Welcome to Week Four of SEC Power Rankings!
Well folks, it’s time. It’s time to do something that I didn’t think would be possible before the season started, especially under the circumstances. Mentally, I wasn’t ready to do this last week but after two second half comebacks, coupled with Florida losing at Ole Miss, I have no choice. We have a new #1 team in the College & Magnolia Power Rankings and this week: it’s YOUR Auburn Tigers! Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Biggest Riser: LSU/Alabama up 3 spots
Biggest Faller: Texas A&M down 4 spots
#1. #17 Auburn 16-1 (4-0) - Last Week: 2
Last Week: Beat Ole Miss 85-70, Beat Mississippi State 76-68
This Week: Wednesday at Alabama (6PM), Saturday vs. Georgia (5PM)
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Tigers are on top in the SEC. Perhaps Kyle Boone of CBS Sports was on to something when he had 4-14 associated with Auburn. Perhaps he meant 4 SEC wins and a 14 game winning streak at this point in the year? Highly doubtful, but one thing’s for sure, I respect that he’s been a good sport about this on Twitter. The 4-14 has definitely taken on a life of it’s own and continues to motivate this team. And as if Auburn needed any more motivation going into tomorrow night’s game, here’s a quote from Alabama coach Avery Johnson from earlier today.
Avery Johnson: “(Auburn) can put up those 4-14 shirts they’re wearing ... They can all stop playing the underdog role. We know they’re not a 4-14 team.”
Sorry, Avery that is not going to happen but here’s some cold hard facts. At 4-0 in the SEC, Auburn is the last remaining undefeated team left in the league. Also, with West Virginia’s loss on Saturday, your Tigers now hold the nation’s longest winning streak at 14 games. In addition, Auburn, along with Villanova and Virginia are the last 3 teams in America with only 1 loss. Auburn is the highest ranked SEC team in this week’s AP Poll checking in at 17. Remarkable, to say the least.
I believe that two of the worst three halves that Auburn has played all season came in the first half of each game this past week. The other one was the second half against Temple in Auburn’s only loss this season. This week, Auburn trailed by 10 and 11 points at halftime against Ole Miss and Mississippi State respectively. In previous years, Auburn doesn’t come back and win those games, but not this Auburn team. Auburn took the lead for good in both games with 10 minutes left in the second half and outscored their two opponents in the second half by a combined score of 102-58, a 44-point difference! Against Ole Miss, I think Auburn’s depth made a huge difference as a shorthanded Rebels team wore down against Auburn. Auburn also started making shots in the second half as well after missing a lot of open shots in the first half. In total, 6 Auburn players scored at least 12 points in the win over Ole Miss. Meanwhile against the Bulldogs, Bryce Brown put the team on his back early in the second half and ended up leading the way with 23 points. But like always, the team got contributions all over the team and Malik Dunbar hit 2 really big 3’s on the run that put Auburn up for good in Starkville. This week was also a streak breaking week for Auburn as they snapped a 10 game losing streak to Ole Miss and won in Starkville for the first time since 2009.
Now for a few statistics, Auburn is 12th in the country averaging 86.5 points per game. The fact Auburn went on the road and scored over 10 under their average and won is a testament of how good this Auburn team is. Auburn is tied for 12th in the nation in free throw percentage at 77.9%. Free throws win games, if you make them. They went 29-37 against Ole Miss and 25-32 against Mississippi State. Auburn is also 8th in the country with 41.5 rebounds per game. I’m beginning to hear a lot more comparisions of Desean Murray to Charles Barkley when I watch the games on TV. High praise for that young man. Another thing Auburn overcame on Saturday was the height disadvantage. The Bulldogs had a 6-10 and a 6-11 guy inside that made things difficult on the boards at times, but Auburn fought through it. As Austin Wiley has now been ruled ineligible for the season, that would be one of the spots he could have helped but the Tigers will forge on. One more stat for fun: Auburn is 6th in the nation with 6.3 blocks per game (thanks mostly to Anfernee McLemore who is holding steady at 3.1 blocks per game).
Looking forward now, this is a very interesting week for Auburn coming up. Now saddled with being the sole leader in the SEC, Auburn now plays Round 1 of the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday. I’ll be honest, this game scares me a lot. I really think Alabama is going to come out ready to play and we’re going to have to match their intensity and take their best punch in order to get out of there with a win. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned about this Auburn team this year it’s this: these guys keep fighting and no matter how adversity they face as a team. As for Saturday, Georgia comes in to what will be a packed and raucous Auburn Arena. The key in that game will be to slow down Yante Maten. If the Tigers can do that, and play at their tempo, I like their chances in that one. The streak is going to end at some point but I really hope it’s not this week. Let’s all continue to enjoy the incredible ride we as fans are on right now with this team.
