It's time to play the music, it's time to light the lights! It's time to get things started in the SEC tonight. This is the start of a weekly SEC basketball power poll over here at College and Mag. Rock M Nation does a good power poll with writers from all of the SBNation sites but this one is just mine. Feel free to disagree in the comments section below.
Let's start with this. We know Kentucky is great. Until Saturday, we knew Mississippi State was terrible. We're still pretty sure Clanga is bad. Everyone else seems to be pretty close. Win at home, lose on the road. Half the league is 2-2, only one team is unbeaten, everyone has at least one win. There have been a lot of upsets, surprises, and close games this year in the SEC and expect more going forward.
The theme today is the Muppet Show. For each team, I've assigned a Muppet Show performance that sums up where they are this year. Why? First, I need a theme of some sort. Second, the Muppet Show is a good allegory for the SEC. It's full of a strange cast of characters putting on unintentionally entertaining shows in which you aren't sure if anything is going according to script.
Here are this week's rankings:
1) Kentucky 17-0, 4-0 (#1 AP, #1 USA Today)
RPI: 1, KenPom: 1 Sagarin : 1 Average Rank 1
Kentucky rebounded from its slow conference start this week by dominating Missouri (at home) and Alabama (at the Plaid Palace). They rotate out two full teams of five each of whom would have a chance to win the conference. Their 11th and 12th players would start at most schools. Expect Kentucky to remain at the top spot in this poll barring an internal meltdown.
For Wildcats' fans, it's hard to be humble.
This week: at Vandy (Tuesday, 1/20), at South Carolina (Saturday 1/24)
2) Arkansas 13-4, 2-2 (#19 AP, #19 USA Today)
RPI: 29, KenPom: 41 Sagarin : 31 Average Rank 34
I have serious reservations about leaving the Hogs here after they lost to Tennessee and Ole Miss last week. Ole Miss is a good team that was ridiculously hot so maybe you look past that one, but if the Hogs don't sweep this week, they'll fall sharply in future polls.
As a potential dream season hits a rough spot, here's John Cleese singing the Impossible Dream with Sweetums and some Hogs:
This week: Alabama (Thursday 1/22), at Missouri (Saturday 1/24)
3) Alabama 12-5, 2-2 (#34 AP, #36 USA Today)
RPI: 48, KenPom: 44 Sagarin : 52 Average Rank 48
Like Arkansas, Alabama also went 0-2 last week. Like Arkansas, I'm inclined to look past this because South Carolina is a hostile venue and Kentucky is incredible. This week won't be easy for the Tide as they draw the dreaded Thursday night road trip to Fayetteville before returning home to play Auburn. Alabama and Arkansas feels like a loser leaves town match that could affect the teams' trajectories for the rest of the year. After that emotional game, Alabama has to play a pesky Auburn team on short rest. Alabama could easily lose both games this week if they aren't ready.
For Alabama, one way or another we're gonna getcha:
This week: at Arkansas (Thursday 1/22), Auburn (Saturday 1/24)
4) Florida 10-7, 3-1
RPI: 68, KenPom: 25 Sagarin : 41 Average Rank 45
Florida had a rough nonconference record against good opposition. They're coming on strong. They demolished Auburn in a game that wasn't as close as the 20 point final indicates. They then dropped their first SEC game of the season against Georgia on the road on short rest. The Gators are a physical, nasty team. I look for them to finish in the top 4 of the conference and would rank them higher here but for that terrible overall record.
For the once and future SEC power, here's a song for your new NCAA tournament dreams:
This week LSU (Tuesday, 1/20), at Ole Miss (Saturday 1/24)
5) LSU 13-4, 2-2 (#31 AP, #38 USA Today)
RPI: 49, KenPom: 49, Sagarin : 67 Average Rank 55
LSU got last week backwards. They won at the Tad Pad against Ole Miss before losing at home to Texas A&M. You're messing with the narrative, LSU. LSU may have the worst schedule this week, traveling to Florida and Vandy. No one should ever have to play at Vandy.
For LSU, there's only one choice when you've just had a bad week and one's on the way:
This week: at Florida (Tuesday, 1/20), at Vanderbilt (Saturday 1/24)
6) Ole Miss 11-6, 2-2 (#44 USA Today)
RPI: 43, KenPom: 35 Sagarin : 50 Average Rank 43
There are two Ole Miss teams. One of these teams is going to make the Elite 8 this year. The other team will be lucky to make the Elite 8 of the SEC tournament. Good luck guessing which team shows up. They have a tough week ahead so maybe we'll know more next week.
In honor of a team I can't figure out, here are the Mummenschanz (and a reminder that the 70s were real and terrifyingly weird);
This week: at Georgia (Tuesday, 1/20), Florida (Saturday 1/24)
7) Georgia 11-5, 2-2 (#35 AP)
RPI: 24, KenPom: 29 Sagarin : 40 Average Rank 31
Georgia had the best week of the SEC teams in the non-Kentucky category. They beat Vandy at Vandy, then beat Florida at home. The computers love them. I feel a little bad having them ranked so low. They have two winnable games this week and the opportunity to move up in this poll and ones that actually matter.
