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SEC Power Rankings - Volume III

We preview the 2019 SEC Basketball slate. Where will everyone finish? Read more to find out!

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at N.C. State Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Happy New Year!! As we flip the calendar from 2018 to 2019, this means that conference play is here and time for another Power Rankings! Going forward, I’ll be putting these out on a weekly basis.

In case you want to catch up on the first two Volumes: we broke the preseason rankings (Volume I) up into two articles (Part 1) (Part 2), and then Volume II looked at the state of things at the end of November. Now that SEC play begins on Saturday, it’s time to breakdown the conference so far and reveal where I think each SEC team will finish this year.

#1 Tennessee Volunteers (11-1)

This Week: Saturday vs. Georgia

  • Current KenPom Ranking: 11
  • Top 75 KenPom Wins: Gonzaga (3), Louisville (43)
  • Leading Scorers: Grant Williams (20.1), Admiral Schofield (18.2), Jordan Bone (14.3)
  • Points Per Game: 85.5 (1st in SEC)
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 66.4 (5th in SEC)
  • When do they play Auburn: March 9 at Auburn

Tennessee is the best team in the SEC, at least at the moment. They have the best win in the conference, over Gonzaga, and haven’t lost in regulation yet. That loss came in overtime against Kansas on a neutral floor, in a game that Grant Williams fouled out in regulation. Currently, Tennessee has the top 2 scorers in the SEC in Williams and Schofield.

We have to wait until the final game of the season to see Auburn and Tennessee go at it this year. The hope for Tiger fans is for that game to have meaning in regards to who wins the SEC Regular Season Championship.

#2 Auburn Tigers (11-2)

This Week: OFF

  • Current KenPom Ranking: 12
  • Top 75 KenPom Wins: Arizona (53), Washington (55), Murray State (61), Xavier (67)
  • Leading Scorers: Bryce Brown (15.3), Jared Harper (14.9), Austin Wiley (11.9)
  • Points Per Game: 85.2 (2nd in SEC)
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 64.5 (3rd in SEC)

Auburn has 4 Top 75 KenPom (Q1) wins, however none of those teams are Top 50, right now. The Tigers need Arizona and/or Washington to take charge in the Pac-12 (and trust me, somebody needs to do it) as well as Murray State to dominate the Ohio Valley Conference to make those wins look better.

Auburn has the best PG in the SEC in Jared Harper who in addition to his points, leads the SEC in assists per game at 6.8. Austin Wiley played a season high 26 minutes against Murray State two weeks ago and with him being in the starting lineup, I can see him averaging close to that mark now the league play is upon us.

#3 Kentucky Wildcats (10-2)

This Week: Saturday at Alabama

  • Current KenPom Ranking: 13
  • Top 75 KenPom Wins: North Carolina (8), Louisville (43)
  • Leading Scorers: Keldon Johnson (16.4), Reid Travis (14.6), Tyler Herro (13.3)
  • Points Per Game: 83.1 (3rd in SEC)
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 69.4 (7th in SEC)
  • When do they play Auburn: January 19 at Auburn, February 23 at Kentucky

Talent-wise, Kentucky may be the best team in the league, but they are also the youngest. We have seen the Wildcats play well in their last 2 games against North Carolina and Louisville and look to have figured some things out after getting blitzed by 34 against Duke on opening night. Still, there will be times when Coach Cal will have to work extra hard to motivate his guys. We see it every year, and usually by late February and March, we begin to really see the Kentucky team that most expected throughout the season. Take last season for example, they got hot at the end of the year, rolled through the SEC Tournament and was the league’s only representative in the Sweet 16. They seem to have found a point guard in Ashton Hagans who had 8 steals in their win over the Tar Heels. He may not score a bunch, but his defense is pivotal to Kentucky’s success this year.

Auburn drew Kentucky twice this year, which is good for Auburn as they’ll get a chance to beat Kentucky for the 3rd straight time at Auburn Arena and attempt to win at Rupp Arena for the first time since 1988.

