Maestro, a little mood music if you please:
Yeah, that pretty much sums up SEC basketball a month into conference play. It's all become a jumbled mess out of which a very few will emerge with sufficient credentials to get to the Big Dance. But hey, this is the world we live in, and these are the teams we're given. So here goes:
Games watched and/or followed via television, Game Tracker, and radio whether live or in Dee Vee Aar speed: Missy State at 'Bama, Georgia at Arkansas, Ole Miss at LSU, Kentucky at Florida, and The Barn at Georgia.
1) Florida: This week the Gators pulled out close home wins against Vandy and Kentucky, quality opponents in a conference where those have sometimes been hard to find. Billy Donovan's crew now sits alone atop the SEC East at 7-2 in conference.
2) Alabama: OK, I admit it. I might have sold the Tide a little short last week. I watched their midweek tilt with Mississippi State and came away with the impression that Tony Grant's team is a good bit better than they were early in the season. Add an overtime win on the road at Tennessee and the men from Tuscaloosa may have had the best week of any SEC team. I'll be very curious to see how their upcoming trip to Memorial Gym against Vandy plays out. They're still not the best team in the SEC, but they're squarely in the top 3.
3) Georgia: Podunkdawg had it right about Georgia's last second road win over Arkansas: a win's a win. A road win against a legitimate SEC team is priceless. With several players battling flu-like symptoms, the 'Dawgs then returned to Stegeman to gut out a win over Auburn. Georgia will now step out of conference to play host to Xavier in a game that could play a pivotol role come Selection Sunday.
4) Tennessee: Again I have a hard time picking between Georgia and Tennessee for the 3/4 slots. Tennessee's overtime loss over the weekend to Alabama was not a bad loss. Except that it was a) at home and b) in the heat of conference play the week before the Vols go on the road to Lexington and Gainesville. Having Bruce Pearl back should help going forward, but it would help a lot more if he could be shoehorned into Scotty Hopson's uniform and average 16 points a game in that stretch, or if Hopson could return from the ankle sprain that's sidelined him.
5) Vanderbilt: The Commodores lost in overtime to the Gators, which is sort of the price of admission to the SEC East this season. Vandy is 14-2 at home and 2-4 on the road, with 3 of the 4 road losses in overtime. Good for them that they get Alabama and Kentucky in Nashville this week. Bad for them that Memorial Gym isn't hosting the SEC tournament.
6) Kentucky: There's no shame in losing a close one to Florida on the road. The same can't be said for Ole Miss. I'm not going to rank Kentucky more highly because they're Kentucky. This team is a slightly above-average squad with boatloads of talent that simply can't put it all together and finish basketball games, no matter what name you put on the jerseys, and that just went 0-for-the-week in SEC play, dropping to 4-4 in conference. Coach Cal's squad is home to Tennessee and on the road at Vandy in the coming days. Another winless week and the 'Cats will be in serious trouble.
7) Ole Miss: The Black Bears showed me something in that home win against Kentucky. They played physical and didn't spit the bit down the stretch when it counted most. They then went on the road and took care of business against Arkansas. Do I think Ole Miss has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament? No way. They'll get jackhammered at least twice more before completing the SEC slate. But Ole Miss is the proverbial best of the worst, at least for this week.
8) Arkansas: Not a good week for the Razorbacks, with a close home loss to a gaggle of itinerant weather refugees in red and black, and another at the hands of Ole Miss.
9) Mississippi State: I've now watched Mississippi State play two road games this season. One at Georgia, one at Alabama. Both times Rick Stansbury appeared to have brought a gun to a knife fight. I believe I had the Bizarro Bulldogs too high at #6 last week, but their close Saturday road win at LSU has to count for something, and 9th place in the SEC seems like a fair valuation.
10) South Carolina: Took care of business at LSU but lost convincingly at Vandy. South Carolina is one of the denizens of SEC basketball purgatory: not quite good enough to crack the top half, but not Auburn or LSU. When South Carolina's lost this season they've lost convincingly, and that includes last week's Auburn debacle. I still can't make myself forget that one.
11) LSU: Proud owners of a head-to-head victory over Auburn. But that's about all they got going for them, and that ain't much. The Bayou Bengals have lost 6 straight conference contests and likely won't be favored again until their season-ending matchup with Auburn on March 5, a battle to determine who gets relegated to the Sun Belt for 2011-12.
12) Auburn: Does Cecil Newton have any kids who play basketball? Does he do installment plans?
As usual, helpful suggestions and outright mockery are welcomed and encouraged in the comments. Until later . . .