SEC Power Rankings (01/11/21): Alabama among 3 league unbeatens but Vols on top

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LITTLE ROCK — My weekly SEC Power Rankings(01/11/2021): We’ll pump the breaks on suggesting that Nate Oates’ Alabama basketball squad must be drinking from same water cooler as the No. 1-ranked Football Crimson Tide, but the Tide hoopers thus far have gone unscathed in SEC play with Kentucky and South Carolina joining them among the ranks of the league’s unbeaten. Still, No. 9 Tennessee remains atop the power rankings as the rest of the league goes through a significant rankings makeover. The league has five teams ranked in the top 30 of the NCAA NET rankings (as of Monday, Jan. 11, 2021), but there is quite a dropoff from there as the remaining nine league teams are ranked between Nos. 55 and 174. 

1. Tennessee (9-1, 3-1 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 3 … the Vols outscored Arkansas by 12 points in the second half to erase a 7-point halftime deficit while turning the Hogs over 20 times in the game for a plus-15 advantage in both giveaways and points-off-turnovers, and Tennessee followed that up with a convincing 68-54 road win over Texas A&M on Saturday … one sign of a good team is balanced scoring at one end and a versatile, stingy defense at the other, a combination that Tennessee possesses …  the Vols have back-to-back games against in-state rival Vanderbilt this week, playing the ‘Dores on the road on Tuesday and at home on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 1.

2. Alabama (9-3, 4-0 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 29 … the Tide the talk of the SEC with four consecutive wins — including a 7-point road victory over Tennessee — to open league play … last week, the Tide crushed Florida, 86-71, at home before going on the road to edge out in-state rival Auburn, 94-90 … ‘Bama is guard rich as John Petty, Jr., Jaden Shackelford, and Joshua Primo have taken turns picking up the slack with Villanova-transfer Jahvon Quinnerly missing both games last week … the Tide go on the road to play Kentucky on Tuesday in a matchup of league unbeatens before coming home to host Arkansas on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 4. 

3. Missouri (7-2, 1-2 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 25 … the Tigers saw their 12-point lead evaporate at upstart Mississippi State in a 15-point loss in their only game last week … a 20-point home loss against Tennessee and a 13-point road win over Arkansas make for a roller-coaster start to league play following a non-confernce in which Mizzou knocked off ranked teams in Oregon and Illinois … the Smiths (Dru, Mark, and Mitchell), Xavier Pinson, Jeremiah Tilmon, Kobe Brown, and Javon Pickett give the Tigers proven veteran depth … the Tigers play at Texas A&M on Saturday in their only game of the week … previous ranking: No. 2.

4. LSU (8-2, 3-1 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 22 … the Tigers went 2-0 last week, but freshman guard Cam Thomas — the league’s leading scorer — went down with an ankle injury early in a 75-61 road win over Ole Miss on Saturday and is thought to be questionable moving into this week’s slate of games … the Tigers outpointed Georgia earlier in the week, 94-92, at home … Ja’Vonte Smart, Trendon Watfiord, and Darius Days are talented and proven producers, but if Thomas misses games it will certainly take some punch out of LSU’s high-octane offense … guard Charles Manning, Jr., left the team and entered the transfer portal last week … the Tigers host Arkansas on Wednesday and South Carolina on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 5.

5. Arkansas (10-2, 2-2 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 20 … the Hogs shot and rebounded well while scoring more points (74) on then-No. 9 Tennessee than any other team has managed so far in ’20-21 but came up just short, losing by 5 points on the road … Arkansas came home to Fayetteville to end its 2-game skid as the Razorbacks pummeled Georgia by 30 points, 99-69, with the freshmen trio of Moses Moody, Davonte “Devo” Davis, and Jaylin Williams combining for 47 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, 4 steals, and 1 block while having the top 3 boxscore plus/minus numbers on the team … senior grad-transfer Vacne Jackson, Jr., has admirably helped fill the void left when fellow senior grad-transfer Justin Smith went down with a foot injury on Jan. 2, requiring surgery and a 3-6 week recovery period … the Hogs play two games on the road this week — at LSU on Wednesday and at Alabama on Saturday … previous ranking:No. 6.