#4 Mississippi State Bulldogs (12-1)

This Week: OFF

  • Current KenPom Ranking: 20
  • Top 75 KenPom Wins: Cincinnati (27), Clemson (33), Saint Mary’s (44), Wofford (64)
  • Leading Scorers: Quinndary Weatherspoon (17.2), Lamar Peters (13.2), Aric Holman (12.5)
  • Points Per Game: 80.2 (7th in SEC)
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 66.7 (6th in SEC)
  • When do they play Auburn: January 26 at Mississippi State, March 2 at Auburn

Here’s a team flying under the radar but when they’re consistently, they are one of the league’s best. Ben Howland has done a tremendous job getting this program back on track. Last year, we lamented all year about how their non-conference schedule was holding the team back from more NCAA Tournament consideration as their Strength of Schedule (SOS) was around 300. So to fix that problem this year, the Bulldogs scheduled well and have 3 Top 50 KenPom wins, most in the league. If they consistently play at a high level night in and night out, this team could end up jumping into the Top 3 of the league.

Auburn gets the Bulldogs twice this year and they’ll both be big games. Auburn sees them in 3 weeks at the Hump, a building where Auburn won for the first time since 2009 last season. The Tigers also host Mississippi State in the second to last home game of the year. This will be another big Saturday home contest for the Tigers.

#5 LSU Tigers (10-3)

This Week: OFF

  • Current KenPom Ranking: 40
  • Top 75 KenPom Wins: Saint Mary’s (44)
  • Leading Scorers: Skylar Mays (13.5), Naz Reid (12.6), Tremont Waters (12.5)
  • Points Per Game: 80.7 (6th in SEC)
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 70 (8th in SEC)
  • When do they play Auburn: February 9 at LSU

LSU played some solid mid-majors at home in their non-conference schedule and they were the team to end Furman’s undefeated run. They have wins over the Paladins, UNC Greensboro and Memphis. While the Tigers were led by Tremont Waters in most categories last year, he has other guys helping him this year and his numbers are a bit down. But his defense is still there as he is the only person with more steals per game than Chuma Okeke. Each of LSU’s 4 freshmen have played and nicely contributed to this year’s squad including 6’10” Naz Reid who will be a handful for most of the league in the paint.

Last year, Auburn blew the doors off of LSU inside Auburn Arena in a game that was over in the first 5 minutes. LSU will look for revenge as Auburn comes to Baton Rouge on February 9th. Auburn has won their last 2 games in Baton Rouge and for the Bayou Bengals, this will be a huge game in regards to their NCAA Tournament hopes.

#6 Florida Gators (8-4)

This Week: Saturday vs. South Carolina

  • Current KenPom Ranking: 16
  • Top 75 KenPom Wins: Butler (37), West Virginia (51)
  • Leading Scorers: KeVaughn Allen (10.3), Noah Locke (9.4), Deaundrae Ballard (8.6)
  • Points Per Game: 71 (13th in SEC)
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 59.8 (1st in SEC)
  • When do they play Auburn: February 5 at Auburn

This team’s defense is good enough to play with anyone in the league, and if they can get their offense going, they’ll show why I thought they were one of the league’s sleepers going into the year. I had them 4th in the Preseason but a rough November had me questioning that. The Gators may have put it together in a 34 point win over Butler in their final non-conference game last Saturday. The Gators have balanced scoring as they have 8 guys averaging at least 6.6 points per game. One of the biggest mysteries this year is the disappearance of Jalen Hudson. After leading the Gators in scoring last year at 15.5 a game, he is averaging just 6.6 points this season. Hudson was a 40% 3-point shooter last year, but just 24.4% this year. If the Gators can get Hudson him going, this team will looked poised to stay in the top half of the SEC standings.

Auburn doesn’t go to the Swamp this year but gets a crack at the Gators in Auburn on February 5th. Auburn has lost 11 straight against Florida dating back to March 13, 2009. In fact, both of Auburn’s wins over Florida in this millennium have come in the SEC Tournament, the other win coming in 2000. You have to go back to 1999 when Auburn last beat Florida in the regular season.

