Last year I participated along with other SEC bloggers in the SEC Basketball Power Poll. We shared some laughs. We shared some tears. We shared a healthy skepticism about how good Anthony Grant's Alabama team really was, and we shared scathing insults about an Auburn basketball team that sucked out loud, live, and in technicolor. We enjoyed it so much that we're doing it again.
Most teams are finishing up their nonconference schedules at this point, so it's all really a hot mess right now. There's not a head-to-head matchup to be found, and my ballot is guesswork of a high and aggravated nature. I freely admit that at this point I've watched a total of 3-4 college basketball games that did not involve the Georgia Bulldogs, so rest assured that this will be the least informed ballot I cast all season. Especially from the 4th slot on down. Really, I'd rather you just not even look at anything after Mississippi State because I'm absolutely certain that there be monsters. Monsters with poor free throw percentages, abyssmal defense and little or no depth off the bench. But monsters nonetheless. So with no further ado, a random collection of SEC basketball squads. Oh, and Kentucky.
1) Kentucky: It's pretty much Kentucky and everybody else at this point. Kentucky didn't look great in beating #4 Louisville last weekend, but they looked good enough to beat the #4 team in the country. No other SEC team can say that right now. It's scary to see what Calipari's team can do when they actually play as, you know, a team.
2) Florida: The 14-3 Sunshine State Saurians get the nod over Missy State because the 3 losses in question were tough decisions against #7 Ohio State, #1 Syracuse and on the road in overtime against Rutgers. There's no shame at all there.
3) Mississippi State: Like the Gators, the Bulldogs already have respectable wins over Arizona and Texas A&M, and also have one over a top 10 Baylor squad. It's really a 2a versus 2b situation with the deciding factor being the Fightin' Stansburies' opening loss to a not very good Akron Zip squad, in Starkvegas. But I'm still comfortable ranking either one of these teams ahead of Alabama at this point.
4) Alabama: And thus begins the part of the program that looks like a bonobo performing open heart surgery. Really, no qualifications for any pick from here on down other than a password for the voting site and a basic understanding of which numerals come before and after each other. The Tide have so far avoided the inexplicable, bad losses of 2010-2011, instead subbing in respectable out of conference victories over Maryland and Purdue.
5) Arkansas: If you argued that Arkansas should be fourth rather than fifth I'm not really sure I'd be able to refute you. But more importantly, at this point in the proceedings, I doubt I could muster the vigor to even try.
6) Vanderbilt: You lost at home to Cleveland State and Indiana State. Your argument is invalid. I might have Vandy lower, except for the can of whoopass they opened on Marquette a couple of weeks ago in a game that wasn't even as close as the 74-57 final score indicates (This was one of those 3-4 games I actually watched. No idea why other than Sons of Guns was a rerun). Also James Franklin is a whiny little punk. That last part didn't factor into my ballot, it just bears repeating.
7) LSU: No team received more disdain from me last year than Trent Johnson's Bayou Bengals. But let's be honest, they had it coming. This squad was a total mess for most of the 2010-2011 season. However Tigers currently sit at 10-4, and are coming off a competitive loss to #21 Virginia. Frankly I'm not certain how to process this.
8) Georgia: Mark Fox's Hoop Dawgs are again beating the teams they should and falling to the ones they should. Heading into conference play, I'm totally okay with that M.O., even if I've been displeased with the particulars of how they've gotten there from time to time. I probably should rank Georgia higher based on strength of schedule, but I've seen how some of those early season wins have been accomplished (Delaware St.? Really?) and as a result have little confidence in this squad once conference play commences. I'd like to think our young guys gel as the season goes along. I'm fearful that asking them to do that is like asking them to learn how to parachute after they've jumped out of the plane but before they hit the ground.
9) Tennessee: Oh dear. Tennessee is an early favorite for the yoke which Alabama wore on my ballot for most of last season after some embarassing early season losses. A win tonight against Memphis however might convince me to ignore those and move the Vols back up to where they are accustomed to being.
10) Auburn: The Tigers' biggest win is either against South Florida or Kennesaw State. Okay, the Georgia Southern and Nichols State victories were impressive, too. Bottomline, among a slew of SEC teams who haven't played anybody, Auburn is the most not playing anybody-est SEC team I've seen. They may be entering the conference slate with tons of confidence. I'm betting they're also about to get smacked by a series of teams who are more prepared for the rigors of conference play.
11) Ole Miss: Three straight losses to Southern Miss, Middle Tennessee State, and Dayton have the Rebels limping into conference play. If Andy Kennedy weren't already a drinking man . . .
12) South Carolina: Who lost back-to-back games to Elon and Tennessee State? These guys. It's not at all inconceivable that Bruce Ellington will be a part of more conference football victories this season than conference basketball victories. Either way, the Gamecocks will lose to Auburn and then complain about Georgia's schedule.
Feel free to tear the above apart in the comments or offer your own ordering. I'm all ears. Until later . . .