SEC Power Rankings (01/17/21): Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Miss State trend up; Hogs down

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LITTLE ROCK — My weekly SEC Power Rankings (01/17/2021): It’s still early, but not too early to see significant trends as the lines separating the top and bottom halves of the league become less blurry. Nate Oats’ has Alabama basketball — yes, Tide hoops — looking nationally relevant as his program will make a worthy debut in the next Associated Press Top 25 poll that comes out on Monday. ‘Bama, Tennessee, LSU, and Mississippi State remain on upward trajectories while Missouri is in a holding pattern with Arkansas’ stock dropping far and fast.

tie 1. Tennessee (10-1, 4-1 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 3 … the Vols played only one last week — an 81-61 home win over Vanderbilt — as starters John Fulkerson and Jaden Springer combined for 25 points and 15 rebounds with reserves Victory Bailey, Jr., and Keon Johnson contributing a collective 27 points and 6 rebounds … the Vols were to have played a mid-week game at Vandy, but that was postponed … 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 in spades …  the Vols will play at Florida on Tuesday followed by a home game against Missouri on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 1.

tie 1. Alabama (11-3, 6-0 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 19 … the Tide were dominant last week with a 20-point win at Kentucky in Rupp and a 31-point home win against Arkansas on Saturday … ‘Bama is perimeter filthy-rich as John Petty, Jr., Jaden Shackelford, Herbert Jones, Joshua Primo, and Jahvon Quinerly are picking and choosing how they dismatle opposing backcourts … it remains to be seen how or if the loss of senior big man Jordan Bruner (meniscus injury, out 4-6 weeks) has a negative impact in upcoming games, but it was a zero factor in the Tide’s 90-59 demolition of the Hogs on Saturday … ‘Bama plays at LSU on Tuesday before coming home to host Mississippi State on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 2.

3. Missouri (8-2, 2-2 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 25 … the Tigers played only once last week — a 68-52 road win over Texas A&M — after an 11-day layoff between games … Dru Smith, Jeremiah Tilmon, and Javon Pickett combined for 41 points, 18 rebounds, and 9 assists in the win as the Tigers improved to an impressive 4-1 away from home … Mizzou comes home to host South Carolina on Tuesday before going back on the road for a rematch against Tennessee on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 3.

4. LSU (10-2, 5-1 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 22 … the Tigers went 2-0 last week with home wins over Arkansas and South Carolina … LSU is only 10 points away from beaing unbeaten as two 4-point road losses (St. Louis and Florida) serve as the only blemishes on the Tigers resume … despite an ankle injury suffered against Ole Miss three games ago, star freshman guard Cam Thomas — the league’s leading scorer — averaged 21.0 points in the wins over the Hogs and Gamecocks … Thomas plus the veteran and talented trio of Trendon Watford, Javonte Smart, and Darius Days continues to make LSU a prolific scoring and matchup problem for opponents … the Tigers host Alabama on Tuesday before going on the road to play Kentuckly on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 4.

5. Mississippi State (9-5, 4-2 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 86 … the ‘Dogs split games last week — a one-point home loss against Texas A&M followed by a 3-point home win over Florida … as good as the backcourts are in Knoxville, Tuscaloosa, and Baton Rouge, the guard tandem that Ben Howland has in Starkville — DJ Stewart and Iverson Molinar — might be the best in the SEC as the duo ranks among the top 7 scorers in the SEC … transfer forward Tolu Smith had a monster 27-point and 14-rebound game in MSU’s win over the Gators on Saturday … the Bulldogs will host a third consecutive game in Starkville against in-state rival Ole Miss on Tuesday before going on the road to play Alabama on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 8.

6. Florida (6-4, 3-3 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 46 … the Gators split games last week — a 72-63 home win over Ole Miss followed by a 72-69 road loss against Mississippi State … Florida has been mediocre since the loss of preseason SEC Player of the Year Keyontae Johnson as well as the recent absence of guard Scottie Lewis, still the Gators are in the thick of positioning themselves for an eventual NCAA tournament at-large bid … junior guard Tyree Appleby of Jacksonville, Ark., started and had a team-high 20 points in the loss against MSU … the Gators host Tennessee on Tuesday before playing at Georgia on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 6.

