Hey, anyone can rank teams in the preseason, and safely presume those early prognostications will be eventually lost and forgotten. But here at Gator Country, I am going out on the proverbial limb each and every week, providing a look at the 14 SEC hoops teams.
Not only did the SEC add Missouri and Texas A&M, but also did away with that pesky “East/West” designation for its basketball slate.
And I will do the same.
So, without further adieu, here is the SEC Roundup after Week 1.
1) Florida (12-2, 2-0 SEC)
The Good: The heck with “good,” the Gators have been great to open conference play. Florida trounced Georgia and LSU, with the latter being a resounding road victory. Through its first two games, Florida boasts a gaudy 27-point margin of victory. Even scarier, this has been with a shortened roster.
The Bad: The Gators have been bitten — maybe even chomped — by the injury bug thus far. In only its first week of conference play, Florida has had to battle thru injuries to Erik Murphy, Will Yeguete, Mike Rosario and Casey Prather.
Next: Things may become a bit more difficult this week, as Florida welcomes the SEC newcomers in back-to-back games. The Gators travel to College Station, Texas on Thursday and then quickly return home to host Missouri.
2) Missouri (12-3, 1-1 SEC)
The Good: The Tigers blitzed Anthony Grant’s Alabama team in its opening SEC contest, with all five starters notching double points. The Tigers dropped in 84 points against a previously stout Crimson Tide defense.
The Bad: Life on the road is not easy in the SEC, and the Tigers got a not-so-friendly welcoming to the “Tad Pad.” Ole Miss led by as many as 20 points and eventually sent Missouri home with a 15-point defeat. Most disconcerting for the Tigers may be the early rebounding trend, losing that statistical category in both games.
Next: The Tigers should be able to take care of Georgia at home on Wednesday, but travel to Florida on Saturday for an introduction to the Rowdy Reptiles.
3) Ole Miss (13-2, 2-0 SEC)
The Good: Ole Miss, despite winning 11 of its opening 13 games, entered conference play a bit of mystery due to a weak early schedule. But the Rebels served notice in the opening week, trouncing both Tennessee and Missouri. And they have done it both ways — pouring in 92 points against the Volunteers and then limiting a potent Tigers team to a mere 49.
The Bad: Last I checked, Andy Kennedy is still the coach. I’m joking-— sort of. Ole Miss has blown out its early SEC foes, but has not fared well in close games. The Rebels lost to Indiana State in overtime, and fell to Middle Tennessee State by three points.
Next: Ole Miss heads to that whacky gym in Nashville on Tuesday, and host Arkansas on Saturday.
4) Texas A&M (12-3, 2-0 SEC)
The Good: The Aggies beat Kentucky at Rupp — that’s pretty darn good, right? Well, maybe. Regardless, Texas A&M has begun its opening year in the SEC with two straight victories, with one being against the conference’s perennial powerhouse. Elston Turner followed up his 15 points against Arkansas with a Jodie Meek-like outing against UK, dropping in 40.
The Bad: All right, I will be honest. I am not sold on this team. Not yet. The Aggies slipping in at No. 4 speaks more to my opinion of the league (and Kentucky) than it does Texas A&M. The Aggies seem offensively challenged at times, sans a 40-point explosion from its guard. While they have been sharp to start conference play, the early schedule was awful and a home loss to Southern is disconcerting.
Next: Hopefully no Aggies are GC Insiders, lest my column becomes “bulletin board” material. Texas A&M hosts Florida on Thursday and head to Tuscaloosa on Saturday.
5) Kentucky (10-5, 1-1 SEC)
The Good: This is still Kentucky, and despite the wishes of most Gators fans, the Wildcats have a pretty talented roster. This version of UK is a “work in progress”, and despite the loss at College Station — there has been some progress. Unlike some teams ranked above, Kentucky has challenged itself in the early schedule, and battled closely against Louisville and Duke. That will eventually pay dividends, but when?
The Bad: Perhaps more than anything, UK has been plagued perimeter defense. Texas A&M’s Turner scorched the Wildcats for 40 points, but that only serves to highlight a season-long problem. John Calipari, as always, is dealing with an inexperienced group, but seems to be having a more difficult time getting thru to this squad. This is especially true on the defensive end of the floor, where we have seen UK excel in recent years.
Next: Hated UT comes to Rupp on Tuesday, and a loss would be a catastrophe for UK fans. Saturday, conference-undefeated, yet rather underwhelming Auburn hosts the Cats.
6) Alabama (9-6, 1-1 SEC)
The Good: The good news, Bama? You play in the SEC, and unlike in football, it’s pretty darn weak this year. Anthony Grant’s team slides in at No. 6 almost by default and despite an underwhelming season start. The Tide did hang with high-powered Missouri for much of its opening contest before falling apart, and rebounded to beat UT. Grant’s team is gritty and typically defends well, especially beyond the arc.
The Bad: Bama has lost six of its last eight games. Yeah, that’s right — six of its last eight! But the combination of reasonably solid talent and coaching, I am not flushing the Tide quite yet. Still, they have been awful on the road, and awfully inconsistent wherever they play.
Next: Bama heads to Mississippi State on Wednesday and hosts the Aggies Saturday. Both are winnable games and should reveal which direction the Tide is flowing.
7) Arkansas (10-5, 1-1 SEC)
The Good: The Razorbacks have lost five games on the year, but three of those contests were against Syracuse, Wisconsin and Michigan. After getting whacked by the Aggies to open conference play, Arkansas smothered an inept Vanderbilt team. And Mike Anderson’s team knows how to score, ranking top in the SEC and No. 20 nationally at 79 points per game.
