As the great Jerry Reed said, we've got a long way to go and a short time to get there in terms of sorting out the running order for the upcoming SEC basketball tournament. Kyle's already broken down how you should be rooting this week if you're a Georgia fan (hint, Bulldog wins are, all other things being equal, kinda good). The bigwigs of SEC basketball can slot the teams according to their own methods, but here's how I rank them for the week ending February 20, 2011:
1) Florida: Winners of 5 straight conference matchups, the Gators have done nothing to make me remove them from the top slot.
2) Vanderbilt: Vandy just wins, baby. Since dropping an overtime decision to Florida on the 1st of February the Commodores have gone on a run that has seen their tournament stock soar. I can't escape the feeling, however, that they'll go only as far as John Jenkins can carry them.
3) Alabama: The Tide have won 8 out of 9 in the conference, the lone loss being a close road defeat at Vandy two weeks ago. Saturday they clinched the SEC West, which even in a down year for the division is still an accomplishment.
4) Kentucky: An undefeated 2-0 record this week got the Wildcats back to .500 for the month of February! This and beating South Carolina by 31 at home means at least one of my fellow power poll voters will likely rank them #1 this week. I'll continue to fail to understand how a team can be 7-5 in the conference, seeded 3rd in their own division, yet ranked above all others in a power poll. Also, do yourself a favor: when the tournament bracket comes out and Kentucky is a 5,4 or even a 3 seed, take whoever they're playing in the second round. That will be good for some points in the old office pool.
5) Georgia: Per usual practice, Georgia jumped out to a first half lead against Tennessee on Saturday then spent a great deal of time and energy trying to fritter it away. Deviating from the usual practice of late, Mark Fox's Bulldogs triumphed anyhow. It remains to be seen whether this was a turning point or an aberration. If it was a turning point then the 'Dawgs may well be tournament-bound. If it was an aberration, well, we were shooting for the NIT from the start, right? Right?
6) Tennessee: This wasn't how it was supposed to be. Perhaps if Scotty Hopson shaved a four leaf clover into his hair? It seems incomprehensible that this team once had a real shot at a #1 tournament seed.
7) Arkansas: Stepped out of conference to soundly beat the Florida A&M Rattlers, but stepped back in just in time to lose a tough one to the Crimson Tide. No one in the SEC has taken one step forward and two steps back this season quite like the Razorbacks.
8) Mississippi State: The Bizarro Bulldogs didn't lose to Auburn this week, which was a step in the right direction. With a relatively close loss to Kentucky in Rupp and a solid victory over their instate rival, MSU can be safely said to have treaded water this week. After the suspensions, bickering and dashed expectations that marked the early going for MSU, treading water also qualifies as progress.
9) Ole Miss: Followed a resounding victory over Auburn with the above-mentioned double digit loss to Mississippi State. This kind of inconsistency could drive a coach to drink.
10) South Carolina: The 31 point loss to Kentucky may have been the Gamecocks' worst work of the season. Which is saying a lot, because Darrin Horn's team has played a lot of bad basketball this season. With it looking like his 3rd season in Columbia may produce the worst results yet, I'm not certain Horn will be around for me to make light of next season.
11) LSU: Thank God for Auburn. And Abita Turbo Dog. Otherwise this shenanigan of a season would be unbearable. Weaux is me!
12) Auburn: The bottom 3 teams on my ballot each went 0-for-the-week, but Auburn's week was a special kind of crappy, with blowout losses on the road at Ole Miss and at home versus Vanderbilt. On the road, with a toad, staying home, in a dome, so one sucked like the Fighting Cams, no one sucked like the Tigers, sure I am.
As usual, feel free to applaud, ridicule, backslap or throw metaphorical batteries in the comments. Until later . . .