SEC Power Rankings (2/8/21): ‘Bama no longer league unbeaten, Nos. 2-10 close

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LITTLE ROCK — My weekly SEC Power Rankings(2/8/2021): Alabama clawed back from 20-plus-points down but fell short at Missouri on Saturday as the last league-unbeaten finally tasted defeat, and the Nos. 2-10 teams in the league standings have, at most, only 2.5 games between them in the win-loss columns. Only Bama, Mizzou, and Tennessee have resumes that are clearly on track to land them in the NCAA tournament with Florida closing in on the same, while both LSU and Arkansas are on the Bubble with opportunities to shore up likely at-large bids before the SEC tournament.

1. Alabama (15-5, 10-1 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 9 … unlike the Football Tide, the ‘Bama hoopers are not invincible as the team split league games last week while having lost 2 of their last 3 games counting a defeat in the recent SEC / Big 12 Challenge … the Tide rolled up LSU, 78-60, in their mid-week game before losing on the road in a thriller, 68-65, against Mizzou … ‘Bama’s typically reliable volume three-point game has hit some efficiency deficiencies of late, but sophomore guard Jaden Shackleford provided consistent production last week with averages of 17.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists … with a 3-game lead in the loss column and only 7 games remaining, the Tide are closing in on a rare SEC basketball regular-season title in Tuscaloosa … ‘Bama plays at South Carolina on Tuesday before hosting Georgia on Saturday … previous ranking: tie No. 1. 

2. Missouri (13-3, 6-3 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 25 … the Tigers all of a sudden are on a roll with 3 consecutive wins all at home — albeit by close winning margins — as they defeated Kentucky by 5 points and Alabama by 3 points last week after beating TCU in overtime in the SEC / Big 12 Challenge the week before … the veteran guard trio of Dru Smith, Xavier Pinson, and Mark Smith combined for 88 points, 24 rebounds, and 17 assists in the two wins last week … the Tigers have the best combination of veteran depth in the league, so it comes as no surprise this team is prepared for the grind of the second half of SEC play … only 2 games behind ‘Bama in the loss column and with a head-to-head win over the Tide in the teams’ only matchup of the season, Mizzou is in reasonable range of winning the regular-season league title … the Tigers will play at Ole Miss on Wednesday before hosting Arkansas on Saturday … previous ranking:No. 4.

3. Tennessee (13-4, 6-4 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 10 … the Vols have been on a bit of a roller-coaster lately, going 0-2 three weeks ago, 2-0 week before last, then 1-1 last week with an unexpected 52-50 road loss against Ole Miss before a come-from-behind, 82-71 road win over Kentucky … freshmen guards Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer went off on the Wildcats for a combined 50 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists … Rick Barnes is looking for more consistency from his team that has an overall impressive resume, but catching ‘Bama for the top of the league standings has become less likely for these enigmatic Vols … Tennessee had its mid-week game at Florida postponed and will play at LSU on Saturday … previous ranking: tie No. 2.

4. Florida (10-5, 6-4 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 31 … the Gators had their 4-game winning streak halted with a disappointing 72-66 home loss against South Carolina in a mid-week game before having their Saturday tilt at LSU postponed … guards Tre Mann and Noah Locke held up their end against the Gamecocks with a combined 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists, but guards Scottie Lewis and Tyree Appleby (Jacksonville, Ark.) struggled for a collective 7 points on 2-of-13 field goal shooting … the Gators will have a second-consecutive game postponed and will not play at Tennessee in the mid-week but they are still slated to host Texas A&M on Saturday … previous ranking:tie No. 2.

5. LSU (11-6, 6-4 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 42 … the Tigers lost their only game played last week — 78-60 at Alabama — as the team has dropped 4 of its last 5 games … guards Cam Thomas and Javonte Smart continue to produce — Thomas, the league’s leading scorer, had 22 points against the Tide while Smart finished with 14  … sophomore Trendon Watford has been in a bit of a slump of late (only 9 points on 3-of-13 shooting against ‘Bama), and talented junior forward Darius Days did not play against the Tide … the Tigers do not have a signature win on the season, nor do they have a consistent defense to complement their worthy offense … this is Bubble team for now in serious danger of having it burst if it can’t turn things around quickly … LSU is set to play at Mississippi State on Wednesday before hosting Tennessee on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 5.

6. Arkansas (14-5, 6-4 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 30 … the Hogs won their only game last week — 61-45 at home against Mississippi State in a turnover-fest — as they have now won 4 consecutive league games, but Arkansas’ resume lacks a single win over a team ranked in the NCAA NET Top 60 with their best win being on the road against a 10-10 Auburn squad that is 3 games below .500 in league play … the Razorbacks forced an SEC high-water-mark of 26 turnovers against MSU and got 13 points each from Connor Vanover and Moses Moody while senior combo forward Justin Smith recorded his second double-double of the season (10 points and 10 rebounds) … as good as Arkansas’ NET and other analytics look on paper, this is a Bubble team and it’s hard to imagine the Razorbacks making the NCAAT with ZERO NET Top 50 wins (if it were to play out that way) … the Hogs are set to play at Kentucky on Tuesday and at Missouri on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 6.