The Bad: Arkansas has shown they can lose to good teams, but can they beat them? The Razorbacks have generally won the games they should win, including Saturday’s victory over Vandy. The SEC is down, but an 18-point loss to Texas A&M may suggest that Arky may not be able to capitalize.
Next: The Razorbacks host Auburn on Wednesday, and then face a telling game at Ole Miss on Saturday.
8) Auburn (8-7, 2-0 SEC)
The Good: You could make a case that the Tigers should be higher or lower on this list. But for the first time in a decade, Auburn opened conference play with two victories, beating LSU and winning at South Carolina. Though they tallied seven losses in the early schedule, the Tigers typically played tough and challenged in each game. Auburn lost to Boston College, Rhode Island, Depaul and Illinois by a combined 13 points. The Tigers only blowout loss was an early 20-point defeat to Murray State.
The Bad: Auburn loses close, but also wins close. This is not a team that will overpower anyone, and will live on the edge of defeat throughout the season. Should the Tigers continue to eke out SEC victories, they may be a surprise of the conference. Or, they could fall flat on their face.
Next: A lot will be learned about Auburn in the coming days, as the Tigers host UK and then travel to Vanderbilt. A win over the Cats would be a statement game, but so to would be a loss to lowly Vandy.
9) Mississippi State (7-7, 2-0 SEC)
The Good: After a disconcerting home loss to Alabama A&M, the Bulldogs have won three straight, including its two opening conference games. Mississippi State has benefitted from some relatively unexpected freshmen contributions, including that of Craig Sword, who was named “SEC Freshman of the Week” after averaging 17 points in wins over USC and Georgia.
The Bad: MSU capitalized on a soft opening two games of the conference slate, but it seems unlikely the Bulldogs can sustain their winning ways. Against solid competition, MSU has been obliterated — going 0-3 in Maui and losing by an average of 30 points to UNC, Marquette and Texas.
Next: The Bulldogs host a struggling Alabama on Wednesday, before travelling to face UT on Saturday.
10) Tennessee (8-6, 0-2 SEC)
The Good: It is difficult for me to utter anything positive about the Volunteers, but “C’mon UT, you are better than this”. Though the loss of Jeronne Maymon has certainly been an impact, Tennessee still has a
reasonably talented roster that includes Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae. UT has some decent early season wins over Witchita State and Xavier that may point to a bit of promise.
The Bad: UT should be in the conference’s upper tier, but opened SEC play with an abysmal performance against Ole Miss and a narrow loss to Alabama. There are times this group really struggles to score, as evidenced by an average total of 40 points in losses to Virginia, Georgetown and Oklahoma State.
Next: UT travels to hated Kentucky on Tuesday and host Mississippi State on Saturday. At the very least, the Vols must gather one win.
11) South Carolina (10-5, 0-2 SEC)
The Good: Frank Martin has not killed anyone yet, so that is good. Truthfully, at 10-5, it could be argued that the Gamecocks are overachieving. USC has found a more balanced attack this season, with six players offering at least 9 points per game.
The Bad: You will not find a lone “good win” among USC’s 10 victories. You will, however, find a loss to Elon. More importantly, USC dropped its first two conference games.
Next: USC open the conference with a rather winnable first four games. The initial two are already in the “L” column. Up next are LSU and Vanderbilt. It gets much more difficult from there, with Missouri, Florida and UK among the next five games.
12) LSU (9-4, 0-2 SEC)
The Good: The Tigers were blown out by Florida, but were very competitive in a five-point loss to Ole Miss. LSU has been solid at home going 8-1, and losing only to the Gators. The Tigers played well in the only significant early season contest — a four-point loss to Marquette.
The Bad: A too often frenetic team, LSU is turnover prone when pushing tempo or seeking to create offense. There is simply not enough talent here to suggest the 0-2 start is a fluke.
Next: South Carolina and Georgia are on deck. But after that, it’s Texas A&M, Kentucky and Missouri. Yikes.
13) Vanderbilt (6-8, 0-2 SEC)
The Good: Well, there is always football season. Ugh, how the semi-mighty have fallen. The positive? Stallings is a solid coach, and like he did in a narrow loss to UK — will have Vandy compete all season. The whacky arena alone will contribute to at least a couple wins.
The Bad: Having lost nearly everything from a year ago, this team simply can’t score. The ‘Dores have totaled less than 50 points in five games, including an embarrassing 33-point outing at Arkansas. One can’t help but wonder if Vandy missed its chance in recent seasons.
Next: Vandy hosts Ole Miss Tuesday night and travel to USC on
14) Georgia (6-9, 0-2 SEC)
The Good: Ummmm… the good? Well, the season is half over, and presumably so is Mark Fox’s tenure at Georgia. Kantavious Caldwell-Pope is a fun player to watch, even if his team isn’t. Georgia does have an experienced team, and could piece together a season far less miserable than the early goings.
The Bad: The aforementioned Caldwell-Pope must feel like he is playing 1-on-5 at times. He is averaging nearly 17 points per game while being the sole focus of the opposition. Meanwhile, not a lone teammate is contributing double digits. In fact, the second leading scorer is providing barely eight points per game.
Next: UGA will surely go 0-3 with its next game at Missouri. A first conference win is possible Saturday when the Bulldogs host LSU.