I'm sorry, I was led to believe this league had four or five good teams in it, and they were all in the East.
There's a familiar trio atop our rankings this week, and though all of them are flawed, it's still my sincere hope that this is 2011 and not 2009, and there are still real live good teams in this league. Georgia's RPI means they have more to prove, as does Vanderbilt after that performance against Arkansas. Speaking of which...could Arkansas actually be good? What about Alabama?
Here's how we sort out all the questions this week:
1. Kentucky (16-4, 4-2, RPI 9)
Well, I really enjoyed putting someone else at number one for three weeks, but we return to familiar ground with the Cats atop the leaderboard this week. UK's only game this week was against Georgia, and it showed in the first half especially. They'll get one final tuneup in Oxford this week before they get at Florida, vs Tennessee, at Vanderbilt.
2. Florida (16-5, 5-2, RPI 18)
It's usually true that there's no shame in losing in Starkville, and perhaps by the end of the year that'll be true for these Gators as well. Florida gave away first place, but still has wins in Athens and Knoxville that will serve them well the rest of the year. If we stay this tight all year, the Gators could win up winning the East on Erving Walker's overtime three at Georgia.
3. Tennessee (14-7, 4-2, RPI 19)
Well, that loss at Arkansas looks a little better now, and we have to keep reminding ourselves that while the Vols' non-conference struggles were frustrating, every loss except Charlotte was to an RPI Top 100 team, as are several of UT's non-conference wins. These are the things we fall back on in the midst of four straight games against the SEC West.
4. Georgia (14-6, 3-4, RPI 45)
Here are the Dawgs' six losses: Notre Dame in double overtime, Temple by 7, at Vandy by 7, Tennessee at the buzzer, Florida in double overtime, at Rupp by 6. I think Georgia is both good and unlucky. The schedule broke against them early, but sets them up for a very strong finish. This team isn't going away. Most interesting game of the week: Georgia at Arkansas, Wednesday night.
5. Alabama (13-7, 5-1, RPI 118)
The Tide are the only team with one loss in conference play...so how good are they? Four of their five wins have come against teams in the lower half of this poll, but the fifth is Kentucky...and their loss is at Arkansas, which looks better now. Their non-conference play did them zero favors (cannot stress this enough: Alabama lost to the St. Peter's Peacocks), but if the East continues to eat itself alive, what if Alabama goes, say, 11-5...and what if 11-5 is good enough to win the whole conference? Would that be enough to get them in?
6. Arkansas (14-6, 4-3, RPI 79)
They've got a head-to-head win against Alabama, but they've also lost to LSU and to Florida by 32. We're keeping Alabama on hold above them as the conference leader, and we'll see how long it lasts. Same question with Alabama - how many wins would it take to get them in? Remember, though they lost to Texas by 33, their only other two non-conference losses were overtime affairs with UAB (RPI 39) and Texas A&M (RPI 16). Rotnei Clark at Vanderbilt: 12 of 16, 6 of 8 from three, 36 points. Baller.
7. Vanderbilt (15-5, 3-3, RPI 25)
It's a temporary deduction, but the head-to-head double digit home loss to Arkansas means they deserve to be behind the Hogs this week. Their conference resume is also less impressive: they beat Georgia, but the other two wins are against the state of Mississippi. No time like the present to rebound: at Florida, Tuesday night.
8. Mississippi State (11-9, 3-3, RPI 167)
A glimpse of what this season could've been in the win over Florida. We'll see how real that is Wednesday night in Tuscaloosa.
9. South Carolina (12-7, 3-3, RPI 108)
Standings are still tight, but when you lose at home to Auburn by 15, you deserve to be dropped. Significantly.
10. Ole Miss (13-8, 1-5, RPI 89)
Strength of schedule can only help you for so long...this team looked really bad against the Vols on Saturday.
11. LSU (10-11, 2-4, RPI 183)
There's losing, and then there's averaging 52 points per game in league play. Losing that way is a much quicker route to misery.
12. Auburn (8-13, 1-6, RPI 283)
Look out, they've cracked the Top 300!