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Ranking The SEC Heading Into Conference Play

Kentucky and the rest of the SEC will begin their SEC schedule starting this Saturday, so we look to see how the conference stacks up heading into league play.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports


1. Kentucky (10-2)

Kentucky will enter league play with two strong non-conference wins which are accompanied by two questionable losses.  The wins over Duke and Louisville are proof that Kentucky is the team to beat this year in the SEC, but their losses to UCLA and Ohio State show their vulnerability.  Kentucky has the most talent, though it's also the youngest.

2. Texas A&M (9-2)

Texas A&M has the second-best resume in the SEC.  The Aggies finished as the runner-up in a loaded Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.  The Aggies also have wins over Baylor, Gonzaga, and Texas on the young season. The Aggies have the talent and experience to challenge Kentucky for the top team in the SEC. They also have most of the same team from last year's squad that took a far superior UK team into double overtime before losing.

3. Florida (8-4)

Florida experienced a down season in 2015, but looks to be one of the frontrunners again in the SEC in 2016.  The Gators gave #1 Michigan State everything they wanted in East Lansing and played tough with Purdue through the middle of the second half.

Adding to that, all of Florida's losses are to teams in the RPI top 70, whereas a team like South Carolina doesn't have a win over a top-70 team. The Gators have plenty of experience and play-making to contend with Kentucky for the top of the SEC.

4. South Carolina (11-0)

South Carolina is a bit of a surprise through non-conference play, finishing 11-0.  The Gamecocks haven't played a team currently ranked in the top 50, but Frank Martin's team has been impressive in each game they've played.  South Carolina is a contender to make their first NCAA Tournament since 2004.

5. Vanderbilt (7-4)

Vanderbilt looked great in Maui, finishing second to #2 Kansas.  While the Commodores do not have a quality win in the non-conference, the potential is there with their ability to shoot the ball and score inside.  The Commodores certainly have the talent to push towards a bye in the SEC Tournament.

6. Ole Miss (10-2)

Ole Miss was up and down to begin the season, but has since found their groove after a loss on November 22 to Seton Hall.  The Rebels recently went into the FedEx Forum and defeated the Memphis Tigers.  The Rebels have the guard play to give the rest of the SEC problems, but their lack of inside presence could hamper their chances of getting to the NCAA Tournament.

7. Alabama (8-3)

Alabama has some impressive wins on the young season given what they were in 2015.  Avery Johnson has two big wins in his first season over Wichita State and Notre Dame on neutral floors.  The Tide had an opportunity to knock off Oregon in Birmingham on Christmas week, but squandered a late lead.

8. LSU (7-5)

LSU is underwhelming considering the amount of talent that the Tigers have.  The five losses that the Tigers have are to Marquette, NC State, College of Charleston, Wake Forest and Houston. The Tigers should be undefeated given they have the most talented player in college basketball, Ben Simmons.  The Tigers have to finish in the top 4 of the SEC if they want to think about making the NCAA Tournament.

9. Georgia (7-3)

Georgia hasn't played to their potential after making the NCAA Tournament in 2015.  The Bulldogs loss in the season opener against Chattanooga is a head scratcher.  However, Mark Fox has this team playing great defense and will give the Bulldogs a chance to stay in the top half of the SEC.

10. Arkansas (6-5)

Arkansas has really struggled after a breakout season in 2015.  The Razorbacks did lose a lot from last season's team, but have failed to capitalize on any momentum created from their second place finish in the SEC.  The Razorbacks end non-conference play on Wednesday by traveling to Dayton.

11. Tennessee (7-5)

Tennessee has played with a lot of grit and toughness given the lack of talent that Rick Barnes inherited.  The Vols have been in every game this season and have lost to some quality opponents like George Washington, Butler, and Gonzaga. The Vols can score and will give some of the top teams in the SEC fits, but not enough to finish in the upper half of league play.

12. Mississippi State (6-5)

Mississippi State has lost three games by a total of 11 points.  The bad part is those three losses are to Southern, Texas Tech, and Missouri-Kansas City.  Despite having Malik Newman, the Bulldogs have struggled mightily in non-conference play.  It could be a very long season in Starkville.

13. Auburn (6-5)

Auburn has improved in Bruce Pearl's second season even though the record doesn't reflect that.  Auburn may not finish much higher in the SEC standings, but should be feared in the next season or two as Pearl builds his program.  Auburn will win a game or two against the teams in the upper echelon of the SEC.

14. Missouri (6-6)

Missouri has struggled mightily under Kim Anderson since Anderson took over in 2015.  The Tigers are the worst team in the SEC and it isn't really close.  The Tigers will win their share of games, but should not challenge any of the top teams in the conference.


SEC Awards Through Non-conference Play

SEC Player of the Year: Ben Simmons, LSU
ALL-SEC: Tyler Ulis (Kentucky), Ben Simmons (LSU), Stefan Moody (Ole Miss), Danuel House (Texas A&M), Damian Jones (Vanderbilt)