We're back once again with our weekly SEC Hoops Power Poll. This week, we had 11 different blogs covering SEC basketball contribute in the voting. Results are listed below.
With only three full weeks of regular season action remaining, things have begun to shape up within the conference. As far as the SEC Championship race, it's looking like a battle primarily between a pair of 2-loss teams, Florida and Alabama. As far as the NCAA Tournament picture, there are six teams very much alive in the hunt and six completely dead in the water. Florida, Kentucky and Vanderbilt are all virtual locks. Tennessee is in very strong position but can't afford a collapse. Georgia and Alabama meanwhile find themselves squarely on the bubble.
#1...(20-5, 9-2 SEC)...projected NCAA #3 seed
Last week: Disposed of South Carolina on the road and then stole a win away from Tennessee at home in the dying seconds.
This week: Week off, then a road trip to Baton Rouge on Saturday.
Outlook: Whether this team is lucky, or just that clutch, they keep finding ways to win every single close ball game they find themselves in--and there have been a lot so far. Will their streak of winning close games continue? If so, the SEC Championship and a high NCAA seed await the Gators.
#2...(18-6, 6-4 SEC)...projected NCAA #5 seed
Last week: Memorial Magic was in full force in a pair of close victories over Alabama and Kentucky.
This week: The 'Dores will attempt to take their magic on the road at Georgia (Wednesday, ESPNU) and at Auburn.
Outlook: The 'Dores now appear to be a lock for the Dance. If they can find ways to win away from Memorial Fortress, they'll get a good seed and will be a threat to advance to the second weekend.
#3...(17-7, 5-5 SEC)...projected NCAA #5 seed
Last week: Finished off Tennessee at home, but then lost a hard-fought game at Memorial Fortress.
This week: Things ease up a bit with a pair of home games against Mississippi State (Tuesday, ESPN) and South Carolina.
Outlook: The 'Cats just can't seem to make the plays to win close games on the road, but don't make the mistake of thinking this isn't a good team. They still have the highest ceiling of any SEC team, and they've yet to lose at home all season.
#4...(16-8, 8-2 SEC)...projected NCAA #12 seed
Last week: Lost a heart-breaker at Memorial Fortress but bounced back to beat Ole Miss at home.
This week: A pair of must-win games: at LSU (Thursday, ESPN) and Arkansas at home.
Outlook: The Tide, despite all odds, are still in the thick of the SEC title race with only three weeks remaining. To stay there (and on the NCAA bubble) they must avoid losing games they shouldn't in the next two weeks.
#5...(15-10, 5-5 SEC)...projected NCAA #7 seed
Last week: Toughest week imaginable resulted in predictable losses at Kentucky and at Florida (in heart-breaking fashion).
This week: The Vols have a chance to recover at home with South Carolina (Wednesday, CSS) and Georgia visiting.
Outlook: The Vols had a brutal week. How they respond at home this week will determine whether they spend the remainder of the year as a bubble team or rather as a team simply playing to improve seeding and set up for a run in the Dance, which is possible given the talent level of this team.
#6...(17-7, 6-4 SEC)...projected NCAA #10 seed
Last week: Lost a big non-conference game to Xavier at home, but rebounded to win at South Carolina.
This week: A big week with two East clashes: Vanderbilt at home (Wednesday, ESPNU), then at Tennessee.
Outlook: The 'Dawgs are doing just enough to earn a bid to the Dance, but they'll need to go .500 or so against a fairly tough remaining schedule to stay in tourney position. Very much a bubble team.
#7...(16-9, 4-6 SEC)
Last week: Edged out lowly LSU at home, then fell to Alabama on the road.
This week: Auburn at home (Wednesday, SEC Network), then a revenge game at Mississippi State.
Outlook: With a very manageable remaining schedule, the Rebs could play their way to an SEC Tournament bye and an NIT bid if they close strong.
#8...(15-9, 5-6 SEC)
Last week: Fell at Mississippi State, but rebounded to whip LSU at home.
This week: A non-conference cupcake at home against Florida A&M, then a road trip to Tuscaloosa.
Outlook: A mediocre resume, but a team that is capable of playing at a very high level on a given night. An SEC Tournament bye is certainly within reach with a strong finish. An NIT bid is possible, but will take a lot of work.
#9...(13-10, 4-6 SEC)
Last week: Rough week as the 'Cocks dropped home games to Florida and then Georgia.
This week: Road trips to Tennessee (Wednesday, CSS) and Kentucky don't look promising.
Outlook: With the schedule not easing up any time soon, even an NIT bid is starting to look out of reach.
#10...(13-11, 5-5 SEC)
Last week: Managed to take down Arkansas at home, but then got Barbee'd on the Plains.
This week: A road trip to Kentucky (Tuesday, ESPN) followed by a home rematch against rival Ole Miss.
Outlook: Just when it looked like they were back on the right footing with a win over Arkansas, they go and drop one at Auburn. Their record is good enough to contend for an SEC Tournament bye, but you probably wouldn't want to bet on it.
Tie - #12...(9-15, 2-8 SEC)
Last week: Week off, then upset Mississippi State at home.
This week: A pair of difficult tests: at Ole Miss (Wednesday, SEC Network), then Vanderbilt at home.
Outlook: You may not want to, but you have to give Barbee credit for holding the ship together and continuing to improve the team as the year has gone on. Still a bad team, but no longer an automatic win for opponents.
Tie - #12...(10-15, 2-8 SEC)
Last week: Were competitive in loss at Ole Miss, but not in loss at Arkansas.
This week: A pair of home games against the top two teams in the SEC standings: Alabama (Thursday, ESPN) then Florida.
Outlook: The Tigers will need an upset against one of the teams vying for the SEC title to stop an ugly losing streak that is at 8 and counting.
* * *
For the record, my votes in the poll:
7) Ole Miss
9) South Carolina
10) Mississippi State