#2. #18 Kentucky 14-3 (4-1) - Last Week: 3
Last Week: Beat Texas A&M 74-73, Beat Vanderbilt 74-67
This Week: Tonight at South Carolina, Saturday vs. Florida
The Wildcats earned two hard fought victories this past week after Coach Calipari called his team out following the loss to Tennessee. His young team stepped up to the challenge against Texas A&M before escaping Nashville with a narrow win. It’s hard to believe that their 7 point win over Vandy is their largest margin of victory in SEC play this season. As Kentucky continues to evolve as a team and plays more together, the experience of these close games will help them in February and March. The Cats hit the road again this evening to play South Carolina before a huge matchup with the Gators on Saturday night.
#3. Florida 12-5 (4-1) - Last Week: 1
Last Week: Beat Mississippi State 71-54, Lost to Ole Miss 78-72
This Week: Wednesday vs. Arkansas, Saturday at #18 Kentucky
Well Florida, you had one job. Beat Ole Miss and you’re back in the Top 25. That didn’t happen. It just goes to show how hard it is to win on the road in the SEC but on Saturday, they just didn’t make plays down the stretch to win that game. One bright spot for Florida in that game is they got a career-high 23 points from forward Keith Stone. Anyways, Florida will regroup and get an Arkansas team that I really don’t know how I feel about anymore before a showdown at Rupp Arena on Saturday night.
#4. #21 Tennessee 12-4 (3-2) - Last Week: 4
Last Week: Beat Vanderbilt 92-84, Beat Texas A&M 75-62
This Week: Wednesday at Missouri, Saturday at South Carolina
Tennessee followed up their win over Kentucky by taking care of business against Vandy and Texas A&M. Grant Williams had 37 points and 7 rebounds in the win over Vanderbilt. They like Auburn overcame a 45-35 halftime deficit to win this contest. On Saturday, Williams only scored 9, but the Vols used balanced scoring to beat a full-strength Aggies team. If Texas A&M would get their act together, this becomes a solid win for Tennessee. Up next, two games that the Vols should be favored in as they visit both Columbia’s of the SEC this week. Having said that, I feel like a 1-1 week is quite possible up on Rocky Top.
#5. LSU 11-5 (2-2) - Last Week: 8
Last Week: Beat Arkansas 75-54, Lost to Alabama 74-66
This Week: Tonight vs. Georgia, Saturday at Vanderbilt
I’ll be honest: I feel like the Top 4 has separated themselves just a little bit from the rest of the SEC. Why? Because after #4, it’s an absolute mess in this league and you could draw the next few teams out a hat. At #5, you can make an argument for several teams: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri. However, I’m going to go with a team that may surprise you, but has really impressed me so far in SEC play: LSU. This team was predicted to finish dead last in the SEC this year and I feel pretty confident that this team will not finish there. It’s kind of like Auburn being picked towards the bottom of the league, (of course but there’s still plenty of basketball to be played so this may change). Also, don’t tell the Bayou Bengals that Bud Walton Arena is a tough place to play because LSU went to Fayetteville and walloped Arkansas from start to finish last Wednesday. It was quite a performance in all facets for the Tigers and showed that LSU is going to be a force in this league with Will Wade leading the way for years to come. That performance alone was the best of the week (for a non-Auburn team) and gave them this boost in this week’s rankings. Yes they lost to Alabama at home on Saturday but what they did to Arkansas allowed to overlook that loss for this week’s purpose. I’m excited to see Tremont Waters in person next weekend as he’s been quite the catalyst on this LSU team. Like Auburn, LSU is 2-0 on the road in the SEC so far with a win in College Station as well. As for this week, they get Georgia in Baton Rouge this evening before a weekend trip to the Music City.
