SEC Basketball Power Poll - February 21

Secpowerpoll2008_medium

Two weeks to go, everybody's now played twelve games, and half the league is still in gridlock. It's clear at the top: Kentucky is 12-0 and can clinch at least a share of the league title tonight. Florida and Vanderbilt will battle for second place and better NCAA seeding. After that, it's a mess: four teams at 6-6, two more at 5-7. Here's how we rank them this week:

1. Kentucky - 26-1 (12-0) - RPI 4 - KenPom 1 - BPI 1

Games Remaining: at Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Georgia, at Florida

Kentucky has played six single digit games all year: a 73-72 win over North Carolina and loss at Indiana, 69-62 vs Louisville, 65-62 at Tennessee, 77-71 over Alabama, and 69-63 over Vanderbilt. Six out of twenty-seven games. Average margin of victory: nineteen points. For teams hoping to make that magic run in New Orleans and steal an NCAA Tournament bid, including Tennessee, you'd better hope the Cats finish 16-0 and if a wake-up call is ever coming, they save it for the SEC Tournament. Best of luck to the rest of us on that one.

2. Florida - 21-6 (9-3) - RPI 17 - KenPom 14 - BPI 10

Games Remaining: Auburn, at Georgia, at Vanderbilt, Kentucky

Perhaps the most impressive week in all of college basketball belonged to the Gators over the last seven days. Reeling after a twenty point loss at Kentucky and the home loss to us, a Gator team whose only road wins were at South Carolina and at Ole Miss went to Tuscaloosa and Fayetteville. Alabama was shorthanded, but we saw Saturday that team can still play...and Florida beat them 61-52. Then they went to Arkansas to face a team that was 17-0 at home...and beat them by thirty. Florida shot 13 of 23 from the arc, 56.5%. They're now at 39.6% as a team on the year, 15th nationally. So just an average performance keeps them in just about any game...but if they got hot, they can beat anyone.

3. Vanderbilt - 19-8 (8-4) - RPI 24 - KenPom 24 - BPI 26

Games Remaining: South Carolina, at Kentucky, Florida, at Tennessee

Joining Florida's win at Arkansas and our two wins over those same Gators on the "most impressive thing an SEC team not named Kentucky did this year" list was Vanderbilt's win at Ole Miss last week: 102-76. Doing the Gators one better, Vandy shot 12 of 19 (63.2%) from the arc in Oxford, keeping them atop the SEC leaderboard at 40.2% from the arc for the year. Again, the last SEC team to shoot over 40% from the arc in a single season won the National Championship in 2007. With three overtime losses, I still feel like this team is much better than their record and will likely be much better than their NCAA Tournament seed.

After the jump, the train wreck.

4. Alabama - 17-9 (6-6) - RPI 38 - KenPom 28 - BPI 27

Games Remaining: at Arkansas, Mississippi State, Auburn, at Ole Miss

Hard part's over for this bunch. JaMychal Green will return Thursday night at Arkansas, with Tony Mitchell now suspended for the remainder of the season. But that means at least Bama now knows what they've got, and they were competitive against the Gators and beat us handily without Green. The Tide have a high enough RPI to be safe for the NCAA Tournament barring anything other than a total collapse, and credit Anthony Grant for preventing that while handing out his brand of justice at the same time. Bama is currently the highest rated 11 seed in The Bracket Matrix, with nine at-large spots between them at the wrong side of the bubble.

5. Tennessee - 14-13 (6-6) - RPI 110 - KenPom 73 - BPI 82

Games Remaining: Ole Miss, at South Carolina, at LSU, Vanderbilt

The Tide were clearly better than Tennessee on Saturday, but I'm still not convinced that anyone else in this league beyond that top four is right now. Even winning out probably wouldn't put Tennessee on the right side of the bubble at this point - the selection committee is made up of human beings, and as such teams that have been completely off the radar all year tend to remain there even if they win their last four. But this team still has two goals: first, win the SEC Tournament, and a first round bye would certainly be handy there. UT is tied for fourth right now, but lost head-to-head against Alabama and Mississippi State. And second, even if all that fails, finish strong enough to make the NIT, which again, would still be a major accomplishment for Cuonzo Martin in his first year. A split the rest of the way would keep the Vols above .500, but a 3-1 finish would make me feel much better about the NIT.

6. LSU - 16-10 (6-6) - RPI 63 - KenPom 71 - BPI 81

Games Remaining: Georgia, at Ole Miss, Tennessee, at Auburn

Hot streak alert: the Tigers have won three straight, knocking off Alabama and Mississippi State along the way, and as we mentioned last week, the schedule allows for a huge finish. While winning out would still require some work in the SEC Tournament for this team to be taken seriously by the selection committee, for a team that started 3-3 with losses to Coastal Carolina, Northwestern, and South Alabama? Life ain't bad at all right now.

7. Mississippi State - 19-8 (6-6) - RPI 59 - KenPom 81 - BPI 52

Games Remaining: Kentucky, at Alabama, at South Carolina, Arkansas

In just about any other year, I'd pick this crazy Mississippi State team to come out of their three game slide and beat Kentucky tonight, just because it sounds like something they'd do. But I'm not picking against this Kentucky team against anyone at this point. State is one of those teams where you're like, "Oh yeah, they'll make the tournament." Really? That RPI - which will go up simply by playing Kentucky - is very shaky. It's not just three straight losses, it's three straight losses to Georgia, LSU, and Auburn. At this point, they're the team I'm least worried about in this four-way tie.

8. Ole Miss - 15-11 (5-7) - RPI 62 - KenPom 115 - BPI 93

Games Remaining: at Tennessee, LSU, at Arkansas, Alabama

Continuing to make the case against RPI as a valid tool, here are the SEC wins for this team: Arkansas, Mississippi State, at Georgia, South Carolina, Auburn. Those first two looked a lot better a couple weeks ago, but now? This is a team that's basically beaten no one whose RPI lives off of non-conference losses to dominant teams in poor conferences (Southern Miss and MTSU are a combined 46-9). Like the Vols, they have one SEC road win. That doesn't need to change Wednesday night.

9. Arkansas - 17-10 (5-7) - RPI 79 - KenPom 112 - BPI 96

Games Remaining: Alabama, at Auburn, Ole Miss, at Mississippi State

Speaking of road woes, this team...I mean, it was bad before the Gators housed them by 30. The reality is, Arkansas is incredibly young and I'm sure they'll get better under Mike Anderson, but if you're thinking NIT, it had better be a home game or it's gonna be a short trip.

10. Auburn - 14-12 (4-8) - RPI 126 - KenPom 161 - BPI 130

Games Remaining: at Florida, Arkansas, at Alabama, LSU

Had lost five of six before they beat Mississippi State. Probably not going to make the NIT, but might find their way to the CBI Tournament.

11. Georgia - 12-14 (3-9) - RPI 117 - KenPom 125 - BPI 113

Games Remaining: at LSU, Florida, at Kentucky, South Carolina

The good news: after an 0-3 start in SEC play with all three losses by double figures, Georgia is 3-6 with four of those losses by single digits. Small steps.

12. South Carolina - 10-16 (2-10) - RPI 180 - KenPom 157 - BPI 160

Games Remaining: at Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Mississippi State, at Georgia

A brutal close for a team that's been bad all year; did beat Georgia last week but eight of their ten SEC losses have been by double figures. Playing the old SEC East rotation did them no favors.

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