SEC Power Rankings: Florida still at No. 1

No Southeastern Conference team has gotten closer than 17 points in six games against Florida, which enters this week ranked No. 4 in the country, following two more blowout victories.

Ole Miss rises to No. 16 nationally, but the Rebels had to earn both victories last week. No. 17 Missouri seems to have righted the ship with two good wins.

But after that, several teams are eagerly positioning for NCAA tournament worthiness in a year the SEC might only get three teams get into The Big Dance.

That includes defending national champion Kentucky, which lost at Alabama and finds itself currently on the outside looking into the NCAA tourney, according to several noted bracketologists.

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

1. Florida (16-2, 6-0)

While his numbers don’t jump off the page, junior guard Scottie Wilbekin was named league player of the week nonetheless. He matched a career-best 17 points versus Georgia and then had 13 points and nine assists in a 35-point blowout at Mississippi State. He is second in the SEC in assists (5.1 per game) and turnover-to-assist ratio (2.16) and 10th in steals (1.8).

Wilbekin and fellow Gator guard Kenny Boynton were on the early watch list for Bob Cousy College Point Guard of the Year.

2. Ole Miss (17-2, 6-0)

The Rebels weren’t exactly overpowering in a close win at home over Tennessee and a narrow escape at Auburn, but they still boast the best start in program history. Seven-year coach Andy Kennedy needs only two victories to tie former Rebels coach B.L. Martin as the program’s all-time wins leader (144).

On Tuesday night, the Rebels can win a record seventh SEC game in a row, but it won’t come easily as Kentucky comes calling. Junior guard Marshall Henderson, the league’s top scorer, had 24 of 28 points against UT in the second half, and he hit two game-winning free throws at Auburn.

3. Missouri (15-4, 4-2)

Even without injured leading scorer Lawrence Bowers (knee), the Tigers are still doing what the best teams do — taking care of business at home. At 12-0, Missouri joins Florida and Ole Miss as the only SEC teams without a home loss.

Despite a recent swoon, Saturday’s home crowd of 15,061 (rout of Vanderbilt) was Missouri’s largest of the season. The Tigers outrebounded the Commodores 40-18 in the 22-point win. Head coach Frank Haith has lost only one of 28 games at Mizzou Arena.

4. Alabama (12-7, 4-2)

The Crimson Tide made the most of a nationally televised visit by Kentucky (last Tuesday) to post a 59-55 win. In outscoring the Wildcats 35-22 in the second half, Alabama has now shot a combined 55.8 percent in the second half of its last four games. The Tide committed a season-low six turnovers in the win over UK.

Trailing by one point late in Saturday’s loss at Tennessee, Alabama guard Trevor Lacey received contact from Vols defender Jarnell Stokes on a possible game-winning shot, but no foul was called.

5. Kentucky (13-6, 4-2)

Hard to imagine the defending national champions not making the NCAA Tournament, but the Wildcats need to start building their resume within a conference that is down. After losing at Alabama, Kentucky nearly lost to lowly LSU at home. But the win might have been the coming-out party for promising freshman forward Alex Poythress, who had his first career double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

On Monday, Kentucky and North Carolina announced a two-year, home-and-home series, with UNC playing host next season before playing at UK the following season.

6. Arkansas (12-7, 3-3)

It’s one step forward and one step back for the Razorbacks under second-year coach Mike Anderson, the former Missouri and UAB head coach and longtime Razorbacks assistant under the legendary Nolan Richardson. After blowing out Mississippi State at home, the Razorbacks fell by 21 at lowly South Carolina. Junior forward Marshawn Powell had 22 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.

The Razorbacks forced 29 turnovers and had 11 blocked shots in the win over Mississippi State, the school’s second-best, single-game production for those categories in SEC play.

