Ten days ago on our last ballot, we had four 3-0 teams at the top, a secondary group of three at .500, four teams we all agreed were either a year away or simply not very good after that, and a winless LSU team at the bottom.
So with most teams playing three games since then, we've seen all the undefeateds at the top go down, and LSU move to 0-7 at the bottom. The reality is that Kentucky's loss (and subsequent beatdown of Vanderbilt) is indicative of the conference as a whole: no team in the SEC is currently on anything more than a two game winning streak.
This isn't last year, where we had a ton of average teams and no great ones. LSU - last year's champion - is clearly alone at the bottom, and Kentucky is still clearly alone at the top. But there's quality basketball being played even outside the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, and several teams in the bottom half of these rankings that are still capable of doing damage on any given night.
The round robin beatings of the past ten days have left us with only one change on our ballot: swapping Vanderbilt and Tennessee after the head-to-head encounter.
RTT Week 4 Ballot - February 1
1. Kentucky Wildcats (20-1, 5-1)
2. Vanderbilt Commodores (16-4, 5-1)
3. Tennessee Volunteers (16-4, 4-2)
4. Mississippi St. Bulldogs (16-5, 4-2)
5. Mississippi Rebels (16-5, 4-3)
6. Florida Gators (15-6, 4-3)
7. South Carolina Gamecocks (13-8, 4-3)
8. Arkansas Razorbacks (10-11, 3-3)
9. Alabama Crimson Tide (13-8, 3-4)
10. Georgia Bulldogs (9-10, 1-5)
11. Auburn Tigers (11-11, 2-5)
12. LSU Tigers (9-12, 0-7)
Some additional thoughts and questions after the jump...
- Is Kentucky truly vulnerable, or did they simply have the misfortune of playing Devan Downey in Columbia on the wrong night? Maybe they did buy into the #1 ranking and the phone call from President Obama too much...but LeBron's presence in the win over Vanderbilt sure didn't distract them. This team may get tripped up once or twice more along the way, but I don't think anyone will surpass them as the best team in the conference.
- How good can Vanderbilt be? While they just don't play enough defense to win them all night in and night out, I still believe this is a team that, if they get hot at the right time, could make all kinds of noise in March. After Kentucky, I think they're easily the best team in the SEC.
- Are the Vols really the third best team? The head-to-head win over Ole Miss takes care of their argument, and right now there just isn't anyone else you can make a strong case for. Mississippi State had two five point losses in Tuscaloosa and Fayetteville before bouncing back against LSU, but their non-conference resume has absolutely nothing positive on it, and they'll need to pick up the pace just to make a strong argument for the selection committee. How much stock we can put into the win on Sunday gets into...
- Is Florida good or not? They're 15-6 but lucky they're not 13-8. They did beat Michigan State and did play a difficult schedule, but is this a tournament team? They have some talented pieces, but didn't strike me as a really good team on Sunday.
- South Carolina is capable of beating anybody on any given night. Watch Devan Downey every chance you get. If John Wall beats him for league MVP, it will be a tragedy.
- Courtney Fortson is averaging 20.2 ppg in seven games back with Arkansas, in which the Hogs are 3-4 (with losses to Texas and Kentucky). They won't make the tournament, but they could cause problems for several teams that are trying to.
- How many SEC teams go dancing? Kentucky is a lock, and Vanderbilt isn't far behind. We're still a little nervous around these parts, but if Tennessee just plays .500 ball from here on out, we're in. Do both Ole Miss and Mississippi State get in, and if so what will it take? Before last year only two teams had ever gone 9-7 in the SEC and missed the dance, but in 2009 Florida went 9-7 and Auburn went 10-6, and both missed out. The league is better this year, and I think 9-7 should do it for either of those two, but it's no guarantee. After that? I don't see Florida getting the necessary wins to do it, and it'll take a continued herculean effort from Devan Downey to get Carolina in. I'd say five teams is the best guess, but as many as six or as few as three are on the table.