SEC Power Rankings: Week FourPosted by DPerry on December 14th, 2012
Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. Here are Week Four’s SEC Power Rankings (all statistics via TeamRankings).
- Florida– There’s not a lot missing from the Gators’ resume. They’ve beaten every opponent by double figures, while playing the nation’s 13th toughest schedule. As of the release of last week’s rankings, however, they hadn’t had the chance to prove their mettle in a true road game, a situation in which they struggled last season (losing their first four). After their trip to Tallahassee last week, consider that mettle proven. The Gators embarrassed rival Florida State in a 72-47 win, holding the Seminoles to only 15 first-half points. Florida’s ability to win away from the O-Dome will be crucial over the rest of the season. In addition to this Saturday’s trip to Arizona, the Gators will have road games at Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky, all among the more hostile environments in the SEC.
- Missouri– Do I have to put a team here? There’s a massive gap between Florida and the rest of the conference, but the Tigers are the choice at #2. Missouri hasn’t been tested against quality competition since they left the Bahamas, but their performances against smaller conference foes have been far from convincing. A nasty little habit of starting slow has been their biggest problem. The Tigers trailed Southeast Missouri State by 10 at the half, and only held a three-point advantage over Tennessee State after 20 minutes. In fact, Mizzou ranks 101st nationally in first half scoring margin, at only +3.1 points. Big second half scoring outputs have saved Frank Haith’s team, but with Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini looming next week, another slow start may be too much to overcome.
- Kentucky– After consecutive losses to Notre Dame and Baylor, the Wildcats made history when they dropped out of the rankings from the #8 spot, receiving only 186 votes, the largest single-week drop in AP poll history. Kentucky proceeded to easily handle its next two opponents in Samford and Portland, but somehow fell even further in the next AP poll, garnering only 44 votes. I’m not claiming that the Wildcats deserve to be ranked, but why would they lose ground after two convincing victories? It appears that quite a few voters realized a week too late that they were allowed to leave Kentucky off their ballots.
- Ole Miss– The Rebels remain in the fourth slot despite suffering their first slip-up on the young season. A loss to Middle Tennessee State would appear disastrous to the uninitiated, but the Blue Raiders are one of the top non-power conference teams in the nation (ranked #38 by Ken Pomeroy). The fourth-best team in a power conference should probably be able to handle this type of road test, but maybe I’m overlooking their stumble simply because they’re so damn fun to watch. Andy Kennedy’s team leads the SEC in scoring and possessions/game, and aren’t reliant on one player to make their offense work. Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner comprise the conference’s most productive frontcourt this side of Gainesville, and Marshall Henderson is one of the nation’s top distance shooters.
- Alabama– At least there are no more teams from southeastern Ohio on their schedule. The Crimson Tide looked impressive through the first portion of the season, but they couldn’t keep up that momentum in losses at Cincinnati (forgivable) and at home against Dayton (not so forgivable). Alabama has a surplus of backcourt talent, but their lack of an inside game has been their tragic flaw. The situation became even more dire this week with the news that 7’1” Carl Engstrom’s injury will sideline him for the rest of the season. Highly touted frosh Devonta Pollard is the only frontcourt option with the potential to be a key offensive contributor, but he’s been underwhelming at best. He’s shooting only 38% from the field, while his slight frame prevents him from being a force on the glass.
- Arkansas– The Razorbacks are a frustrating team. The SEC (outside of Lexington, at least) isn’t exactly a beacon of college basketball passion, and if any fan base has the potential to again become one of the game’s best, it’s the folks in Arkansas. Nolan Richardson’s departure in 2002 was followed by a couple of failed hires, but Mike Anderson may be the coach to lead Arkansas back to national prominence. A solid first step is scheduling tough non-conference opponents, and with games against Wisconsin, Syracuse, and Michigan, Anderson has definitely done that. If only they could win one. In Ann Arbor on Saturday, the Razorbacks were within a point of the Wolverines halfway through the second half, but couldn’t finish the job as Michigan pulled away late. Marshawn Powell led the way for Arkansas with 18 points, but star BJ Young fell short of expectations, failing to hit double figures for the first time this season. He was too aggressive on the offensive end in the last quarter of the game, a habit he’ll need to fix before conference play begins.
- LSU– I feel like I can almost copy and paste what we’ve been saying about LSU in previous weeks. The Tigers have feasted on a steady diet of cupcakes, playing the nation’s 299th toughest slate of opponents. I hate that a major conference team can schedule such a joke of a schedule, but my hate has to be reserved for the program and not this individual team. And this individual team has done nothing but win. Johnny O’Bryant III and Shavon Coleman have formed a surprisingly potent frontcourt through six games, combining to average almost 30 points and 17 rebounds per game. Do those numbers represent the opening salvo of a dominant low-post pairing or are they just the product of weak opposition? I lean towards the latter, but we’ll learn more after the Tigers’ impending road trip, which includes trips to Boise State and Marquette.
- Texas A&M– The Aggies have played a schedule that closely resembles LSU’s, and in their only departure from that trend, Texas A&M was absolutely handled by Saint Louis. Senior Elston Turner was expected to be the star, but he’s been even better than projected. He’s improved his shooting percentages from the field and from three, and cut down on turnovers from where he was last season.
- Tennessee– What’s wrong with the Vols? It’s definitely a lot more than can be explained simply by Jeronne Maymon’s absence, although Cuonzo Martin’s team did hang on to win a close game against Wichita State last night. Check back with the SEC microsite later today for an analysis on Tennessee’s struggles.
- South Carolina– The Gamecocks aren’t going to have a lot of success unless they drastically improve their ball control. Frank Martin’s team ranks 335th in the nation in turnover percentage, losing the ball on a shocking 26.7% of their possessions. Point guard play isn’t the only issue, as post players Lakeem Jackson and Mindaugas Kacinas are averaging 2.8 and 2.4 TOs/game respectively.
- Georgia– The Bulldogs have mercifully been given a break from basketball during exams. They’ll return to action with a five-game home stand during which coach Mark Fox has to find another offensive option. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the only scoring threat, but with defenses able to focus solely on him, his field goal percentage has plummeted to a miserable 36.7%.
- Vanderbilt– An unexpected win on the road at Xavier gets the Commodores out of the cellar. Kyle Fuller had a monster game against the Muskies, scoring 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting. Despite the surprise upset, there isn’t much to like about this team. They haven’t been able to score, rebound, or get stops with any level of consistency. Kevin Stallings is a proven coach, and this team may be his toughest challenge.
- Mississippi State– Rick Ray doesn’t have much to work with in Starkville. His Bulldogs are sporting an effective field goal percentage of 42.3%, 316th in the nation. Sophomore Roquez Johnson is the primary offensive option, after averaging only three minutes/game as a frosh. Rough.
- Auburn– A 50-point win over college basketball’s worst team isn’t enough to save the Tigers from last place. A miserable start has put coach Tony Barbee, in his third season at the helm, squarely on the hot seat. They were never going to compete with the conference’s power teams, but with so many others mired in drastic rebuilding phases, Auburn has the personnel to steal a few conference wins.