Three games into conference play, no one is undefeated and you've got transitive properties like LSU beat Arkansas beat Tennessee beat Vanderbilt beat Georgia beat Kentucky. Head-to-head results will still receive a lot of value this early in the poll, but several teams will have a chance to earn their keep with big games this week. You'll note that the top half of this poll is the entire Eastern Division - I'll be more than happy to listen to any argument as to why that shouldn't be the case.
1. Georgia (13-3, 2-1)
The Dawgs stay at number one because Kentucky didn't get a chance to prove much this week: while the Cats beat Auburn and LSU at home, Georgia lost by seven at Vanderbilt but won at Ole Miss by twenty-two. The next four will tell us a lot about how good this team can be: a three game homestand with Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Florida, and at Rupp Arena on January 29.
2. Kentucky (14-3, 2-1)
Who made UK's schedule? After the opener at Georgia, they get Auburn, LSU, and at Alabama. And looking way ahead, their final three games are home against Florida and Vanderbilt, and at Tennessee. The slow burn might be good for their youth - Terrence Jones is averaing 25.3 a night in SEC play.
3. South Carolina (11-5, 2-1)
No team in the league has better conference wins than vs Vanderbilt and at Florida...which helps ease the pain from a ten point loss at Alabama. As a result, I'm not at all sure that South Carolina ultimately belongs in this top tier...but right now, they have a better argument for it than anyone else in conference play.
4. Florida (13-4, 2-1)
The Gators got a big overtime win over Tennessee, but followed up with a 12 of 22 (54.5%) performance at the free throw line, which got them beat by South Carolina. They may not be the best team in the league, but their experience should keep them near the top all year.
5. Tennessee (11-6, 1-2)
Tennessee gets to stay in the championship/best team in the league conversation with the win at Vanderbilt, but it'll take a winning streak against real competition for them to shed the inconsistent label. If that doesn't happen this week in Athens and Hartford, it won't until Bruce Pearl comes back - the back half of Tony Jones' run is a four game tour of the SEC West.
6. Vanderbilt (12-4, 1-2)
Is Vandy really the worst team in the division? The reality is it's not only too soon to know, but that all six teams could be legitimately good, with little room between the top and bottom - after all, Vandy beat Georgia. The Dores are worst at closing - three points in overtime in the loss at South Carolina, and an impressive second half collapse in Knoxville. By March, there may not be any shame in a pair of close road losses against division foes, but for now they're the logical choice for the East's basement.
7. Arkansas (12-4, 2-1)
You lose to LSU, you lose the power of a home head-to-head win against Tennessee. The Razorbacks did respond to win a close game against Alabama, but are yet to win an actual road game this year. If the Hogs win the West with no marquee non-conference wins, how many SEC games will they have to win to go dancing? I'd put the line at 11.5.
8. Alabama (10-7, 2-1)
Given that Alabama's non-conference resume includes a loss to the St. Peter's Peacocks, I'd say they'll have to win even more than 11.5 in conference to even think about the dance. But hey, they've got Kentucky in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday night if they'd like to make some noise.
9. Mississippi State (10-7, 2-1)
Since losing at home to Alabama by 18, the Bulldogs picked up a rivalry win in Oxford, then did what any average-or-above SEC team should do to Auburn in a 19 point win. They still may be the best team in the West, and perhaps Stansbury has them playing together again...but if they're actually any good, we'll find out in the next three games: at Georgia, vs Vanderbilt, vs Florida.
10. LSU (10-8, 2-1)
The final unbeaten to fall thanks early games against Auburn and Arkansas. Only ranked 10th and not 11th because...
11. Ole Miss (12-6, 0-3)
...these guys can't win a game. You can forgive the six point loss at Florida, and perhaps even the rivalry loss to Mississippi State. But getting spanked 98-76 by Georgia in your home gym? Yikes.
12. Auburn (7-10, 0-3)
At least they can use their shiny new arena to show off that crystal football...when it's not at Wal-Mart, of course.