SEC Power Rankings (2/17/20): Kentucky wins twice to claim top spot

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My SEC Power Rankings (2/17/20): It’s Michael Jordan’s birthday but outside of the top three teams in the league there is little reason to celebrate with so much NCAA-tournament-worthiness uncertainty hovering over at least 5-6 more SEC teams …

1. Kentucky (20-5, 10-2 SEC) … No. 24 NCAA NET … the ‘Cats won twice last week — 78-64 at Vanderbilt in the mid-week game and 67-62 at home against Ole Miss on Saturday … Kentucky has won four games in a row to take sole possession of first place in the SEC with only six more league games to go … guards Immanuel Quickley and Tyrese Maxey combined for 74 points in the Wildcats’ two wins last week … league games this week are at LSU on Tuesday before hosting Florida on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 2.

2. Auburn (22-3, 9-3 SEC) … No. 25 NCAA NET … The Tigers moved to 5-0 in overtime games with a 95-91 home win over Alabama last week, then on Saturday Auburn lost its third game of the season — 85-73 at Missouri — which also marked the Tigers’ third loss by double-digits this season … guards Samir Doughty and J’Von McCormick continue to provide offensive firepower, but freshman star Isaac Okoro missed the game against Mizzou with injury  … league games this week are at Georgia on Wednesday before hosting Tennessee on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 1.

3. LSU (18-7, 9-3 SEC) … No. 29 NCAA NET … the Tigers spit games last week, winning 82-78 over Missouri at home in the mid-week before losing 88-82 at Alabama on Saturday … after starting SEC play 8-0 LSU has dropped 3 of its last 4 games … senior guard Skylar Mays continus to have an SEC Player of the year type of campaign as he averaged 23.5 points and 7.0 rebounds last week … league games this week are at home against Kentucky on Tuesday and at South Carolina on Saturday …previous ranking: No. 3.

4. Florida (16-9, 8-4 SEC) … No. 35 NCAA NET … the Gators won big twice last week — 78-61 at Texas A&M and 84-66 against Vanderbilt on Saturday … if the enigmatic Gators have finally hit their stride its perfect timing with March Madness just ahead … sophomore guard Noah Locke has found his touch from distance as he combined to make 11-of-18 from 3 last week while averaging 20.0 points in the two wins … league games this week are at home against Arkansas on Tuesday and on the road against Kentucky on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 5.

5. South Carolina (16-9, 8-4 SEC) … No. 64 NCAA NET … the Gamecocks won both games last week, 75-59 at Georgia in the mid-week and 63-61 at home against Tennessee on Saturday … USC-E has won 8 of its last 10 contests and is 6-3 in true road games with all of those wins coming against high-major competition … the Gamecocks go about 10-11 deep and yoi never know which combination will be clicking on any given night, making this team a tough matchup … league games this week are at Mississippi State on Wednesday and home against LSU on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 6.

6. Mississippi State (16-9, 7-5 SEC) … No. 53 NCAA NET … the Bulldogs have won 7 of their last 9 league games, which includes last week’s crushing 83-58 loss at Ole Miss followed by a last-second tip-in win at Arkansas, 78-77, on Saturday … senior guard Tyson Carter came up big in Fayetteville with 26 points and some big plays at both ends of the floor down the stretch of that game … league games this week are home against South Carolina on Wednesday and at Texas A&M on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 4.

7. Alabama (14-11, 6-6 SEC) … No. 36 NCAA NET … the Tide split games last week against then-co-league-leaders Auburn (95-91 loss in OT on the road) and LSU (88-82 win at home) … as good as veteran guards Kira Lewis, Jr., and John Petty, Jr., have been, freshman guard Jaden Shackelford lit up the scoreboard by averaging 27.0 points in the two games last week … league games this week are home against Texas A&M on Wednesday and at Ole Miss on Saturday … previous ranking: tie No. 8. 

8. Tennessee (14-11, 6-6 SEC) … No. 62 NCAA NET … the Vols split games last week, blowing out Arkansas at home, 82-61, before a narrow loss at South Carolna, 63-61, on Saturday … senior guard Jordan Bowden and freshman guard Santiago Vescovi combined for 36 points, 11 assists, and 7 rebounds in the win over the Hogs … league games this week are home against Vanderbilt on Tuesday and on the road against Auburn on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 7.

tie 9. Arkansas (16-9, 4-8 SEC) … No. 48 NCAA NET … the Hogs lost both games last week — 82-61 at Tennessee and 78-77 at home against Mississippi State — and have lost 4 straight and 7 of their last 9 games … the common denominator in the skid is the absence of preseason All SEC pick Isaiah Joe, who had an arthroscopic procedure to his right knee on Feb. 4 and has missed 4 games since … aside from the 21-point debacle in Knoxville, Arkansas has lost its other 8 games by a combined margin of 31 points (that’s a 3.9-point margin per defeat) … the SEC’s leading scorer Mason Jones reached 30 or more points, again, with 38 against MSU … but once again the sobering reality is the Hogs are 1-5 in SEC games when he scores 30 or more points … Arkansas is back on the road for a Tuesday matchup against Florida followed by a home game against Missouri on Saturday … previous ranking: tie No. 8.

tie 9. Texas A&M (12-12, 6-6 SEC) … No. 134 NCAA NET … the Aggies split games last week, losing 78-61 at home against Florida in the mid-week before edging Georgia, 74-69, on Saturday … 6-7 freshman forward Emanuel Miller had a double-double, 21 points and 10 rebounds, in the win over Georgia … league games this week are at Alabama on Wednesday and home against Mississippi State on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 10.

tie 9. Ole Miss (13-12, 4-8 SEC SEC) … No. 81 NCAA NET … the Rebels split games last week, winning 83-58 over Mississippi State in the mid-week before losing 67-62 at Kentucky on Saturday … Ole Miss has won 3 of its last 4 games with winning margins of 14 points (against South Carolina), 17 points (against Florida), and 25 points (against MSU)  … senior guard Breein Tyree has been playing as well as anyobody in the league in that stretch … league games this week are at Missouri on Tuesday and home against Alabama on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 11.

tie 9. Missouri (12-13, 4-8 SEC) … No. 88 NCAA NET … the Tigers split last week, losing 82-78 at LSU in the mid-week game before upsetting Auburn, 85-73, on Saturday … guards Xavier Pinson and Dru smith each had 28 points in the win over Auburn … Mizzou has won 2 of its last 3 games after starting SEC play 2-7 … league games this week are home against Ole Miss on Tuesday and at Arkansas on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 12.

13. Georgia (12-13, 2-10 SEC) … No. 100 NCAA NET … the Bulldogs were swept again last week, losing 75-59 at home against South Carolina and 74-69 at Texas A&M on Saturday … Georgia has lost 4 games in a row … the ‘Dogs have some talent in Tom Crean’s second season, but patience will be the key in Athens where basketball is typically an afterthought … league games this week are home against Auburn on Wednesday and at Vanderbilt on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 13.

14. Vanderbilt (9-16, 1-11 SEC) … No. 148 NCAA NET … the Commodores were swept last week — 78-64 against Kenutcky at home and 84-66 at Florida — but a 99-90 home win over LSU two weeks ago is still newsworthy given that it allowed Vandy to snap a 28-game losing streak against league opponents … junior guard Saban Lee averaged 21.5 points in the two games last week … league games this week are at Tennessee on Wednesday and home against Georgia on Saturday … previous ranking: No. 14.

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