#7 Alabama Crimson Tide (9-3)

This Week: Saturday vs. #13 Kentucky

  • Current KenPom Ranking: 63
  • Top 75 KenPom Wins: Penn State (46), Arizona (53), Murray State (61)
  • Leading Scorers: Kira Lewis Jr. (15), Donta Hall (11.1), John Petty (11.1)
  • Points Per Game: 76.5 (10th in SEC)
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 71.3 (LAST in SEC)
  • When do they play Auburn: February 2 at Auburn, March 5 at Alabama

While most fans wondered how they would replace Collin Sexton, 17 year old Kira Lewis Jr. has been that answer. He leads the team in scoring but has also made the guys around him better making this team poised to be better than anticipated. Donta Hall is a prime example of this. He’s Alabama’s go to guy in the paint and in 5 December games, he averaged 14.8 points and 10 rebounds a game. Granted, all 3 of their losses are against teams they should have beat but this teams has gotten better towards the end of conference play and get tested right out of the gate as Kentucky comes to Tuscaloosa to open SEC play.

As usual, the Tigers and Tide will play each other twice with Auburn getting the first hosting opportunity this year. Auburn’s last road game of the season is in Tuscaloosa and that game will also serve as Alabama’s last home game.

#8 Vanderbilt Commodores (9-3)

This Week: Saturday vs. Ole Miss

  • Current KenPom Ranking: 58
  • Top 75 KenPom Wins: Arizona State (50)
  • Leading Scorers: Simisola Shittu (14.4), Saben Lee (12.5), Matt Ryan (10.9)
  • Points Per Game: 82.9 (4th in SEC)
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 70.3 (Tied for 9th in SEC)
  • When do they play Auburn: February 16 at Vanderbilt

Losing Darius Garland to a torn ACL at the beginning of the year was a big blow for the Dores but Saben Lee and Simisola Shittu have stepped up to try and keep Vandy’s season on track. The Commodores are young but this team is lengthier, deeper and more talented than last year’s group. Despite Garland’s injury, Vandy has 9 guys playing at least 15 minutes a game. Depending on how league play goes, will have a shot at making the NCAA Tournament this year.

Auburn ended some long losing streaks last year on opponents home floors and this is another place Auburn will look to break the hex, the weirdness and bizarreness known as Memorial Gym. Auburn beat Vandy for the first time since 2007 last Spring and the Tigers will look to win at Vanderbilt for the first time since February 16, 2000. Ironically, this game is on February 16th this year.

#9 Arkansas Razorbacks (9-3)

This Week: Saturday at Texas A&M

  • Current KenPom Ranking: 57
  • Top 75 KenPom Wins: Indiana (26)
  • Leading Scorers: Daniel Gafford (17.5), Isaiah Joe (15.8), Mason Jones (13.4)
  • Points Per Game: 81.8 (5th in SEC)
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 70.3 (Tied for 9th in SEC)
  • When do they play Auburn: February 20 at Auburn

The Razorbacks have been somewhat of a pleasant surprise so far this season and their 3 losses are by a total of 6 points combined, granted two of those were on their home floor. The Razorbacks still go through Daniel Gafford, averaging 17.5 points and 9.3 rebounds a game. Freshmen Isaiah Joe has exceeded expectations so far, scoring in double figures in every game so far, including a 34 point performance. He along with Mason Jones is part of why the Razorbacks have outperformed their expectations so far.

No trip to Fayetteville for Auburn this year and the Tigers won’t see the Razorbacks until the latter part of February at Auburn Arena. This is the game before Auburn’s trip to Kentucky.

#10 Ole Miss Rebels (10-2)

This Week: Saturday at Vanderbilt

  • Current KenPom Ranking: 48
  • Top 75 KenPom Wins: Baylor (59)
  • Leading Scorers: Breein Tyree (17.3), Terence Davis (15.5), Devontae Shuler (10.3)
  • Points Per Game: 79.4 (8th in SEC)
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 66.1 (4th in SEC)
  • When do they play Auburn: January 9 at Ole Miss, February 13 at Auburn

Kermit Davis is a helluva coach and he’s got Ole Miss playing better than most people expected. Their only losses are to Butler and Cincinnati and Breein Tyree has averaged 6.5 more points a game this year than last year. I picked this team to finish last in the preseason but now I think this team is capable of sneaking into the Top 10 of the conference.

