Bryant III notched his fourth double-double of
the season in the loss at Georgia. Sophomore guard Anthony Hickey has
scored in double figures in seven straight games. In the overtime loss
to South Carolina, an errant 16-foot jumper by O’Bryant could have won
the game for the Tigers in regulation.