1. Kentucky Wildcats (21-1, 7-0)
Best win: Kansas
Worst loss: Indiana
Kentucky is playing so well that Jeff Goodman of CBS said that he’ll be shocked if they don’t win the National Title. I won’t go that far, but of the elite teams they’re the most likely to roll through lower seeds and be a lock for the Final Four. They’re balanced (5th ranked offense and 8th ranked defense), they extend possessions (21st in offensive rebounding), they get to the line (42nd in FT rate) and they have three guys who shoot 39% of better from beyond the arc and two of those guys are at least 6’8. Oh, and they have two 1st Team All-Americans.
2. Florida Gators (17-4, 5-1)
Best win: Florida State
Worst loss: Tennessee
The dropoff from 1-2 in the SEC in greater than any of the other top 15 conferences. The Gators are trying to make up that gap, and have been playing better since their opening conference loss to the Volunteers. Still, they’re allowing 0.99 points per possession in conference, which makes them a middle tier SEC defense. And they’re the worst offensive rebounding team in the conference. That’s a recipe for 3-4 more losses in conference play.
3. Vanderbilt Commodores (16-5, 5-1)
Best win: Marquette
Worst loss: Indiana State
It took a few games for Vandy to get back into the swing of things once they got Festus Ezeli back. After losing to Indiana State in his 2nd game they’ve gone 10-1. Oddly, he hasn’t been playing that big of a roll. At least not as big as expected. He’s only averaging 8.5 points and his offensive rating is at 93.1. But John Jenkins is averaging 17 a game in conference, and his making 45% of his 3s. He’s also 19-19 from the line.
4. Mississippi State Bulldogs (17-5, 4-3)
Best win: Alabama
Worst loss: Mississippi
Mississippi State only played one true road game in out-of-conference play. So it’s no surprise that they’re 1-3 on the road in conference. They’ve allowed more than a point per possession in 5 of 7 conference games, and have the 11th ranked defense in conference. As is typical with Rick Stansbury teams, they don’t force turnovers (314th nationally). The bright spots have been UTEP transfer ArnettMoultrie and freshman Rodney Hood, both of who would be getting far more attention if they played in a conference that didn’t include Kentucky.
5. Arkansas Razorbacks (15-6, 3-3)
Best win: Michigan
Worst loss: Houston
That early season loss to Houston is haunting Arkansas. Without that blotch on their resume they’re a Tournament team. Now they need to be almost flawless down the stretch. They beat Michigan, but beyond that don’t have a signature win. They probably need to win four of the next five, and then beat Florida to get solidly on the right side of the bubble. To do that they need to figure out how to score. They’ve been held under a point per possession in five of the past six games.
6. Alabama Crimson Tide (14-7, 3-4)
Best win: Wichita State
Worst loss: South Carolina
If this were a list of the most disappointing teams 1-12 in the SEC, Bama would be on top. Big things were expected from Anthony Grant’s team, and so far they’ve failed. Their only SEC wins are over LSU, Georgia and Arkansas. They’re 1-3 on the road. They are shooting 26.5% from beyond the arc in conference. Luckily their schedule is cake – they only get Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt once each. Of course, that only leaves the Florida game to give them a win over someone better than Wichita State.
7. Tennessee Volunteers (10-11, 2-4)
Best win: Florida
worst loss: Austin Peay
Cuonzo Martin’s first season has not gone as planned. The bright spot is that their defense has been quietly good, and they have the best defense in the SEC conference-only games. Unfortunately, the offense has been almost as bad as the defense has been good. They’ve turned the ball over on nearly 26% of their conference possessions. And their only game where they exceeded a point per possession was their upset over Florida (1.03 per trip).
8. Ole Miss Rebels (14-7, 4-3)
Best win: Miami
Worst loss: Auburn
The Rebels have been an interesting team. They have 14 wins, but only three against top-100 teams in the Pomeroys. Their last six games have all been decided by a margin of 8 or less. They’re tied for 4th in conference but still have Alabama (x2), Kentucky and Vanderbilt. They’ll be one of the conferences most interesting stories down the stretch.
9. LSU Tigers (12-9, 2-5)
Best win: Marquette
Worst loss: South Alabama
Without the win over Marquette, LSU has a really bad resume. They’re 11th in conference at getting to the line, and 11th at putting opponents on the line. They also manage to block the fewest shots in the SEC while also recording the fewest steals.
10. Georgia Bulldogs (10-10, 1-5)
Best win: Notre Dame
Worst loss: Georgia Tech
The Bulldogs have managed the season without any horrible losses, which is what keeps them from dropping lower. They’ve only scored a point per possession once in conference play, and they’ve only held one team below that mark. That’s not good.
11. Auburn Tigers (12-9, 2-5)
Best win: South Florida
Worst loss: UTEP
The goal for this team was to be significantly better than last year’s team. They’re better, but by how much? With a new arena and a new coach you’d like to see more buzz around this program, but it’s just not there. Tony Barbee losing to the school he left (UTEP) didn’t help.
12. South Carolina Gamecocks (9-11, 1-5)
Best win: Alabama
Worst loss: Elon
The highlight of the Gamecocks season is giving Alabama an embarrassing loss. Otherwise USCe has been awful. Now they have Florida and Kentucky to remind them of that fact. They have the worst defense in the conference. The bright spot: they make their free throws.