7. Tennessee (10-8, 2-4)

Talented sophomore Jarnell Stokes is finally exerting his way, notching 15 points and a career-high 18 rebounds in the one-point win over Alabama. His defense on Tide guard Trevor Lacey in the closing seconds helped preserve the win. Vols second-year coach Cuonzo Martin joined fellow coaches around the country Saturday in the “Suits and Sneakers” incentive to help fight cancer.

Martin is a cancer survivor and has been in remission since 1998 after a bout with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. UT has held the opposition to less than 60 points in three straight games.

8. Texas A&M (12-7, 2-4)

After opening league play with a home win over Arkansas and an eye-opening win at Kentucky, the Aggies have dropped four straight SEC games. That includes an unsettling home loss Saturday to lowly Georgia, in which A&M shot 34.7 percent from the floor and trailed by as many as 17 points. They did make it a one-possession game, but still couldn’t close out the Bulldogs.

Conversely, Texas A&M couldn’t make an early 19-5 lead stand up in a 58-54 loss to LSU, which forced the Aggies to commit 24 turnovers. During the losing streak, Texas A&M has tried to notch its 1,300th victory.

9. Vanderbilt (8-10, 2-4)

The Commodores had won a modest two games in a row before getting outclassed Saturday at Missouri. Junior forward Rod Odom matched his career high of 17 points, and needs to step up to take the pressure off sophomore do-all guard Kedren Johnson, who didn’t score in the first half against the Tigers but still ended up with 11.

Despite entering the Jan. 23 win at Auburn as the second-worst free throw shooting team in the country at 57.2 percent, Vandy made 24-of-30 free throws to secure the win. The Commodores also got a season-high 30 points off the bench.

10. South Carolina (12-7, 2-4)

The Gamecocks went on a 40-11 run to close the first half in its 75-54 spanking of Arkansas to get their first home league win. Junior guard Brian Richardson came off the bench to notch 20 points and six rebounds. It was the largest SEC margin of victory for South Carolina since a 21-point win over Kentucky on Feb. 25, 2009.

The Gamecocks outrebounded the Hogs 42-26, the largest margin in SEC play this season. South Carolina lost by only six points earlier in the week at nationally ranked Missouri.

11. Georgia (8-11, 2-4)

Behind 22 points and a key 3-pointer from sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Bulldogs got their first road win of the season at Texas A&M. Nine different Bulldogs scored in the win. Although it was a 17-point home loss to Florida, the Bulldogs got closer to beating the Gators than any of Florida’s five previous SEC opponents.

Georgia actually led by three points at halftime before Florida opened the second half with a 21-4 run. Only Caldwell-Pope (16 points) scored in double figures for the Bulldogs.


12. Auburn (8-11, 2-4)

After opening SEC play 2-0 for the first time in more than a decade, the Tigers have lost four straight league games. After a lackluster loss at Vanderbilt, the Tigers returned home to face Ole Miss and fell by two points after leading by as many as 10.

Senior guard Frankie Sullivan, a graduate student, is second in the SEC in scoring at 16.9 points per game. He graduated in December 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology after only 3 ½ years of college. Auburn and Georgia play Wednesday for the 178th time with Georgia leading the series by one game, 89-88.

13. Mississippi State (7-11, 2-4)

Like Texas A&M and Auburn, the Bulldogs opened SEC play with two wins but have lost four straight since. But unlike those two, Mississippi State has not been competitive, losing the four games by an average margin of 22 points per game. State was outrebounded 44-20 while bottoming out with a 35-point home loss Saturday to Florida. In a 26-point loss at Arkansas, the Bulldogs fumbled their way to a season-high 29 turnovers.

14. LSU (10-7, 1-5)

At the least, the Tigers won’t go winless in SEC play this season, getting off the schneid with a four-point home win over Texas A&M, which committed a season-high 24 turnovers, thanks to LSU’s full-court pressure.

Even so, the Tigers had to overcome a 14-point deficit. Bolstered with the confidence from its first league win, LSU nearly upset Kentucky on the road Saturday. Sophomore forward Johnny O’Bryant III matched a career high with 21 points.