For the SEC's sexiest team of the week, here's Rita Moreno singing Fever with Floyd and Animal:
This week: Ole Miss (Tuesday, 1/20), at Miss State (Saturday 1/24)
8) Tennessee 11-5, 3-1 (#44 AP)
RPI: 53, KenPom: 86, Sagarin : 80 Average Rank 73
This may be a little low for a team sitting at 3-1 in conference but it takes more than a week to wash the stink off the team that lost to Alabama that badly at home. Tennessee rebounded nicely with two solid wins last week against Arkansas and Missouri and may move up if they win both games this week.
For Tennessee, here's Roy Clark playing all the parts to Rocky Top:
This week: at South Carolina (Tuesday, 1/20), Texas A&M (Saturday 1/24)
9) Auburn 10-7, 2-2
RPI: 103, KenPom: 134 Sagarin : 140 Average Rank 126
Auburn's average computer ranking would place them 12th in the conference rather than 9th. Whatever, #1, Auburn has been playing a lot better with Antoine Mason on the roster and #2 this is an Auburn blog and I'm an overly optimistic homer. Auburn had a terrible trip to Florida and followed it up with a gutty home win against South Carolina. I feel good about Auburn's chances to win both games this week as they face an improving Miss State and Alabama who will have just come back from Arkansas.
For a dose of realism, you should compare Auburn's schedule thus far to the bottom of this list. The only legitimate SEC power we've faced throttled us. I hope that changes this week.
For Auburn, a reminder, if you want to be the top banana, you've got to start at the bottom of the bunch.
This week: Miss State (Wednesday, 1/21), at Alabama (Saturday 1/24)
10) Texas A&M 11-5, 2-2
RPI: 39, KenPom: 77 Sagarin : 64 Average Rank 60
Texas A&M showed signs of life last week, eeking out close wins against Miss State and LSU. This week they are poised to win at least one more. I don't know what to do with the Aggies. They've beaten a lot of decent teams, but no great teams. They played both Kentucky AND Miss State down to the wire. Time will tell, but I really can't.
For Texas A&M's weird week, here's Gilda Radner singing Pirates of Penzance with a giant carrot:
This week: Missouri (Wednesday, 1/21), at Tennessee (Saturday 1/24)
11) Vanderbilt 11-6, 1-3
RPI: 106, KenPom: 64, Sagarin : 68 Average Rank 79
Two weeks ago I ranked the team that beat Auburn fourth in the conference. I thought Damian Jones and the young Dores would be the conference's surprise team this year. That team has left the building. Vandy is on a three game skid including losses to Georgia and Miss State. When you lose to State (he said, touching every piece of wood within reach) it's time to reevaluate everything. It doesn't get easier this week for Vandy with Kentucky coming to town. On their best week, maybe they can knock off LSU at home in the SEC's answer to Arkham Asylum.
For Vandy, something that starts well and ends in chaos:
This week: Kentucky (Tuesday, 1/20), LSU (Saturday 1/24)
12) South Carolina, 10-6, 1-3
RPI: 95, KenPom: 40 Sagarin : 51 Average Rank 62
The computers don't know what to make of USCe and neither do I. South Carolina is a physical club who is tough to beat at home. They may win 8 home conference games this year and go ofer on the road. They may pull together nicely and make this initial ranking look silly in the next few weeks. They had a nice win over a very good Alabama team then lost to Auburn. Look for them to split their games this week, beating Tennessee and losing to Kentucky.
No team in the league made me smile more last week, beating Alabama and losing to us so, Gamecock's fans, I sincerely Hope That Something Better Comes Along:
This week: Tennessee (Tuesday, 1/20), Kentucky (Saturday 1/24)
13) Missouri 7-10, 1-3
RPI: 137, KenPom: 165, Sagarin : 169 Average Rank 157
That loss last week against Kentucky felt like a season killer. It's been a long time since I felt that bad for a sports team. Missouri needs a win this week to keep from dropping to 14th in the league. This isn't a terrible team and could salvage some respectability in a rebuilding year.
Missouri fans need someone to help them make it through the night:
This week: at Texas A&M (Wednesday, 1/21), Arkansas (Saturday 1/24)
14) Miss State 8-9, 1-3
RPI: 200, KenPom: 220 Sagarin : 203 Average Rank 208
Miss State is an improving team. They barely lost to Texas A&M and then snapped their sixteen game conference losing streak against Texas A&M. They aren't there yet. I see them losing by single digits to Auburn then 15+ to Georgia.
For Miss State, here's Roger Miller in a morning tux, hat and tails singing with a bunch of watermelons
This week: at Auburn (Wednesday, 1/21), Georgia (Saturday 1/24)
Week 3 Game of the Week: Alabama at Arkansas, Thursday January 22, 6 pm CST, ESPN2
Week 3 Upset of the Week: Auburn over Alabama in Tuscaloosa, 7:30 CST, SEC Network