7. South Carolina (3-3, 1-1 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 69 … the Gamecocks played only once last week — a hard-fought 85-80 road loss against LSU … versatile and veteran wings AJ Lawson and Keyshawn Bryant combined for 48 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists in the loss, and Lawson averaged 26.0 points in the Gamecocks’ two league games … USC-E hasn’t played much this season, but a close call in Baton Rouge plus a 24-point thrashing of Texas A&M last week are a couple of signs of yet another feisty, physical, and competitive Frank Martin squad … Carolina is scheduled to play at Missouri on Tuesday before hosting Auburn on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 9.

tie 8. Kentucky (4-8, 3-2 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 97 … so much for a 3-0 start to league play serving as a worthy mouthwash to forget a 1-6 run in non-conference play as Big Blue suffered back-to-back losses last week — 85-65 at home against ‘Bama and 66-59 at Auburn … 7-foot Wake Forest transfer Olivier Sarr slipped back into anemic production last week while the ‘Cats backcourt also resumed its inconsistent, poor-shooting play …  Kentucky plays at Georgia on Wednesday before hosting LSU on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 7.

tie 8. Arkansas (10-4, 2-4 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 36 … no league team has fallen as far or fast as the Razorbacks … Arkansas lost twice last week — by a combined margin of 47 points at LSU and at Alabama — as the deficits swelled to 30-plus-points at various stages in both games … the Hogs have lost 4 of their last 5 contests, with three of those defeats by an average losing margin of 20.0 points … freshman Moses Moody of Little Rock was the lone bright spot against ‘Bama on Saturday as he notched a career-high 28 points to go with 9 rebounds in 34 minutes … Arkansas has looked out of sync and lacking confidence at both ends of the floor … the Hogs host Auburn on Wednesday before going back on the road to play at Vanderbilt on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 5.

10. Auburn (8-6, 2-4 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 80 … the young Tigers were free-falling with four straight losses at the start of league play before adding uber-talented freshman guard Sharife Cooper, who averaged 19.5 points. 10.0 assists, and 4.0 rebounds as Auburn swept the week with back-to-back wins over Georgia and Kentucky … sophomore wing Allen Flanigan of Little Rock authored a career-high 21 points to go with 9 rebounds in the Tigers’ 66-59 win over Kentucky on Saturday … talented freshman guard Justin Powell (concussion protocol) was still out the lineup last week … the Tigers play at Arkansas on Wednesday and at South Carolina on Saturday … previous ranking: tie No. 12.

11. Texas A&M (7-5, 2-4 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 119 … the Aggies got a nice road win, 56-55, at Mississippi State in the mid-week before getting clobbered at home, 68-52, on Saturday … look no further than sophomore forward Emanuel Miller (15.9 points and 7.9 rebounds) to find the one consistent performer for Buzz Williams’ second Aggies squad … A&M plays at Vanderbilt on Wednesday and at Ole Miss on Saturday … previous ranking: tie No. 12.

12. Georgia (8-4, 1-4 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 99 … the Bulldogs picked up their first league win at Ole Miss, 78-74, on Saturday after getting drummed at home by Auburn, 95-77, in their mid-week game … talented freshman guard K.D. Johnson made his debut last week for Georgia and averaged 17.5 points in the two games, while sophomores Toumani Camara and Sahvir Wheeler continue to give the ‘Dogs a chance to turn things around in league play … Georgia will host Kentucky on Wednesday before playing at South Carolina on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 11.

13. Ole Miss (6-6, 1-4 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 85 … OM was swept last week — 72-63 at Florida and 78-74 against Georgia in Oxford — as year three under Kermit Davis is shaping up much like year two did after a promising debut campaign in ’18-19 … star senior guard Devontae Shuler averaged 21.5 points and 5.5 assists in the losses last week … Ole Miss plays at in-state rival Mississippi State on Tuesday before hosting Texas A&M on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 10.

14. Vanderbilt (4-6, 0-4 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 178 … the Commordores have unfortunately grown accustomed to life in the SEC basement, and a 20-point loss at Tennessee in Vandy’s lone game last week did not offer much encouragement that the winds of change will soon be blowing through Nashville … sophomore guard Scotty Pippen, Jr., is having an all-league season (21.2 points and 5.3 assists per game) while 6-9 sophomore Dylan Disu has been productive, averaging 13.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game … the ‘Dores are set to host Texas A&N on Wednesday before hosting Arkansas on Saturday …previous ranking: No. 14.

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