SEC Power Rankings: Gators start strong
There is early separation among the contenders and pretenders just one week into league play in what might well be the weakest SEC from top to bottom in many years.
Here’s an updated look at the SEC Power Rankings:
1. Florida (11-2, 2-0)
To start this week with RPI matching their No. 10 national ranking, the Gators blew through league-opening opponents Georgia at home and LSU on the road last week by a combined average margin of 27.5 points per game. But by the time the LSU blowout was over, a second Gator, junior forward Casey Prather, would be sidelined with an ankle sprain. Senior Mike Rosario is expected back from his sprain in time for a road trip to Texas A&M. The six-man rotation worked, though. Senior guard Kenny Boynton scored 20 points in 35 minutes.
2. Ole Miss (13-2, 2-0)
Yes, the Rebels, who put together the best two wins to open SEC play, beating Tennessee convincingly on the road and returning home Saturday to smack then-No. 10 Missouri around a bit with a 15-point win. Outside of Florida and Missouri, the Rebels are the only other SEC team to receive votes in the AP Top 25 poll this week, and they are still only 63rd in the current RPI. Juco transfer guard Marshall Henderson had a career-high 32 against UT, and the SEC’s leading scorer enjoyed telling the UT home crowd about it, too.
3. Missouri (12-3, 1-1)
While the Tigers have a stronger national ranking at No. 17 and much better RPI at 25 than Ole Miss, they still can’t be placed ahead of a team that just blew them out. In rebuttal, Mizzou fans will relate leading scorer Laurence Bowers was out, and will be for a few games, with a sprained MCL. The Tigers must fill the void and quick, considering they play Saturday at Florida.
4. Texas A&M (12-3, 2-0)
Welcome to the SEC. Like their football brethren did by winning at iconic Alabama, the Aggies strolled into Kentucky’s vaunted Rupp Arena for the first time as league member and strolled out with an 83-71 win. Senior guard Elston Turner, son of the former Ole Miss star and NBA player, put on a shooting exhibition with 40 points, third-most ever at Rupp. Their RPI is still only 65 to start the week, though.
5. Kentucky (10-5, 1-1)
The year’s model of heralded freshmen is maturing at the amazing pace of, well, freshmen. Seems the jet stream the last two incoming classes latched onto for a national title last year and Final Four visit the year prior has avoided these mild Cats. They nearly blew a 16-point second-half lead at struggling Vanderbilt and got dissed at home by Texas A&M. Consistent guard play from freshmen Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin will eventually decide how deep UK runs come March. It hasn’t happened thus far.
6. Arkansas (10-5, 1-1)
A week of SEC play didn’t tell us much more about the Razorbacks that hadn’t been already discerned from pre-league play. After losing by 16 at Texas A&M, Arkansas throttled hapless Vanderbilt 56-33 at home. Junior forward Marshawn Powell went 8-for-9 to tie Corliss Williamson’s 1993 team record for field goal percentage in a game. Just midway through his sophomore season, guard B.J. Young already has 39 double-digit scoring games.
7. Alabama (9-6, 1-1)
Junior guard Trevor Releford scored 26 points at Missouri to go over 1,000 for his career, but the Crimson Tide fell predictably for their sixth loss in eight games. That made the home opener Saturday against Tennessee even more crucial in a match of similar teams seemingly already fighting for NCAA tourney scraps. Defense has been an issue for the Tide in recent years, but three straight forced turnovers late in the game made the difference against UT.
8. Auburn (8-7, 2-0)
Stop the presses. The Tigers are 2-0 in league play for the first time in 10 years, albeit over also-rans LSU and South Carolina. Still, wins are wins, and they have won three in a row and six of their last eight. Beating likewise lower-rung SEC teams from which you are trying to separate is key for third-year coach Tony Barbee. The Tigers do have a strong senior class led by Frankie Sullivan, who had 17 against the Gamecocks, Rob Chubb and Josh Wallace.
9. Mississippi State (7-7, 2-0)
Despite missing all 10 3-point shots and trailing by six with 5 minutes to play, the Bulldogs somehow went on an 8-0 run to steal the league home opener over South Carolina. They then went to Georgia and won by 11. Rookie coach Rick Ray, the former Clemson assistant, has no returning starters from last year’s 21-win team that wasn’t good enough to let veteran coach Rick Stansbury keep his job.
10. Tennessee (8-6, 0-2)
At least the Volunteers showed some life at Alabama after suffering their worst home-loss in four seasons to Ole Miss in the league opener. The Vols have to move past the notion of not having injured senior forward Jeronne Maymon for the season. And where is sophomore forward Jernell Stokes, the lauded Memphis prep recruit who joined the team in mid-season last year? Sure, he misses Maymon on the other side down low, but he has to score more than 11.2 points per game for the Vols to win consistently.
11. LSU (9-4, 0-2)
LSU navigated pre-league play solidly, but didn’t bring it into the first week of the SEC with uninspiring losses at Auburn and at home against Florida, starting 0-2 in league play for the first time in three seasons. Quality depth, or lack thereof, reared its ugly head, especially against Florida. The Tigers scored their season lows in the last two games.
12. South Carolina (10-5, 0-2)
As head coach at Kansas State for five seasons, Frank Martin won an average of 23.4 games per season and made four NCAA tourney visits. His reclamation program for the Gamecocks will take a while, although the backcourt is solid led by junior point guard Bruce Ellington, the two-sport standout (along with football) who had a season-high 18 points in the loss to Auburn.
13. Vanderbilt (6-8, 0-2)
With sophomore guard Kedren Johnson the only Commodore with any discernible returning experience, the Commodores figured to be in rebuilding mode. But after a miserable first half against visiting Kentucky, Vandy did rally to take the lead and have a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win it go awry. Coach Kevin Stallings cried foul when a late shot by UK’s Noel appeared to have not beaten the shot clock in a key play. That inexperience raised its ugly head in the loss to Arkansas, where Vandy scored only 33 points for the second time this season. Making matters worse, Johnson is nursing a sore shoulder and his status this week is questionable.
14. Georgia (6-9, 0-2)
In three seasons at Georgia, coach Mark Fox won 50 games. But the Bulldogs appear to be in full-blown rebuilding mode with early departures to the NBA by Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie two seasons ago and the graduation of Gerald Robinson and Dustin Ware. That outflow of talent may have been too much for the Bulldogs to handle, although they had won four games in a row prior to opening league play. In sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia has one of the league’s top offensive threats. He had led the Bulldogs in scoring every game but one.