Football got you down? Well, I’ve got some reading material here to hopefully cheer you up and allow you to catch up on what’s been happening around SEC Basketball. I put my Season Premiere of Power Rankings out in early October and a lot of things have changed since then. If you want to see how I stacked things up in the Preseason, here’s a recap: My Top 7 Teams, My Bottom 7 Teams. Injuries have played a huge role as multiple teams have lost players to injury for the year. Also, several teams have gotten out of the starting gates slower than projected. Each team in the league has already lost, with over half of the conference sitting at 2 or more losses to start this year.
With each team having another month of non-conference games to play before SEC play begins on January 5th, there is plenty of time for teams to move up and down this list as we approach the new year.
#1 Auburn (6-1)
KenPom Ranking: 8th
Best Win: Washington - 44th in KenPom
Toughest Remaining Non-Conference Opponent: 12/19 at N.C. State - 33rd in KenPom
I’ll be honest, I went back and forth on Auburn and Tennessee at this spot. Auburn’s loss is by 6 points to Duke. Tennessee’s loss is by 6 points to Kansas (in Overtime). Duke and Kansas are ranked 1 and 2 respectively in the KenPom rankings. This came down to a few factors for me. Auburn has an average win margin of 26.4 while the Volunteers have a win margin of 18.8. Secondly, the Tigers also have a higher scoring average at 89.2 points a game than Tennessee (84.5). Last, Auburn has 3 wins over KenPom Top 60 teams: Washington, Arizona (49), and Xavier (56) while Tennessee has just 1 so far (Louisville at 52).
Auburn’s 89.1 points per game so far are 11th best in the country, and best in the SEC, while giving up an average of 62.7 points a game so far. Bryce Brown, the new all-time leader in 3-pointers made for Auburn is the team’s leading scorer with 17.3 points a game. Currently, that’s good enough for 4th in the SEC. Jared Harper is second averaging 14.6 points while also leading the SEC, averaging 7 assists a game. While he has scored just 10 points in the last 2 games combined, his first 2 games in Maui were sensational.
Oh yeah, he can fly too.
Auburn continues to work Austin Wiley back into the rotation and he’s now 3rd on the team in points per game at 12. Chuma Okeke (11.9) and Malik Dunbar (10.1) are also averaging double figures in points. In addition, Anfernee McLemore tied his career high with 19 points Wednesday night against Saint Peter’s and looks to have regained his form from last year regarding his 3-point shot. The Tigers get Danjel Purifoy back December 15th to add another piece to this talented Tigers squad. If there’s one concern I have with this team right now, it’s free throw shooting. After shooting nearly 78% from the field last year, the Tigers are only shooting 65.7% so far this season.
#2 Tennessee (5-1)
KenPom Ranking: 10th
Best Win: Louisville - 52nd in KenPom
Toughest Remaining Non-Conference Opponent: 12/9 Gonzaga (in Phoenix) - 4th in KenPom
Last year’s SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams has picked up where he left off last year, averaging 21.5 points per game so far this year, tops in the SEC. He is also averaging 8.8 rebounds a game, 2nd in the conference. Williams fouled out of the Kansas game and you have to wonder if the result may have been different if he would have finished that game. Nonetheless, the Volunteers also have five double digit scorers so far this year. In addition to Williams, Admiral Schofield is averaging 16.2 points a game, while Jordan Bone (14), Kyle Alexander (10.3) and Lamonte Turner (10) are also averaging double figures for the Vols.
#3 Kentucky (6-1)
KenPom Ranking: 18th
Best Win: Southern Illinois - 107th in KenPom
Toughest Remaining Non-Conference Opponent: 12/22 North Carolina (in Chicago) - 7th in KenPom
After giving up 118 on Opening Night to Duke, the Wildcats have feasted on lower-tier teams at Rupp Arena. Still, the Cats are extremely young and they’ll be a force to be reckoned with as the season goes along. Their leading scorer is freshmen Keldon Johnson, averaging 16.3 points a game. The other 3 Cats in double figures are Reid Travis (13.6), P.J. Washington (12.6), plus 8.4 rebounds/game and Tyler Herro at 10.9 points a game. They have an intriguing game tomorrow against UNC Greensboro, a mid-major team capable of winning a game or two in March.