tie 7. Georgia (12-6, 5-6 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 100 … the Bulldogs had a 2-0 week, winning 91-86 at Auburn before edging out Vanderbilt, 73-70, at home on Saturday … led by sophomore forward Toumani Camara’s 15 points and 12 rebounds, Georgia had 6 players score in double figures in the road win over Auburn, then it was sophomore point guard Sahvir Wheeler who flirted with his own double-double as he finished with 16 points and 9 assists to lead the way over the Commodores … the Bulldogs’ NET ranking is nowhere near sniffing Bubble talk for now, but with 2 Quad-1 wins and 4 upcoming Quad-1 opportunities on the horizon there’s at least a sliver of hope for a team that has won 3 consecutive games … the ‘Dogs had their mid-week game at Texas A&M postponed and will next play at Alabama on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 9.

tie 7. Ole Miss (10-8, 5-6 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 64 … OM had a strong week going 2-0 — a Quad-1 home win over No. 11 Tennessee in the mid-week game followed by another Quad-1 win on the road over Auburn on Saturday — as the Rebels have won 4 out of their last 6 games … as expected, senior guard Devontae Shuler came through (41 points and 13 rebounds combined in the two wins), while Arizona State transfer forward Romello White played well in both games, including unleashing a 30-point, 10-rebound monster at Auburn … unlike Georgia, OM has a NET ranking that is not unreasonably out of striking distance of Bubble talk … Ole Miss hosts Missouri on Wednesday before playing at South Carolina on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 10.

9. Mississippi State (10-8, 5-6 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 73 … the Bulldogs split two games last week — a 61-45 road loss against Arkansas followed by a 75-59 road win over South Carolina — as they have won 2 of their last 3 games … talented sophomore guard duo Iverson Molinar and DJ Stewart struggled against the Hogs (14 combined points on 5-of-14 shooting) but bounced back to combine for 45 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in the win over the Gamecocks … MSU is without a Quad-1 win on the season unless or until Florida moves back into the NET Top 30, and though the ‘Dogs admirably stayed close in games against the like of ‘Bama and Tennessee this looks like a team that will miss out on the NCAAT barring a serious run or winning the SECT title next month … MSU will host LSU on Wednesday and Vanderbilt on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 11.

10. Auburn (10-10, 4-7 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 66 … the young Tigers fell down in a big way last week, losing close home games against Georgia and Ole Miss … Auburn started 0-4 in league play before winning 3 of its next 4 (including a home win over Missouri), only to drop 3 consecutive games … disappointing despite coming during a season in which the Tigers have self-imposed a ban on postseason play as a preemptive strike in anticipation of the NCAA doing the same or worse … freshman guard Sharife Cooper had 19 points and 9 assists against the ‘Dogs before dropping 15 points and 14 assists against the Rebels as he now has season averages of 20.3 points and 8.9 assists … sophomore wing Allen Flanigan of Little Rock continues to have a strong season as he is averaging 14.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.3 steals per game … talented freshman guard Justin Powell (concussion protocol) has been out of the lineup for 5 weeks … Auburn plays at Vanderbilt on Tuesday and at Kentucky on Saturday … previous ranking:No. 7.

11. Kentucky (5-12, 4-6 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 80 … the Wildcats lost both games last week — 75-70 at Mizzou and 82-71 at home against Tennessee — although overall field goal shooting was on an uptick for Big Blue … freshman forward Keion Brooks, Jr., had a nice week with 10 points and 6 rebounds against the Tigers followed by 23 points and 11 rebounds against the Vols … Kentucky’s season has been a true rollercoaster as the ‘Cats started 1-6 in non-conference play before winning their first three league games only to go 1-6 in their last 7 contests … there will be no NCAAT for Kentucky for the first time in 8 seasons unless the Wildcats win the SECT, but that does not mean they won’t do all they can to play spoiler against the rest of the league with plenty of talent to win games … Kentucky hosts Arkansas on Tuesday before hosting Auburn on Saturday … previous ranking: tie No. 8.

12. South Carolina (5-7, 3-5 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 109 … the Gamecocks split games last week — an impressive 72-66 road win over No. 22 Florida before coming home for a 75-59 loss against Mississippi State — as they are 2-5 in their last 7 outings … junior guard AJ Lawson put down a game-high 22 points to go with 8 rebounds in the win over the Gators, then he and fellow junior wing Keyshawn Bryant combined for 26 points in the loss against the Bulldogs … hard to explain a road win over a ranked Florida team sandwiched by losses against Vanderbilt and MSU, but Frank Martin teams are never easy to figure out … Carolina hosts Alabama on Tuesday and Ole Miss on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 12.

13. Texas A&M (8-7, 2-6 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 134 … due to covid-19 protocols, the Aggies paused basketball activities and did play last week as games against Vanderbilt and at Arkansas were postponed … week before last, A&M suffered a 78-66 home loss against LSU followed by a 68-61 road win over Kansas State that snapped a 3-game losing streak … sophomore forward Emanuel Miller is by far the best player for A&M as he averages 14.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game … the Aggies’ mid-week game against Georgia has also been postponed and the team is scheduled to play next at Florida on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 13.

14. Vanderbilt (5-9, 1-7 SEC) … NCAA NET ranking No. 149 … the Commodores played only once last week — a tough 73-70 loss at Georgia on Saturday — after enjoying their first win in league play, 93-81, over South Carolina on Jan. 30  … he’s having an All SEC season, but sophomore point guard Scotty Pippen, Jr., struggled at Georgia and finished with only 12 points on 3-of-12 field goal shooting … Pippen averages 21.0 points, 5.4 assists, and 2.9 rebounds per game, and much like it did last season late in league play Vandy has reasonable hope that it can pick up more wins leading up to the SECT … the ‘Dores are set to host Auburn on Tuesday before playing at Mississippi State on Saturday …previous ranking:No. 14.

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