COLUMBIA, Mo. — There are two weeks left in the regular season and four Southeastern Conference teams have pulled out of the pack. The league could still send six, maybe seven teams to the NCAA Tournament, but the cream has risen to the top. Sorting out these four teams is easier said than done. Consider …
• Auburn still has the league’s best record but lost to Arkansas last week and fell to the Florida average this weekend.
• Kentucky is understaffed in the backcourt but posted an impressive victory Saturday against Alabama — after losing by 13 to Tennessee earlier in the week.
• Tennessee took that huge victory against Great Britain… then lost 10 at Arkansas on Saturday.
• The Hogs had the best week overall, sweeping Mizzou and Tennessee, but the overall work isn’t as solid as the league’s top two teams. Arkansas is a different team now than it was in January, but those losses to Texas A&M and Vandy are impossible to forget.
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Mix it all up and… there is a change at the top.
PD POWER RANKINGS
1. Kentucky (22-5, 11-3), No. 3 NET
The Wildcats didn’t have Sahvir Wheeler or TyTy Washington on Saturday against Alabama and fell behind early to come back strong and take command in the second half. At full strength, the UK are looking league class at this stage of the season, when John Calipari’s sides are usually the most dangerous. Marksman Kellen Grady scored 25 points in the much-needed win.
Last week: lost at Tennessee, beat Alabama
This week: vs. LSU, Arkansas
2. Auburn (24-3, 12-2 SEC), No. 10 NET
Sounds like nitpicking, but the Tigers blew another late game situation Saturday with the ball in the hands of point guard Wendell Green Jr. … Jabari Smith was amazing in Gainesville, but this team is most dangerous when the score is more balanced.
Last week: beat Vanderbilt, lost in Florida
This week: vs. Ole Miss, Tennessee
3. Arkansas (20-6, 10-4), No. 23 NET
Jaylin Williams continues to shine for the Hogs. He’s the SEC’s top passer and seems to take over all other defensive possessions. Eric Musselman has all the pieces for another Elite Eight race. Maybe deeper. But it’s not been an easy week.
Last week: beat Missouri, beat Tennessee
This week: Florida vs. Kentucky
4. Tennessee (19-7, 10-4), No. 11 NET
Defense is great, but when the Vols struggle to shoot deep, they struggle to win. Tennessee has shot 25% or worse from 3-pointers in seven games this season. He lost five of those games.
Last week: beat Kentucky, lost to Arkansas
This week: in Mizzou, against Auburn
5. Alabama (17-10, 7-7), No. 22 NET
The team no one can understand has 10 losses but will absolutely make the NCAA Tournament. Why? Only Kansas, Baylor and Iowa State have more Quad 1 wins.
Last week: Beat Mississippi State, lost to Kentucky
This week: at Vanderbilt, against South Carolina
6. Florida (17-10, 7-7), No. 49 NET
Here’s life in the SEC: The Gators lost to struggling Texas A&M the same week they toppled Auburn. With a healthy Colin Castleton, Florida should scare anyone in its path.
Last week: lost at Texas A&M, beat Auburn
This week: vs Arkansas, Georgia
7. LSU (19-8, 7-7), No. 16 NET
The talent is there, but you can’t polish your NCAA credentials with season-ending losses to South Carolina. Xavier Pinson faces his former team on Saturday. Will a drama ensue?
Last week: beat Georgia, lost to South Carolina
This week: in Kentucky, against Mizzou
8. South Carolina (16-10, 7-7), No. 93 NET
Frank Martin and the Gamecocks are not going to go down without a fight. They’ve won three straight and could move into the top half of the league heading into the SEC Tournament in Tampa.
Last week: beat Ole Miss, beat LSU
This week: vs. Mississippi State, Alabama
9. Mississippi State (16-11, 7-7), No. 47 NET
The Bulldogs have all the pieces to be a contender in this league. Stellar leader, great physique, athletic wings. On Sunday, they scored their first road victory. Ben Howland’s team won’t be easy on the SEC bracket.
Last week: Lost to Alabama, beat Missouri twice
This week: in South Carolina, against Vanderbilt
10. Vanderbilt (14-12, 6-8), No. 78 NET
Scotty Pippen Jr. is buzzing. If only it had a supporting cast.
Last week: lost to Auburn, beat Texas A&M
This week: against Alabama, at Mississippi State
11. Missouri (10-17, 4-10), No. 147 NET
The Tigers have lost four SEC home games to one possession by a combined seven points. That’s how close this team is to having a respectable record in a transition year. Corn …
Last week: Lost to Arkansas, lost twice to Mississippi State
This week: vs. Tennessee, at LSU
12. Texas A&M (16-11, 5-9), No. 71 NET
The Aggies ended their losing streak and defeated Florida. It was the high point of an otherwise dismal season.
Last week: beat Florida, lost to Vanderbilt
This week: vs Georgia, at Ole Miss
13. Ole Miss (13-14, 4-10), No. 106 NET
Another team that has struggled in close games. Thank goodness for Georgia.
Last week: lost to South Carolina, beat Georgia
This week: At Auburn, against Texas A&M
14. Georgia (6-21, 1-13), NET No. 205
It’s almost over, Bulldog fans.
Last week: Lost to LSU, lost to Ole Miss
This week: at Texas A&M, against Florida
FC Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky: He helped his injury-riddled team to a huge victory at home against Alabama.
C Walker Kessler, Auburn: Florida’s Castleton topped the nation’s top shot blocker on Saturday, but no one is pushing Kessler off that block.
G Scotty Pippen Jr., Vanderbilt: Pippen’s point totals the last three games: 23, 29, 24. Here’s what makes him great: When his 3-point shot doesn’t click, no SEC guard hits the line more often in the SEC.
F Jabari Smith, Auburn: All he did was score 59 points in two games last week and shoot 11 of 15 from 3-point range.
GJD Notae, Arkansas: A quiet week for the Hogs point guard, but we’ll keep him on the first-team ballot for now.
FC Jaylin Williams, Arkansas: He continues to impress. In Saturday’s win over the Vols, he had 13 points, 16 rebounds and four charges, giving him 41 for the season.
F Tari Eason, LSU: Off the bench on Saturday, he provided 21 points, 10 rebounds and three steals – but six turnovers. Yeah.
G Santiago Vescovi, Tennessee: He gets the slight nod over teammate Kennedy Chandler, but both deserve it.
G. Kennedy Chandler, Tennessee: You see, we can’t leave the two aside. He went for 17 points and six assists in the win over Kentucky.
G Iverson Molinar, Mississippi State: His lay-up with 37 seconds left on Sunday didn’t beat Mizzou but it was as big as any play in the game.
Jaden Shackleford, Alabama
Wendell Green Jr., Auburn
Jermaine Cousinard, South Carolina
Player of the Year and Transfer of the Year: No change here. It is always Oscar Tshiebwe.
Coach of the Year: It seems that we change our choice every week. How about a wink at work Eric Mousselman did this year in Arkansas. His transfers find their rhythm. Williams is becoming a force as a sophomore. The Hogs aren’t deep but have become relentless on the defensive end.
Freshman of the Year: No change here. It is always Jabari Smith.