#4 Mississippi State (5-1)
KenPom Ranking: 28th
Best Win: Saint Mary’s - 71st in KenPom
Toughest Remaining Non-Conference Opponent: 12/8 Clemson (in Newark) - 27th in KenPom
So far, the Bulldogs are the best team in the second tier of the conference. Their lone loss came against undefeated Arizona State on a neutral floor in Las Vegas. The Bulldogs lead the SEC in fewest points allowed per game at 61.8. They are led in scoring by senior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon at 17 points per game. The Bulldogs have 4 other double figure scorers in Aric Holman (11.5, 8.7 rebounds), Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter (11.2 each) and Nick Weatherspoon (10.8). The meat of their non-conference schedule begins tonight as they play at Dayton (Auburn’s opponent next Saturday). Cincinnati (36th) comes to Starkville on the 15th.
#5 LSU (5-2)
KenPom Ranking: 48th
Best Win: UNC Greensboro - 64th in KenPom
Toughest Remaining Non-Conference Opponent: 12/12 at Houston - 42nd in KenPom
Expectations are still high in Baton Rouge this year but the Tigers lost twice in their tournament in Orlando last weekend to Florida State and Oklahoma State to knock them out of the Top 25. To their credit though, they’ve played a pretty rigorous schedule out of the gate and have a few more tough non-conference challenges ahead. Leading the Tigers in scoring is Skylar Mays with 14.6 points per game. At point guard, Tremont Waters is averaging 11.3 points, 6.3 assists (3rd in the conference) and leads the league in steals with 3.3 per game. LSU’s other double figure scorers include a pair of freshmen in Naz Reid (12.1) and Ja’Vonte Smart (11.1).
#6 Arkansas (4-1)
KenPom Ranking: 51st
Best Win: Indiana - 23rd in KenPom
Toughest Remaining Non-Conference Opponent: 12/19 Georgia Tech - 76th in KenPom
Other than an Overtime loss to Texas at Fort Bliss, the Razorbacks have taken care of business so far despite being a team full of underclassmen. They also own the league’s best win so far, a 73-72 decision over Indiana on November 18th. Their scoring so far (78.6 points per game) has been down a little bit compared to last year when they were neck and neck with Auburn for the highest scoring team in the SEC. Daniel Gafford is the focal point this year for the Hogs and currently ranks 2nd in the SEC at 19.2 points per game, while also averaging 8 rebounds per game. Arkansas boasts 3 additional double figure scorers in Mason Jones (13), Isaiah Joe (12.8) and Adrio Bailey (11.2)
#7 Vanderbilt (5-1)
KenPom Ranking: 61st
Best Win: at USC - 59th in KenPom
Toughest Remaining Non-Conference Opponent: 12/22 Kansas State (in Kansas City) - 20th in KenPom
Vanderbilt suffered a devastating blow on Tuesday when it was announced that Point Guard Darius Garland would miss the rest of the season with a torn meniscus in his knee. Still, the Commodores have several young pieces that will take on added responsibility as the season moves forward. The Commdores are 16th in the country in scoring at 87.8 points a game. Another freshmen, 6’10” Simisola Shittu leads the team averaging 16.2 points a game, while also sitting 5th in the conference at 8.3 rebounds a game.. Other double figure scorers include Joe Toye (12.3), Saban Lee (12) and Notre Dame transfer Matt Ryan (10.2). In addition to K-State, the Commdores play N.C. State tomorrow in Miami plus Arizona State (41st in KenPom) in Nashville this month.
#8 Alabama (5-2)
KenPom Ranking: 60th
Best Win: Wichita State - 86th in KenPom
Toughest Remaining Non-Conference Opponent: 12/21 Penn State - 37th in KenPom
I had Alabama at 6 before losing at UCF 70-64 last night, marking the 2nd straight year UCF has defeated Alabama on the hardwood. Kira Lewis Jr. looks to be their best player so far this year. The 17 year old freshmen point guard leads the Tide averaging 14.3 points a game. John Petty is the only other double figure scorer at 12.6 points a game but scored just 5 points last night. The Tide defeated Murray State earlier this week and hosts Arizona next Sunday, the 9th.
