Dec 13, 2017; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies forward D.J. Hogg (1) with center Tyler Davis (34) and assistant coach Alex Lloyd after the game against the Savannah State Tigers at Reed Arena. Mandatory Credit: C. Morgan Engel-USA TODAY Sports

SEC Power Rankings: Part 3…With Tiers!

We’re roughly a third of the way through the NCAA regular season and the SEC looks a bit different than it did in our last power rankings. Now, once again, power rankings are not my prediction of how the league will finish at the end of the year. It has more to do with how teams have done recently and how they’ve surpassed or fallen below expectations. I’ll also be separating the teams into different tiers for the first time this season. Feel free to comment your thoughts and/or tweet me @JakeWinderman to tell me how wrong I am.

The Rankings

  • 1. Texas A&M (+1) Tier 1
    • They say defense wins championships. If the Aggies want a shot at the NCAA title, they need to keep up the tremendous defense they’ve been playing. Texas A&M ranks third in the nation in defensive efficiency, 2nd in three-point defense and 29th in two-point defense. They’re only allowing 64.2 points per game and have given up an average of 61 points per game in their past five contests. Along with their stellar D, the Aggies are one of the premier rebounding teams in the nation, led by Tyler Davis and Robert Williams III. TAMU is averaging the third-most rebounds per game in the NCAA, as Williams and Davis have combined for 18.4 boards per contest.
      • Fun Fact: Texas A&M is the 8th-tallest team in college basketball.
  • 2. Kentucky (+1) Tier 1
    • When the Wildcats struggled early vs. Utah Valley and Vermont, everybody began to freak out. Then came the four-point loss to Kansas. Since those three games, Kentucky has gone undefeated with an average margin of victory of 16.1 points per game. The Wildcats rank in the Top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency and have the 14th-highest offensive rebound percentage in the country. On top of that, Kevin Knox has really come into his own as of late. If you take out his 1-9, 4-point performance against Monmouth, he’s averaged 22 points per game in his last three games. The Wildcats have two tough non-conference games to finish their NonConf schedule in UCLA and Louisville. Wins in both those games would mean something come March.
      • Fun Fact: 60.8% of Kentucky’s points come off of two-pointers, the fourth most in the nation.
  • 3. Tennessee (+2) Tier 1
    • The Volunteers round out the three SEC teams in the newest AP Poll, coming in at No. 21. While I believe Florida is the better team and will be ranked higher come the end of the season, Tennessee is simply playing better basketball right now. The Vols are shooting 40.5% from beyond the arc and are holding opponents to the 10th-lowest two-point percentage in all of college basketball. Tennessee can spread you wide on defense with their dynamic offense and can body you in the post as well. The Volunteers have Furman (upset alert!) and Wake Forest left in their non-conference schedule. A loss to either of those teams would drop Tennessee further down in the power rankings.
      • Fun Fact: Tennessee averages the 4th-most assists per field goals made in the NCAA.
  • 4. Florida (-3) Tier 1.5
    • For the first time this season, the Gators are no longer ranked. If you told any Florida fan coming into the season that the team would be 6-4 after their first 10 games, they probably would’ve laughed at you. Albeit, that 6-4 is deceptive with wins coming against Gonzaga in the PK80 Tournament and Cincinnati on a neutral court in Newark, New Jersey. The Gators have done a good job not turning the ball over and rank 9th in the country in turnover percentage. Unfortunately, Florida’s offense was built around forcing turnovers. They have not done nearly as good a job in that as they did last year, forcing turnovers on only 20.3% of opponent’s possessions. Once Florida gets John Egbunu back, they’ll be a completely different team with a post presence. For now, they’re playing like the fourth-best team in the SEC.
