Tide and Vols look like SEC’s top squads

Grant Foree

January 10, 2023 at 12:21 pm.

After one full week of Southeastern Conference play, Alabama and Tennessee look to be the best of the league, while the rest of the league fights for NCAA tournament berths and bragging rights.

Now that we have an easy way to compare teams, I’m debuting the “SEC Round-Up,” which will be my weekly breakdown of each team in the conference, as well as my personal power rankings.

The order of teams below reflects their current standing in the Southeastern Conference; the AP Poll is updated every Monday, while KenPom and NET rankings are computerized rankings that update after each game. To evaluate each team’s standings in relation to the NCAA tournament, I include ESPN’s projections by Joe Lunardi. Foree’s Feel is my opinion-based ranking of each team in the SEC, at the time of writing.

Alabama (13-2, 3-0)

  • AP Poll: 4 KenPom: 7 (2nd in SEC) NET: 6 (2nd in SEC) ESPN Bracketology: 1 seed, LOCKED IN Foree’s Feel: 1

Led by freshman Brandon Miller, who has been named the SEC’s “Freshman of the Week” on four different occasions this season, Alabama is one of the best teams in the country. After beating Mississippi State to open conference play in December, the Crimson Tide went 2-0 this week, dominating both Ole Miss and Kentucky in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide travel to Fayetteville, Ark., on Wednesday to battle the Arkansas Razorbacks before returning home to face LSU on Saturday.

Tennessee (13-2, 3-0)

  • AP Poll: 4 KenPom: 2 (1) NET: 2 (1) ESPN Bracketology: 2 seed, LOCKED IN Foree’s Feel: 2

The only reason that I have Tennessee behind Alabama is a bad loss to Colorado in Nashville earlier this season. Colorado has losses to Grambling State and California, some of the country’s worst teams. When Cal defeated Colorado, it made Cal a whopping 2-13 on the season. That being said, it’s not crazy to lose in basketball, so I still think the Vols are one of America’s best. Tennessee won’t light up the scoreboard, but they only allow 52.5 points per game. Tennessee plays a pair of rivalry games this week, welcoming Vanderbilt and Kentucky to Knoxville.

Texas A&M (10-5, 2-0)

  • AP Poll: Not Ranked KenPom: 69 (9) NET: 82 (9) ESPN Bracketology: OUT Foree’s Feel: 9

Texas A&M made a Cinderella run to the SEC title game last year but missed out on the NCAA tournament because of a bad non-conference season. This year is almost the exact same. The Aggies have losses to Murray State, Colorado (SEC slayers, apparently), Boise State, Memphis, and Wofford. However, the Aggies look better through two conference games, beating Florida and LSU. In those two games, A&M turned its opponents over on 26.1% of possessions, leading the SEC in that category. Buzz Williams will take his team (and hopefully their jerseys) to South Carolina on Saturday, after hosting Missouri on Wednesday.

Auburn (13-2, 2-1)

  • AP Poll: Receiving Votes KenPom: 19 (4) NET: 33 (7) ESPN Bracketology: 10 seed, BUBBLE Foree’s Feel: 4

After winning the SEC last year, Auburn was one of the favorites to do it again this year. Bruce Pearl’s Tigers started 8-0 before losing three of their last seven, including a 76-64 loss at Georgia this past week, after narrowly escaping with a win over Florida in December. In its biggest test yet, Auburn beat No. 13 Arkansas on Saturday, 72-59. Auburn battles the state of Mississippi this week, heading to Ole Miss on Tuesday and hosting Mississippi State on Saturday.

Missouri (13-2, 2-1)

  • AP Poll: 20 KenPom: 39 (5) NET: 32 (6) ESPN Bracketology: 7 seed Foree’s Feel: 5

Missouri has been the surprise team of the SEC this season, entering conference play with an 11-1 record, and opening the SEC season with a win over Kentucky. The Tigers have four players who are scoring over 10 points per game and have the league’s best offense, but they have the league’s worst scoring defense, allowing 75.1 points per game. Mizzou went 1-1 this week, losing to Arkansas, 74-68, and narrowly defeating Vanderbilt, 85-82. The Tigers head to Texas A&M and Florida this week.

Georgia (11-4, 1-1)

  • AP Poll: Not Ranked KenPom: 93 (12) NET: 119 (13) ESPN Bracketology: OUT Foree’s Feel: 12

Georgia has been one of the worst teams in the SEC over the last few seasons, but it looks to be a bit better this year. In non-conference play, the Bulldogs beat Notre Dame and Chattanooga but lost to Wake Forest, UAB and Georgia Tech. After beating Auburn on Wednesday, head coach Mike White faced his former team, Florida, in a game that Georgia dropped, 82-75. As the Bulldogs’ fight to win a first-round bye in the conference tournament continues, they will host Mississippi State and travel to Ole Miss this week.

Vanderbilt (8-7, 1-1)

  • AP Poll: Not Ranked KenPom: 98 (13) NET: 115 (12) ESPN Bracketology: OUT Foree’s Feel: 11

Without Scottie Pippen Jr., Vanderbilt has struggled to find consistency this season. The Commodores have played well enough to sit at .500 most of the year, but will need to turn it around if they want to make the NCAA tournament this season. Last week, South Carolina, the unquestionably worst team in the SEC, took Vandy to overtime, before Vandy almost did the same to Missouri. Jerry Stackhouse’s team has a very tough week ahead, as they will take on Tennessee and Arkansas, two of the league’s best teams.