#9 Florida (4-3)
KenPom Ranking: 22nd
Best Win: Stanford - 108th in KenPom
Toughest Remaining Non-Conference Opponent: 12/8 Michigan State - 11th in KenPom
I was one who was very high on Florida in the preseason but the Gators have gotten off to a slow start to the season losing games to Florida State, Oklahoma and Butler. They put up 98 last night, only the 2nd time the Gators have scored over 80 on the season. Right now, they rank in the 200s in scoring and need more offensive output but Wednesday night’s 98-66 win over North Florida looked to be a step in the right direction. Seniors KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson are off to slow starts averaging 8.7 and 6.9 points a game respectively. Their leading scorer, and only double figure scorer, is Deaundrae Ballard, at 10.9 points per game. Freshmen point guard Andrew Nembhard is a name to remember as he’s averaging 6.6. assists a game so far this year. Despite the slow start, they have December games against West Virginia, Michigan State and Butler to get better and don’t count out the Gators once we get to SEC play.
#10 Ole Miss (4-2)
KenPom Ranking: 72nd
Best Win: Baylor - 58th in KenPom
Toughest Remaining Non-Conference Opponent: 12/8 at Illinois State - 128th in KenPom
I had Ole Miss at the very bottom in the preseason but have played pretty well so far this year, only suffering losses to Cincinnati and at Butler. Breein Tyree is 3rd in the conference at 17.5 points a game so far this season. Other double figure scorers for the Rebels include Terence Davis (14.7) and Devontae Shuler (11.2). December looks to be a month for Kermit Davis’s group to build some confidence as the difficult part of their non-conference schedule looks to be behind them. They will serve as Auburn’s SEC opener on January 9th in Oxford.
#11 Missouri (3-3)
KenPom Ranking: 101st
Best Win: Oregon State - 80th in KenPom
Toughest Remaining Non-Conference Opponent: 12/2 UCF - 43rd in KenPom
Missouri was dealt a significant blow in the preseason when their best player Jontay Porter was lost for the season with a Torn ACL. The Tigers have struggled offensively averaging just 65.9 points a game. They did receive a boost getting Illinois transfer Mark Smith eligible as he is the leading scorer averaging 12.8 points and 6 rebounds a game. Also in double figures for Missouri is Jordan Geist (12.5) and Kevin Puryear (11.2). They host UCF Sunday and also play Xavier and Illinois in the month of December.
#12 Texas A&M (2-4)
KenPom Ranking: 67th
Best Win: South Alabama - 209th in KenPom
Toughest Remaining Non-Conference Opponent: 12/8 Boston College - 68th in KenPom
It hasn’t been a good start for the Aggies. After losing the majority of their frontcourt, they’ve also lost guard Admon Gilder for the season. They’ve also played a difficult schedule playing at Gonzaga, Minnesota, and Washington, losing all 3 of those games. Right now, the Aggies are led by a pair of sophomore guards. The leading scorer so far is Savion Flagg at 15.5 points a game, while also averaging 7.5 rebounds a game. The other double figure scorer, T.J. Starks, a player who torched Auburn last year, is averaging 13.5 points a game so far this season.
#13 Georgia (4-3)
KenPom Ranking: 118th
Best Win: Illinois State - 128th in KenPom
Toughest Remaining Non-Conference Opponent: 12/15 Arizona State - 41st in KenPom
The rebuild is on in Athens with Tom Crean at the helm for the Bulldogs. Former coach Mark Fox did leave Crean with a few good pieces for his first year on the job. Rayshaun Hammonds is the leading scorer at 14.4 points a game. Nicolas Claxton is next with 12.1 points a game and is the current SEC leader with 9 rebounds a game, filling the rebounding void left by Yante Maten. Derek Ogbeide is the third leading scorer at 10 points per game. In addition, the Bulldogs lead the conference in blocks with 6.1 per game. Georgia lost state bragging rights when they lost to Georgia State by 24 in the Cayman Islands last week. Georgia will be Auburn’s SEC Home Opener on January 12th.
#14 South Carolina (3-3)
KenPom Ranking: 75th
Best Win: George Washington - 237th in KenPom
Toughest Remaining Non-Conference Opponent: 12/19 Virginia - 3rd in KenPom
Oh Frank Martin.. one of my favorite coaches in college basketball just hasn’t been able to replicate any magic from their Final Four run two years ago. The Gamecocks have a pair of home losses so far this year to Stony Brook and Wofford. The latter one, was a 20 point defeat to the Terriers. The leading scorer is freshmen guard A.J. Lawson averaging 13.2 points a game. South Carolina hasn’t gotten great numbers from Chris Silva so far this year. The senior is just averaging 10.3 points a game and has fought foul trouble throughout the season. The schedule doesn’t get any easier for South Carolina. In addition to Virginia, they host Clemson and travel to Michigan.
That’s all for now. We’ll probably do this again before SEC play gets underway. War Eagle!