      • Fun Fact: Egor Koulechov is shooting 96.7% from the free-throw line, good for 4th in the country.
  • 5. Arkansas (+1) Tier 2
    • In my opinion, Tier 2 of the SEC is a tight-knit battle between Arkansas, Alabama, Missouri and Auburn. I decided to put the Hogs at 5th in the power rankings because of the excellent play of their backcourt and their ability to score. The Razorbacks are averaging 88.1 points per game, of which Arkansas’ three-headed backcourt of Jaylen Barford, Daryl Macon and Anton Beard are contributing 45.6 points per contest. I was extremely impressed by the Razorbacks’ 16-point win vs. Minnesota and am curious to see how the team will fare in their December 30th SEC opener vs. Tennessee.
    • Fun Fact:  Arkansas has the 6th-highest homecourt advantage in college basketball, per KenPom.
  • 6. Alabama (-2) Tier 2
    • Alabama looked solid in a four-point win against A10 favorites Rhode Island, but lost by three to UCF at home and by six on the road to Arizona. While the road loss to the Wildcats is more than acceptable, the home loss to UCF was unexpected. The Crimson Tide have been absurdly bad at the free throw line, shooting 65.3% from the charity stripe this season. Stud freshman Collin Sexton is averaging 21.8 points per game, but the next highest player, fellow freshman John Petty, is only averaging 12.3 points per game. The Tide need to play better team basketball to surge back to the first tier of the SEC Power Rankings.
      • Fun Fact: Alabama is ranked 4th in the NCAA in free throw attempt to field goal attempt ratio.
  • 7. Missouri (+1) Tier 2
    • The Tigers only have three Top-80 KenPom wins this season in Iowa State, St. John’s and UCF, but man have they shot the lights out of the gym without Michael Porter Jr. Mizzou is ranked 16th in the NCAA in three-point percentage and 24th in two-point percentage. On top of that, they’re ranked in the top 40 nationally in three-point and two-point defense and are grabbing over 40 rebounds per contest. Jeremiah Tilmon is ranked 16th in the country in offensive rebound percentage, out of 2,162 eligible players, while Jordan Geist is ranked 21st in the nation in offensive rating. The Tigers close out their non-conference schedule against solid mid-major Stephen F. Austin, who recently beat LSU in Baton Rouge, and underwhelming Illinois.
      • Fun Fact: Missouri has beaten their past three opponents (Miami of Ohio, Green Bay, North Florida) by an average of 25.3 points per game.
  • 8. Auburn (+5) Tier 2
    • Auburn is our biggest riser of our SEC Power Rankings and deservedly so. I thought the Tigers would finish in the bottom three of the SEC, with Bruce Pearl losing his job before the end of the season, but boy was I wrong. On Saturday Auburn took down one of the two best mid-major teams in the country in Middle Tennessee State and have won their past seven games since losing by 14 on a neutral court to Temple. Sophomore Anfernee McLemore ranks 1st in the NCAA in block percentage and is averaging an insane 3.6 swats per contest. The Tigers also rank 6th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage and 18th in two-point defense.
      • Fun Fact: Despite their rebounding success, Auburn is one of the 50 smallest teams in college basketball this season.
  • 9. Georgia (-2) Tier 3
    • UGA is the first team ranked in the third tier of the SEC. After impressive wins vs. Saint Mary’s on a neutral court, Marquette on the road and Winthrop at home, the Bulldogs lay a dud in a 10-point road loss to UMass. Georgia has struggled to score this season and rank 220th in the nation in points per game. Yante Maten has done his thing, posting 45 points and 20 rebounds in his past two games, but the rest of the team has lagged behind in consistency. Maten and William Jackson II are the Bulldogs’ only double-digit scorers, with Rayshaun Hammonds, the team’s third-leading scorer, only averaging 8 points per game. Georgia Tech and Temple complete Georgia’s non-conference schedule and are both good chances for UGA to pick up quality, non-SEC wins.
      • Fun Fact: Georgia scores 23.9% of their points off of free throws, which ranks 23rd in the NCAA.