#6. Arkansas 12-5 (2-3) - Last Week: 5
Last Week: Lost to LSU 75-54, Beat Missouri 65-63
This Week: Wednesday at Florida, Saturday vs. Ole Miss
You would have thought that after losing 2 straight on the road including an 88-77 decision to Auburn on January 6th that Arkansas would be ready to play last week. They were back at home for both games, and were facing teams that they were supposed to beat in LSU and Missouri. Instead, against LSU, Arkansas came out and just laid an egg. Losing by 21 is bad, but when you do it on your home court while only scoring 54 points, over 30 below your team’s average, that’s just flat out embarrassing. They also didn’t show that much fight once they trailed early in that game which also has to do with how well LSU played. The Hogs dropped to 1-3 in the league at that point and could have easily been 0-4 without a miraculous comeback against Tennessee. Fortunately for Arkansas, Daniel Gafford’s last minute dunk rescued the Hogs and gave them a 2-point win over Mizzou on Saturday. Perhaps the win will get the Razorbacks back on track but they have a tough test tomorrow heading to the O Dome to play a Gators team looking to bounce back from a loss. They then host Ole Miss on Saturday.
#7. Missouri 12-5 (2-2) - Last Week: 9
Last Week: Beat Georgia 68-56, Lost to Arkansas 65-63
This Week: Wednesday vs. #21 Tennessee, Saturday at Texas A&M
Missouri moves up two spots this week because Texas A&M continues to slide rapidly and because of their win over Georgia. However this Tigers team might be kicking themselves in March after barely missing another opportunity at picking up a good win over Arkansas. This after losing by 2 to Florida at home the previous Saturday. But let’s look at some positives for Missouri: after a horrible shooting first half, they played a great second half on Wednesday against the Bulldogs. Michael Porter was supposed to be the star on this team but his brother and fellow freshmen Jontay Porter, who like Michael, essentially joined Mizzou due to his father joining the coaching staff, has been a solid player for Missouri. He had 15 points and 10 rebounds in the Georgia win. As for Michael Porter, who was supposed to be Missouri’s freshmen phenom, there are talks that he may try and make a return late in the season from a spinal disc injury he suffered 2 minutes into the season. This would be a huge boost for Missouri although I’m not sure if he will considering he’s a guaranteed lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Another opportunity for a good win comes for Missouri as the Vols roll into town tomorrow evening. Then Missouri plays at Texas A&M over the weekend.
#8. Alabama 11-6 (3-2) - Last Week: 11
Last Week: Beat South Carolina 76-62, Beat LSU 74-66
This Week: Wednesday vs. #17 Auburn, Saturday vs. Mississippi State
Well.... good Alabama showed up this past week. After dropping them 4 spots last week, they get 3 spots back for wins over South Carolina & LSU this week. Do I think Alabama is back on track? Who really knows. But I do know they’ll be ready for tomorrow night. Avery Johnson has made no bones about it that he feels his team would be where Auburn is if he hadn’t played a “tough” schedule and he’ll have his kids ready to play. (I think). Speaking of that tough schedule Avery put together, let’s run through a few teams on there that Alabama narrowly beat. UT Arlington is 12-7 and currently struggling in the Sun Belt, Minnesota is a mess on and off the court right now, as is Louisiana Tech, who sits in last place in Conference USA right now. In addition, Texas is probably in the bottom half of the Big 12 and they lost by 16 to them. Alabama also has lost to Arizona (no shame there), Central Florida (see we’re not the only ones), Vanderbilt and Georgia where they only scored 46 points. In conclusion, Avery’s comments sound like excuses to me. It will be interesting to see how the Tigers match up with Collin Sexton and what happens if he is/isn’t on his game. Considering how Jekyll & Hyde this team is, nothing would surprise me Wednesday night. They might be the team to break Auburn’s 14 game winning streak but for all of our sakes, let’s hope it's not.
#9. Georgia 11-5 (2-3) - Last Week: 6
Last Week: Lost to Missouri 68-56, Lost to South Carolina 64-57
This Week: Tonight at LSU, Saturday at #17 Auburn
It’s the same ol, same ol with Georgia. When Yante Maten gets help AND plays well, Georgia’s a pretty good team. Otherwise, it’s a struggle for the Bulldogs. Neither happened last week for Georgia and as a result, they lost both of their games while failing to reach 60 in either game. Maten was held to just 9 points against Missouri and made only 2 field goals. He did his part against South Carolina scoring 25 but he simply needs more help if Georgia wants to go dancing in March. Georgia has 2 road games this week starting in Baton Rouge tonight, and they would be wise to win that one. Of course, Saturday they will visit the Plains and all eyes will be on Yante Maten against our big guys.
