The SEC standings look a little different than originally projected in the preseason. A few teams have surprised in a big way, jumping to the top of the rankings. Others have disappointed with mediocre seasons.
Alabama and Missouri have been the teams of the year so far in the conference. After a mediocre non conference record, the Crimson Tide have run through SEC competition. They’re off to their second-best start in conference play in program history.
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Missouri likewise was outstanding in the non-conference and has done well within SEC play. The Tigers had big wins over ranked teams Oregon and Illinois early on in the season. They have just one slip up against Mississippi State in SEC play but most recently defeated top 10 Tennessee on the road.
Kentucky on the other hand had a horrendous start to the season with numerous problems on and off the court. The 1-6 start marked the program’s worst start since before the legendary Adolph Rupp. They’re sitting in the middle of the standings at the moment but will need a run in the latter half of the season to have a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
Auburn is another team that has disappointed so far. Bruce Pearl’s squad played respectably out of conference but lost four in a row to begin SEC play. At the moment they sit at 3-5 and 10th in the league. The return of freshman phenom Sharife Cooper has helped put some life in the team’s step over the last five games.
- Alabama: 13-3 (8-0)
- Tennessee: 10-3 (4-3)
- Missouri: 10-2 (4-2)
- Florida: 8-4 (5-3)
- LSU: 10-4 (5-3)
- Kentucky: 5-9 (4-3)
- Arkansas: 12-4 (4-4)
- Auburn: 9-7 (3-5)
- Ole Miss: 8-6 (3-4)
- Mississippi State: 9-7 (4-4)
- Georgia: 9-5 (2-5)
- South Carolina: 3-5 (1-3)
- Texas A&M: 7-6 (2-5)
- Vanderbilt: 4-7 (0-5)
Like previously mentioned, Alabama is off to one of the best starts in program history. The early season losses were concerning but none of the three are bad losses. Stanford and Clemson are respectable and Western Kentucky stands a good chance to win the Conference USA.
Nate Oates has this team firing on all cylinders on both sides of the ball. The Crimson Tide are one of five teams to rank in the top 15 in both offensive and defensive efficiency in the Kenpom. They have blown out conference competition with all wins coming by eight points or more save a close one against in-state rival Auburn.
As was expected, the Vols own one of the best defenses in the country. They rank 3rd in defensive efficiency and allow just 59.8 points per game. They’re among the best in the country at forcing turnovers and blocking shots making it very difficult for offenses to find rhythm.
They are sound offensively as well. Seven players average 8.3 points or more per night meaning production can come from anywhere. They’re among the best at protecting the ball and attack the offensive glass at a high rate.
Missouri busted onto the scene early with a big win over then ranked No.21 Oregon in the second game of the season. But it wasn’t until a statement win over No.6 Illinois a few games later that the Tigers got recognition and placed in the top 25.
The biggest difference this year has been offense. Cuonzo Martin has one of the better offenses this season after ranking outside the top 125 in offensive efficiency with these players the last two years. Jeremiah Tilmon is showing why he was sorely missed last year as he’s emerged as one of the league’s top front court weapons.
The Gator’s are still missing the SEC Preseason Player of the Year in Keyontae Johnson, but his presence is still felt as he’s taken on a coaching role since the collapse in December. Since that game Florida is 5-4 with recent success winning three of their last four.
They have a big win against LSU and a couple head scratching losses to Mississippi State and Kentucky. But the offense has held up, ranking second in efficiency in conference play behind Alabama. Replacing Johnson’s 16ppg has come from a variety of players with five averaging double digits.
LSU has been off to a steady start to the first half of the year. Their lone loss came to a good Saint Louis team and they sit at 5-3 in conference play with no resume ruining losses. They are top-heavy offensively led by SEC Freshman of the Year favorite Cameron Thomas.
Defensively there is cause for concern. The Tigers are second worst only to Vanderbilt in defensive efficiency and have allowed a staggering eight opponents score over 80. Teams have had very favorable looks and have hurt LSU badly on the offensive glass.
Kentucky got off to a rough start but has been improving in conference play. The Wildcats have faced all kinds of adversity including injuries to two key players in Keion Brooks Jr. and Terrence Clarke. The Wildcats have struggled without a strong point guard but the veteran leadership of Davion Mintz has helped Devin Askew during some growing pains.
Without two of their better scorers an already weak offense has struggled this season. The pressure builds on BJ Boston’s shoulders to cover the gap if they want a shot at the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats face their toughest stretch of the season with four consecutive games against ranked opponents.
A soft non conference schedule had the Razorbacks off to an 8-0 start before dropping four of their first six in conference play. Still, the losses came to the top of the SEC and they were without their top post presence Justin Smith for most of them. They have since gotten back to 4-4.
Freshman Moses Moody stepped up in a big way, leading the team with 17.3 points per game along with 5.9 rebounds. He leads a relatively balanced offense which features five players averaging double figures. Arkansas likes to play fast paced and can score in bunches if defenses fail to slow them down.
Auburn didn’t turn any heads in the non conference then dropped their first four in SEC play. What looked like a lost season has been turned around though by presence of Sharife Cooper. They are 3-2 since he was cleared to play including a loss in Alabama’s closest contested conference game.
The offense looks completely different with Cooper at the point. The freshman leads the team with 21.2 points per game in five games. Not only is he a scorer, he’s moving the offense better than it has all year with his team-leading nine assists per game. He’s been a help defensively as well with six steals already.
Ole Miss is another defensively sound team that ranks towards the top of the conference in most categories. A slow start defensively in SEC play was cause for concern but they’ve shown they’re still up to the task allowing 46 and 50 points in their last two games, respectively.
The Rebels’ struggles come on the offensive side where they find themselves in long scoring droughts at times. The scoring primarily comes from two guards with little post play. The result has been few free throw opportunities and a plethora of inefficient midrange shots.
Mississippi State has been a back and forth team that struggles to find consistency. They have good wins over Missouri and Florida mixed in with bad losses to Liberty and Texas A&M. Ben Howland has a limited roster and doesn’t get a lot of help off the bench. The one-two punch of D.J. Stewart and Iverson Molinar are responsible for most of the scoring which results in long gaps if the pair goes cold.
Like Arkansas, Georgia also used a soft non-conference schedule to start 7-0. They dropped their first four in conference but have steadied at 2-5. Like Auburn, the Bulldogs received a boost when freshman K.D. Johnson was cleared to play. His 15.3 points per game has been a welcome addition to an offense that’s been one of the worst in the SEC.
South Carolina has been bullied this year by COVID-19 and has played the least number of games in the conference because of it. Aside from that, head coach Frank Martin has missed chunks of time as well. The Gamecocks have had only six players who have been available for all eight games. They’ve shown flashes of greatness at times but need to get all the way healthy for us to know what they are.
Texas A&M is far and away the worst offensive team in the conference. They rank 199th in offensive efficiency – the next closest being Vanderbilt at 111th. They’re averaging 53.2 points in the six losses this year. If nothing changes offensively, the Aggies look destined to finish in the cellar of the SEC.
Vanderbilt is in the midst of their third consecutive last place finish in the SEC. The lone bright spot so far has been Scotty Pippen Jr. who is second in the SEC in scoring at 20.6ppg. There’s a chance for improvement however with six of their next seven games against teams outside of the top 50 in Kenpom.
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