Arkansas (12-3, 1-2)

  • AP Poll: 15 KenPom: 10 (3) NET: 16 (3) ESPN Bracketology: 3 seed Foree’s Feel: 3

I haven’t seen enough bad play to move Arkansas from my third spot. The Razorbacks have proven that it’s difficult to win on the road in the SEC, losing at LSU and Auburn. After trailing for most of the game against Missouri, the Hogs found a way to pull away and win. Arkansas is without the number one prospect in the 2022 class, Nick Smith Jr., who is out indefinitely with a knee injury. The Razorbacks get plenty of scoring from Ricky Council IV, who averages 18.1 points per game. I expect Arkansas to finish top-five in the SEC, when it’s all over, and they have a big opportunity to get back in the national conversation as they host Alabama on Wednesday night.

Florida (8-7, 1-2)

  • AP Poll: Not ranked KenPom: 57 (8) NET: 70 (8) ESPN Bracketology: OUT Foree’s Feel: 10

Like Vanderbilt, the Gators have played well enough to win some games, but they haven’t been super impressive. Florida sits in the middle of the SEC in almost every statistical category but leads the conference in free throw percentage. Led by Senior Collin Castleton, the Gators narrowly lost at Auburn to open play, before losing to A&M in a game the Gators led before the opening tip. Florida rebounded well and won its last game against Georgia and the Gators’ last head coach, Mike White. Florida can make its way to the NCAA tournament bubble with an unbeaten week against LSU and Missouri.

Kentucky (10-5, 1-2)

  • AP Poll: Not ranked KenPom: 25 (5) NET: 46 (7) ESPN Bracketology: 7 seed Foree’s Feel: 6

It feels strange to see Kentucky this low. It felt even stranger to see that Alabama beat Kentucky by 29 points in a basketball game. The Wildcats just aren’t what we’re used to seeing in Rupp Arena. While I expect them to turn things around and finish in the top-half of the SEC, right now, they’re one of the worst teams in the league, believe it or not. Kentucky lost at Missouri, before blowing a double-digit lead and almost losing to LSU at home. Then, the Wildcats got run out of Coleman Coliseum, as chants of “Cal to Texas” and “NIT” rained from the Alabama student section. Kentucky got embarrassed. It’ll be interesting to see how Kentucky responds this week as they play South Carolina and visit Tennessee.

LSU (12-3, 1-2)

  • AP Poll: Receiving Votes KenPom: 80 (11) NET: 90 (10) ESPN Bracketology: BUBBLE Foree’s Feel: 8

LSU might be eligible for the NCAA tournament for the final time in the foreseeable future, as the NCAA continues its investigation into the program, which prompted the firing of former head coach Will Wade. The Tigers have been pretty good this season on the court, with all three losses being by less than 15 points. The Tigers opened SEC play with an upset victory over Arkansas, before losing at Kentucky and Texas A&M this past week. Led by KJ Williams on offense, the Tigers can move off the bubble with a win or two this week, as they host Florida and travel to Alabama.

Mississippi State (12-3, 1-2)

  • AP Poll: Receiving Votes KenPom: 46 (7) NET: 44 (6) ESPN Bracketology: LAST FOUR IN Foree’s Feel: 7

Mississippi State started the season 11-0, but has lost three of its last four. The Bulldogs’ hot start was mostly thanks to playing a very easy schedule. Unfortunately for Mississippi State, they started SEC play with Alabama and Tennessee, losing both games by more than ten. The Bulldogs saved their start by beating Ole Miss, 64-54, on Saturday. Starkville is home to one of the SEC’s worst offenses and best defenses, which will keep the Bulldogs in almost every game they play. Mississippi State travels to Georgia and Auburn this week.

Ole Miss (8-7, 0-3)

  • AP Poll: Not ranked KenPom: 78 (10) NET: 94 (11) ESPN Bracketology: OUT Foree’s Feel: 13

Kermit Davis is, without a doubt, on the hot seat. The Rebels started the season 6-0, but have gone 2-7 in their last nine, including a loss to North Alabama, one of the worst teams in the country, according to KenPom. Ole Miss opened SEC play by losing to Tennesse by four, then getting routed by Alabama. The Rebels are in the bottom three of the SEC in scoring offense, scoring margin, field goal percentage, three-point percentage and assists, but have been in all three conference games in the second half. Ole Miss hosts Georgia and Auburn this week.

South Carolina (7-8, 0-2)

  • AP Poll: Not ranked KenPom: 215 (14) NET: 264 (14) ESPN Bracketology: OUT Foree’s Feel: 14

It’s crazy to think that the Gamecocks made the Final Four a few seasons ago. They fell off, quickly, and fired Frank Martin last season. This year, South Carolina has losses to Colorado State, Davidson, Furman, George Washington, UAB, East Carolina, Vanderbilt and Tennessee, none of which were particularly close. South Carolina is at the bottom of the SEC in every category, but it does have four different players scoring ten or more points per game. South Carolina goes to Kentucky on Tuesday and hosts Texas A&M on Saturday.









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