SEC Basketball Power Rankings: Surprise! Mediocre conference is mediocre
Surprise! The SEC isn’t great!
No, it is not a great basketball conference. Yet when Selection Sunday rolls around in less than a week, it’s possible the Southeastern Conference has more teams in the NCAA Tournament than any but the Big Ten.
How does that happen? Because as much as the league isn’t great, it also isn’t bad. In fact, it’s closer to the former than the latter.
It’s just that considering where things appeared to be headed for the SEC in early January, the disappointment is palpable. Alabama appears to be the only national championship threat in a year some thought the league could have as many as four contenders.
Less impressive, even, is that upper-mid section. After Alabama, which SEC team is scary in the postseason? Tennessee, maybe. Seven-loss-in-the-SEC Tennessee.
And the bottom of the conference barrel? Yikes.
Of course, this is a glass-half-empty point of view. Maybe we can do the glass-half-full one if the eight projected NCAA Tournament bids come to fruition.
1. Alabama (last week 1)
Feb 25, 2023; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats during the first half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
The off-court drama may yet jump to bite the basketball team. It hasn’t for now and Alabama remains a likely 1-seed for the Big Dance.
2. Texas A&M (2)
Feb 15, 2023; College Station, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies guard Tyrece Radford (23) dribbles the ball against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the second half at Reed Arena. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports
Don’t ask us how Texas A&M is still just a projected No. 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Aggies went 15-3 in the SEC and beat Alabama last week. Apparently, they’re just not sexy enough.
3. Kentucky (4)
Mar 4, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) drives to the basket as Arkansas Razorbacks forward Jalen Graham (11) defends in the first half at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
OK, fine. Kentucky fell to Vanderbilt in the last week of the regular season. Vandy finished a game back of third place in the league. Kentucky stepped it up in the final month of the season. Not sure they’re scary in March, though.
4. Tennessee (3)
Tennessee’s Jahmai Mashack (15) battles for the rebound with Arkansas’ Jordan Walsh (13) and Makhi Mitchell (15) during the NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn. on Tuesday, February 28, 2023.
Ut Hoops Arkansas
A 4-6 record to finish the season took a ton of air out of the Tennessee sails. Things were trending down even before Zakai Zeigler was hurt against Arkansas, too. The Vols could make a run, but they no longer feel like an Final Four darkhorse. Now they’re more of a ‘could-they-lose-in-the-first-round’ team.
5. Missouri (5)
COLUMBIA, MISSOURI – JANUARY 18: Nick Honor #10 of the Missouri Tigers celebrates a basket against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the second half at Mizzou Arena on January 18, 2023 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Four straight wins closed the year and Missouri finished with their best record since joining the SEC. What a job by first-year coach Dennis Gates. A Sweet 16 trip would surprise no one. Nor would a first-round exit.
6. Auburn (6)
Dec 21, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Auburn Tigers forward Johni Broome (4, left) dunks in front of Washington Huskies guard PJ Fuller II (4) and forward Jackson Grant (12, right) during the first half at Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn and Arkansas played the exact same three teams to end the season, just in a different order. The Tigers won one of them, at least, lifting them above the Hogs in the power rankings and possibly into the NCAA Tournament.
7. Vanderbilt (9)
Jan 14, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA;
Vanderbilt Commodores guard Noah Shelby (2) shoots a basket against Arkansas Razorbacks forward Makhi Mitchell (15) during the second half at Memorial Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: George Walker IV – USA TODAY Sports
Quick. Name the only SEC team to win eight of nine down the stretch. Would you believe that Vandy’s only loss in that stretch came to LSU? Last-place LSU. Wild. The Commodores likely won’t make the Dance, but they could.
8. Arkansas (7)
Mar 4, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks senior forward Kamani Johnson is honored prior to the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Are the three straight losses to Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky enough to knock Arkansas out of the NCAA Tournament? No, probably not. But at 8-10, it was an underwhelming season for the Razorbacks.
9. Mississippi State (8)
Feb 11, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs guard Dashawn Davis (10) dribbles by Arkansas Razorbacks guard Nick Smith Jr (3) during the second half at Bud Walton Arena. Bulldogs won 70-64. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Bottom line: had MSU beaten Vanderbilt in the season finale, we’d have put the Bulldogs in. It didn’t happen and now Mississippi State needs a run in the SEC Tournament.
10. Florida (10)
Feb 18, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Florida Gators guard Kyle Lofton (11) during the first half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Closing the year with wins over LSU and Georgia had to at least feel nice after the disappointments in the post-Colin Castleton-injury phase. Odd year in Gainesville. Not terrible. Not good.
11. Georgia (11)
FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS – FEBRUARY 21: Justin Hill #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs goes up for a shot against Nick Smith Jr. #3 and Jordan Walsh #13 of the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first half of a game at Bud Walton Arena on February 21, 2023 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
No, the early-season promise didn’t pan out, but it was a better year in Athens than most projected. Mike White should be able to turn UGA into a moderate threat going forward.
12. South Carolina (12)
Feb 4, 2023; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Jordan Walsh (13) and South Carolina Gamecocks forward Hayden Brown (10) battle for a rebound in the second half at Colonial Life Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
The Gamecocks, on the other hand, finished about as expected. A touch better than Ole Miss, but a bit behind almost everyone else.
13. Ole Miss (13)
Jan 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Ole Miss Rebels forward Myles Burns (3) goes up for a dunk in the first half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
When Kermit Davis was let go halfway through the SEC slate, it was all about next year. Bummer for those who won’t return to Oxford, but it’s what OM has become in recent years.
14. LSU (14)
Jan 24, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; LSU Tigers forward Derek Fountain (20) reacts after a play against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the first half at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
LSU has to hope that was the final purge because, mercy. Two SEC wins after a modestly solid nonconference start, what the heck happened?