  • 10. South Carolina (+/-) Tier 3
    • South Carolina rounds out Tier 3 of the SEC. As with any Frank Martin-coached team, the Gamecocks are stout on defense and rank 18th in the NCAA in defensive efficiency. SCAR needs to do a better job of shooting the three-pointer and making their free throws, in which they sink 34.4% and 65.4% of their attempts respectively. With the loss of P.J. Dozier and Sindarius Thornwell, Chris Silva has taken over as the team’s best player. He’s averaging 13.7 points, 8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, while shooting 54.4% from the field and 42.9% from beyond the arc.
      • Fun Fact: Chris Silva ranks 1st in the nation in fouls committed per 40 minutes.
  • 11. Mississippi State (+/-) Tier 4
    • Yes, I understand that Mississippi State is 9-1. The thing is, the Bulldogs best win this season came against Jacksonville State, who ranks 96th in KenPom’s ratings. When MSU went up against Cincinnati on the road, they lost by 15 points. Ben Howland’s squad is shooting an abysmal 30.3% from beyond the arc in a sport that is rapidly moving further and further away from the basket. Mississippi State has three “eh” non-conference games left in Arkansas-Little Rock, Southern Mississippi and North Florida.
      • Fun Fact: Mississippi State has the 10th-lowest strength of schedule in all of college basketball.
  • 12. Vanderbilt (-3) Tier 4
    • Like Tier 3, Tier 4 only has two teams in it. Vanderbilt is 3-7 this season, with their only wins coming against Austin Peay, UNC-Asheville and Radford. They’ve lost by four points to USC, three points to Seton Hall, five points to Kansas State, three points to Middle Tennessee State and most recently by 12 points to Arizona State after leading in the first half. The Commodores are easily leading the nation in quality losses. Despite having shooting talent like Matthew Fisher-Davis and three-point god Riley LaChance, the team ranks 335th in the NCAA in three-point shooting, making only 28.5% of their attempts from beyond the arc. They’re also ranked in the bottom-15 in the nation in forced-turnover percentage. They’ll have two tune-up games in Houston Baptist and Alcorn State before taking on Florida on December 30th in their SEC opener.
      • Fun Fact: Vanderbilt is allowing steals on 6% of their possessions, which ranks 7th in the nation.
  • 13. LSU (+1) Tier 5
    • LSU is not last on this list because of their wins vs. Michigan and Houston. How did they win those games? I honestly have no idea. If there’s one thing LSU can do, it’s score. The Tigers are averaging 84.6 points per game and are ranked 29th in the country in offensive efficiency. They’re also making 61.1% of their two-point shots, good for 4th in the NCAA. Aaron Epps has been a solid surprise, attaining the highest offensive rebound percentage in the country. Tremont Waters’ 18.2 points per game, while shooting over 43% from beyond the arc, haven’t been to shabby either. Where this team needs to shore up is defense. They’re allowing 78.9 points per game and are allowing opponents to shoot 38.7% from long-range and 53.2% from two-point land.
      • Fun Fact: LSU ranks 10th in the nation in effective field goal percentage.
  • 14. Ole Miss (-2) Tier 5
    • Somebody had to be last so I chose Ole Miss. The team is 5-5 and has lost games to Utah, South Dakota State, Virginia Tech, Middle Tennessee State and Illinois State most recently at home. The Rebels’ wins are even worse, with their best victory coming against Louisiana (formerly Louisiana-Lafayette). Terence Davis and Deandre Burnett have scored 37.3% of the team’s points this season. Ole Miss is going to need to kickstart their entire team pretty quickly if they want to have any shot at making the NCAA Tournament.
      • Fun Fact: Terence Davis is ranked 89th in the nation in offensive rating (there’s not too many fun facts for Ole Miss basketball).

The SEC power rankings come whenever I feel like enough games have been played to shuffle up the rankings a bit. If you feel like they’re not coming soon enough, feel free to tweet me or comment on this post.

About Jake Winderman

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