Auburn gets to see Ole Miss right out of the gate next Wednesday in the Tigers conference opener. Ole Miss has one of the better backcourts in the league in Terence Davis and Breein Tyree so this game will not be a pushover for the Tigers.

#11 Missouri Tigers (9-3)

This Week: OFF

  • Current KenPom Ranking: 72
  • Top 75 KenPom Wins: UCF (38), Xavier (67)
  • Leading Scorers: Jordan Geist (13.9), Mark Smith (12), Jeremiah Tilmon (10.8)
  • Points Per Game: 69.1 (LAST in SEC)
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 63.2 (2nd in SEC)
  • When do they play Auburn: January 30 at Auburn

Expectations for this team sunk when Jontay Porter had a season ending injury before the year started. They got a huge boost when Mark Smith was declared eligible after transferring from Illinois. They play a lot of lower scoring contests and have scored just 80 points on 1 occasion this year.

Auburn only meets Missouri once this year as Mizzou comes to Auburn on January 30th to start a 3 game homestand for Auburn.

#12 Georgia Bulldogs (8-4)

This Week: Saturday at #3 Tennessee

  • Current KenPom Ranking: 100
  • Top 75 KenPom Wins: None
  • Leading Scorers: Rayshaun Hammonds (15), Nicolas Claxton (13.3), Tyree Crump (11.2)
  • Points Per Game: 79.2 (9th in SEC)
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 71 (Tied for 12th in SEC)
  • When do they play Auburn: January 12 at Auburn, February 27 at Georgia

Georgia had the daunting task of replacing Yante Maten this year but Tom Crean has come close to finding that guy in Nicolas Claxton. In addition to being Georgia’s second leading scorer, he’s also averaging 10.2 rebounds a game, tops in the SEC. The biggest Achilles heel on this team is turning the ball over. Georgia has 200 turnovers in their 12 games so far this season.

Auburn and Georgia meet twice annually and Tigers fans will see Georgia next Saturday in Auburn Arena before traveling to Athens at the end of February. Last year, Auburn beat Georgia twice in the same season for the first time since 1985-1986.

#13 Texas A&M Aggies (6-5)

This Week: Saturday vs. Arkansas

  • Current KenPom Ranking: 97
  • Top 75 KenPom Wins: None
  • Leading Scorers: T.J. Starks (13.5), Savion Flagg (12), Christian Mekowulu (11)
  • Points Per Game: 75.5 (11th in SEC)
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 71 (Tied for 12th in SEC)
  • When do they play Auburn: January 16 at Texas A&M

It’s been a tough go for the Aggies this year as they started the year 1-4 before winning 5 of their last 6 non-conference games. They lost Admon Gilder for the year early and don’t quite have the interior play they did last season in Robert Williams and Tyler Davis. T.J. Starks leads the way for A&M and he scored 23 points last year in their meeting with Auburn.

Auburn will look to avenge its only home loss last season when the Tigers head to College Station on January 16th. Auburn last beat Texas A&M in the 2015 SEC Tournament when K.T. Harrell led a 13th seeded Tigers squad all the way to the semifinals. Since the Aggies joined the SEC, Auburn has beaten Texas A&M just once, in College Station, in 2014.

#14 South Carolina Gamecocks (5-7)

This Week: Saturday at Florida

  • Current KenPom Ranking: 125
  • Top 75 KenPom Wins: None
  • Leading Scorers: A.J. Lawson (13.8), Chris Silva (12.8), Hassani Gravett (9.9)
  • Points Per Game: 74.1 (12th in SEC)
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 70.4 (11th in SEC)
  • When do they play Auburn: January 22 at South Carolina

Is Frank Martin on the hot seat in Columbia? After expectations soared upon reaching the Final Four in 2017, the Gamecocks have struggled mightily since Sindarius Thornwell graduated. This year, the Gamecocks have played a brutal schedule including games against Virginia, Clemson, and at Michigan.

Auburn will look to win at a place that’s given them fits over the last few years, especially last year. This game’s at a dangerous spot on the schedule considering the game is the Tuesday right after the Kentucky home game.

If you made it here, congratulations and thanks for reading! As we get into the New Year, I’m hoping to bring you guys the best basketball coverage possible. Until next week, War Eagle!