LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 31: Anthony Davis #23 of the Kentucky Wildcats dunks the ball during during the game against the Louisville Cardinals at Rupp Arena on December 31, 2011 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
With the close of the non-conference season for most of the SEC teams, it's time to move forward into the SEC portion of the schedule. With that I have the first SEC Powerpoll for the ATVS blog and some thoughts on the rest of the SEC.
1. Kentucky- Without question Kentucky is the most talented team in the SEC as they normally are. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is really stepping up into a leadership role for the 'Cats and even starting to generate player of the year discussion. Anthony Davis has taken the inside track to both SEC and national defensive player of the year, and his length has caused problems for virtually every team Kentucky has played. Their lone loss is to Indiana on a last second buzzer beater. The Cats still have some work to do, though, because when Davis gets into foul trouble they suddenly become very vulnerable defensively.
2. Mississippi State- Going into the season I was totally wrong with my Mississippi State predictions. I thought they would be the disappointment team in the SEC. Renardo Sidney, I thought, would be a big bust, but so far he is played pretty well. Their first loss to Akron really seemed like a point where we might see them come unglued, but they rallied back for 11 in a row before falling to Baylor in a really close game. Arnett Moultrie for SEC player of the year...?
3. Florida- Now we get into the disappointments of the SEC, so far. Florida, while playing a pretty challenging schedule thus far, hasn't exactly had the success they hope for. Their record is solid at 12-3, but they now have an ugly loss to Rutgers to go along with perfectly OK losses to Ohio State and Syracuse. They will need to figure out how to win on the road, as they are yet to do so in those three tries. I still question whether or not their forwards will be able to handle the load, but their guards are some of the best in the country.
4. Vanderbilt- A week ago I might have had this team in the bottom half of the SEC. Then they went out and dismantled Marquette. Festus Ezeli is back, so I will hold them in the upper part of the SEC, for now. They could very well win the SEC if they get everything into order, or they could slip and fall back towards the NCAA bubble or worse. I would expect to see Vandy fluctuate the most over the rest of the season.
5. Alabama- Our sworn enemies for the next couple of days unfortunately have to finish ahead of us, for now. Alabama is just a shade ahead of LSU for the 5th spot. Their losses are perfectly fine, a close loss to 9th ranked Georgetown really showed that Alabama has the talent to compete, but perhaps not the experience to play at the highest of levels just yet. I think they might be the prime candidate to beat John Calipari for the first time at Rupp Arena.
6. LSU- Had LSU pulled out another upset win over Virginia, they might have been as high as 3 in my poll. Right now, there aren't a lot of ranked wins for the conference overall, and if LSU had two of them I'm not sure I could vote them any lower than 3rd. It was a disappointing loss, but it showed that LSU will compete for the entire season, something they haven't done for the past two years. An NCAA bid is unlikely at this point, but an NIT bid is still in play and would be a great step forward after back to back bottom finishes.
7. Mississippi- Record wise, Arkansas is better. However, Mississippi has been tested much more against better talent and get the nod because of it. Ole Miss boasts a 3-1 record against other BCS conferences, though the wins are over some pretty bad teams. However, it's better than the rest of the teams in the SEC have. Ole Miss looks like a likely NIT team as long as they don't totally implode the rest of the way.
8. Arkansas- Now we are starting to get to the teams that are going to need .500 records or better to be in play for NIT bids. Arkansas has one of the weakest non-conference slates of the SEC teams, but unlike the others, they've won the games they are supposed to win. Losing Marshawn Powell was a big blow to this team, and I'm not sure they can recover from it.
9. Georgia- I'm putting Georgia here mostly because even though they have more losses than Auburn, their games were closer. They also have a solid win over Notre Dame, which is OK for a rebuilding team like the Bulldogs. I think they will lose quite a few in SEC play, but expect them to pull an upset at home this season over a ranked SEC team.
10. Auburn- The TigerWarEagles sink all the way down to 10, despite the fact they have the same 10-4 record as LSU. The problem is that none of the wins really mean anything, other than that they are better than a lot of 250+ RPI teams. Their best win is over 136 RPI USF.
11. Tennessee- I put Tennessee here simply because they played a lot tougher teams than South Carolina so far. I don't think either team will do anything in SEC play, but Tennessee is slightly better right now than the Gamecocks. None of their losses are really bad, but I could see things getting worse.
12. South Carolina- I just don't see SC having the talent to compete this year in the SEC. SC can virtually count on 8 losses right now, and then hope to go .500 the rest of the way. I don't even think that will happen. Bruce Ellington may keep them competitive, but he won't be enough to get them out of the bottom 3 in the conference.