6. Florida (5-3, 2-2 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 55 … the Gators not only lost both games last week, they were roughed up — 86-71 on the road against ‘Bama and 76-58 at home against Kentucky … Florida is getting inconsistent play from its backcourt, with the exception of Jacksonville, Ark., native Tyree Appleby who totaled 28 points in the two defeats … defensively, Florida layed an egg against a Kentucky team that has struggled mightily on the offensive end of the floor all season … the Gators host Ole Miss on Tuesday before playing at Mississippi State on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 3.

7. Kentucky (4-6, 3-0 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 88 … no looking back for the ‘Cats as a 6-game losing streak is in the rear-view mirror and in the long shadow of a 3-0 start to league play … Big Blue edged Vanderbilt at home, 77-74, before going on the road and having its best game of the season in a 76-58 win over Florida … 7-foot Wake Forest transfer Olivier Sarr has snapped out of his funk and averaged 17.0 points in the two wins, while guard play has also picked up … for the first time this season, Kentucky moves back into the top half of the power rankings … the ‘Cats host Alabama on Tuesday before playing at Auburn on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 10.

8. Mississippi State (8-4, 3-1 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 81 … the Bulldogs are right behind ‘Bama in terms of a head-turning start to league play … MSU won both of its league games last week — 78-63 over then-No. 13 Missouri and 84-81 on the road against Vandy — as the Bulldogs have won 8 of their last 10 games after starting the season 0-2 … guards DJ Stewart and Iverson Molinar make up arguably the top backcourt duo in the SEC, while big man Tolu Smith offers frontline scoring and rebounding … the Bulldogs host two games this week — Texas A&M on Wednesday and Florida on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 11.

9. South Carolina (3-2, 1-0 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 75 … the Gamecocks haven’t played much this season, but they are finally on the board in league play with a 24-point thrashing of Texas A&M last week … junior guard AJ Lawson went off for 30 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists in the victory … Carolina has played only twice since Dec. 5 … the Gamecocks are scheduled to play only once this week — at LSU on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 13.

10. Ole Miss (6-4, 1-2 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 65 … OM played only once last week — a 75-61 home loss against LSU … senior guard Devonate Shuler was shut down in that game (2 points on 0-of-9 field goal shooting) while Arizona State grad-transfer forward Romello White didn’t fare much better (4 ppoints and 3 rebounds) … OM plays at Florida on Tuesday before hosting Georgia on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 12.

11. Georgia (7-3, 0-3 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 86 … the Bulldogs were close at LSU, losing a 94-92 heartbreaker on the road, before getting hammered by 30 points at Arkansas … sophomore Toumani Camara and Sahvir Wheeler are the straws that stir the drink in Athens, but Georgia is still looking for its first league win after running through the non-conference portion of the season unbeaten … the ‘Dogs host fellow league-winless Auburn on Wednesday before playing at Ole Miss on Saturday … previous ranking:No. 8.

tie 12. Texas A&M (6-4, 1-3 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 122 … the Aggies were twice beaten (convincingly) last week — by 24 points on the road against South Carolina and by 14 points at home against then-No. 9 Tennessee — and in both contests A&M was stuck on 54 points … a lack of scoring punch in College Station is nothing new this season, but sophomore forward Emanuel Miller has been a bright spot (17.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game) … the Aggies play at Mississippi State on Wednesday before hosting Missouri on Saturday … previous ranking:No. 7.

tie 12. Auburn (6-6, 0-4 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 90 … the young Tigers are free-falling since the start of league play … relatively close losses doesn’t ease the sting for a program that has flourished under Bruce Pearl … maybe freshman sensation Sharife Cooper will make a difference, because he certainly opened eyes after dropping 26 points, 9 assists, and 4 rebounds in his ’20-21 debut on Saturday in a 94-90 home loss against ‘Bama … Auburn also lost at Ole Miss last week, 72-61 … the Tigers play at Georgia on Wednesday before returning home to host Kentucky on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 9.

No. 14. Vanderbilt (4-5, 0-3 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 174 … the Commordores were oh-so close but lost twice last week to league unbeatens by a combined margin of 6 points — 77-74 at Kentucky and 84-81 at home against Mississippi State … sophomore guard Scotty Pippen, Jr., is having an all-league season (21.6 points and 5.8 assists per game) while 6-9 sophomore Dylan Disu has been productive, averaging 12.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game … the ‘Dores are set to play Tennessee twice this week — at home on Tuesday and on the road on Saturday …previous ranking: No. 14.

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