#10. Ole Miss 10-7 (3-2) - Last Week: 12
Last Week: Lost to Auburn 85-70, Beat Florida 78-72
This Week: Tonight at Texas A&M, Saturday at Arkansas
I was impressed with Ole Miss this week. They could have came in here last week without DeAndre Burnett and just rolled over. They didn’t as they built a 10 point lead on Auburn at halftime with good shooting and an effective zone defense that forced Auburn to take some shots they probably shouldn’t have. But as we saw in the second half, the team wore down and the monkey was off of Auburn’s back breaking the losing streak against Ole Miss. Breein Tyree stepped up in Burnett’s absence and scored 24 against Auburn. After the loss to Auburn, Ole Miss went home, regrouped, got Burnett back for Florida and proceeded to knock off the Gators on Saturday, a huge win for Andy Kennedy. He’s one coach to watch in regards to being on the hot seat over the next two months. Ole Miss has a tough task this week traveling to play two teams in desperate need of wins in Texas A&M and Arkansas.
#11. Texas A&M 11-6 (0-5) - Last Week: 7
Last Week: Lost to Kentucky 74-73, Lost to Tennessee 75-62
This Week: Tonight vs. Ole Miss, Saturday vs. Missouri
Raise your hand if you thought Texas A&M would be the last winless team left in the SEC this year. Put them down, you’re lying. What has happened in College Station these past few weeks is simply stunning. After losing a tough one to LSU on January 6th, the Aggies stared 0-5 right in the face and here we are. I did also say that it wouldn’t shock me for the Aggies to beat Kentucky and they just about pulled it off. They didn’t bring the energy from that game to Knoxville and it’s hard to fathom a team with this much talent sits at 0-5 in the SEC so far. Tonight is a MUST win for Texas A&M and Saturday may as well be too. They have all of their key players that had been banged up back from injury and suspension and the Aggies needs to rattle off some wins to get back on track. There are still plenty of opportunities for Texas A&M this season and their win over West Virginia is a feather in the cap but it’s time for this team to start playing hard or that early win will go to waste.
#12. South Carolina 11-6 (2-3) - Last Week: 13
Last Week: Lost to Alabama 76-62, Beat Georgia 64-57
This Week: Tonight vs. #18 Kentucky, Saturday vs. #21 Tennessee
South Carolina got a split in their two road games last week as they ran into good Alabama but bounced back to win in Athens. Now, they get to stay home and play two top 25 teams this week. South Carolina made news this week and admitted former Louisville recruit Brian Bowen into the program. Bowen, who is a big part of the ongoing FBI scandal that led to the firing of Rick Pitino, won’t play this year but may be a future piece for Frank Martin’s Gamecocks.
#13. Mississippi State 13-4 (1-3) - Last Week: 10
Last Week: Lost to Florida 71-54, Lost to Auburn 76-68
This Week: Tonight vs. Vanderbilt, Saturday at Alabama
First off, really Mississippi State student section? You’re going to chant UCF at us when your football team lost 49-10 to us this year? I understand the Auburn fans that made the bus trip to Starkville took care of that pretty quickly so good for you all! Anyways, the Bulldogs have lost their last 3 games after starting the year 13-1. Their home and road scoring discrepancies are huge, albeit the road averages are after just 3 games. They average in 14 home/neutral games 79.3 points per game (it did drop from 81 before the Auburn game). On the road, the Bulldogs average only 54 points per game. Wins will be tough to come by for Mississippi State on the road with those stats. They have a winnable game tonight against Vandy before facing Alabama on the weekend.
#14. Vanderbilt 6-11 (1-4) - Last Week: 14
Last Week: Lost to Tennessee 92-84, Lost to Kentucky 74-67
This Week: Tonight at Mississippi State, Saturday vs. LSU
Poor Riley LaChance. What happened to him on Saturday perfectly summarizes Vandy’s season. LaChance, a 90% free throw shooter, went to the free throw line for 3 shots after being fouled with 30 seconds left with his team down 4 to Kentucky on Saturday. Sounds like good odds to cut the lead down to 1. Instead, he missed all 3 to end Vandy’s chance at an upset over Kentucky. Vanderbilt missed another opportunity earlier in the week after blowing a 10 point halftime lead at home to Tennessee. It’s just hard for me to believe that with the seniors on this team that Vandy is in the position that they are but he we are and it won’t get any easier for them going forward.
Alright, that’s all for this week! Thank you so much for reading and hope everyone can make it out to Auburn Arena Saturday night when the Tigers host Georgia. War Eagle!