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SEC Hoops Review and Rankings: Week 4

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Where we review the small plate of games from finals week.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

This week, a good chunk of the SEC schools had finals, which meant there understandably wasn't a whole lot of action.  Two teams didn't play at all this week, and there were a mere five games on the slate from Monday through Friday.  (Florida played two of those; not coincidentally, Florida has finals next week.)

But there were still some fairly important games this week, in spite of the relative lack of action.

1.  Kentucky (11-0)

Last week: W 56-46 vs. Columbia, W 84-70 vs. North Carolina

RPI: 1; Pomeroy: 1; Sagarin: 1

Did you know that Kentucky has yet to play a true road game?  That's more of an interesting fact than anything else.  North Carolina became the first team to crack the point-per-possession barrier against Kentucky this year; the Tar Heels shot 45 percent from the floor but got on the offensive glass a lot (that continues to be a weakness for Kentucky), but Kentucky responded by showing that their bigs can provide offense, too: Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, and Marcus Lee combined to go 14-19 from the floor.  Kentucky got some bad news this week with Alex Poythress going down with a torn ACL, but if any team can weather the loss of a player like Poythress, it's this one.

The Wildcats had a bad shooting night against Columbia, but that came with the caveat that Devin Booker -- probably Kentucky's best shooter -- didn't play.  Columbia essentially abandoned the inside game (25 of their 48 field goal attempts were threes) and might have pulled the upset if they'd shot better than 32 percent on their threes.

2.  Florida (6-4)

Last week: W 85-47 vs. Yale, W 75-50 vs. Texas Southern, W 79-34 vs. Jacksonville

RPI: 98; Pomeroy: 15; Sagarin: 49

The Texas Southern and Jacksonville games aren't really worth too many words; Florida did what you would expect them to do against teams of that caliber (Pomeroy currently has Jacksonville ranked #348, out of 351, in Division 1.)  Yale, on the other hand, is actually pretty good for an Ivy League team and Florida destroyed them.  What's changing over the last four games is that Chris Walker, after missing the first two games and then slogging through a few games, has started to assert himself more on the offensive end.  That's at least starting to give the Gators a reliable inside presence to complement their rather impressive array of shooters.

3.  Arkansas (7-2)

Last week: W 69-55 vs. Dayton

RPI: 14; Pomeroy: 32; Sagarin: 34

Dayton isn't terribly adept at forcing turnovers, so it was a bit disturbing to see the Razorbacks commit 16 turnovers in a relatively slow-paced game.  That ended up not really mattering, as when Arkansas wasn't coughing it up, they were mostly scoring, shooting 49 percent from the floor and also getting a significant number of offensive boards.  Combined with the usual defensive effort -- 15 turnovers and holding Dayton to 40 percent shooting -- and the result was a solid win to add to a fairly impressive resume.  Basically, I feel confident that unless Arkansas starts racking up road losses to teams like Missouri and Auburn -- which isn't a given considering how Arkansas normally plays on the road -- this is going to be a tournament team.

4.  Georgia (5-3)

Last week: DNP

RPI: 47; Pomeroy: 42; Sagarin: 56

The Bulldogs have a full two weeks off before a home game against Seton Hall on the 21st.

5.  LSU (7-2)

Last week: W 76-67 vs. Sam Houston State

RPI: 18; Pomeroy: 72; Sagarin: 77

In spite of a terrific effort from Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin, LSU allowed Sam Houston State to get on the offensive glass way too much and the result was a game that was closer than it probably should have been.  What's more, starting PG Josh Gray went down with an ankle injury; while freshman Jalyn Patterson did an okay job filling in for him the rest of the way, it remains to be seen how long Gray will be out or how it will affect LSU.  The good news is that turnovers weren't a problem in this game.

6.  South Carolina (5-3)

Last week: DNP

RPI: 65; Pomeroy: 40; Sagarin: 43

The Gamecocks are off until the 19th when they play Clemson at home.

7.  Texas A&M (7-2)

Last week: L 63-77 at Baylor, W 81-63 vs. Youngstown State

RPI: 49; Pomeroy: 57; Sagarin: 59

I feel like I may have jumped the gun a bit on Texas A&M.  While the Aggies' offense is pretty clearly better than it was last year, my assumption was that the defense would be just as good.  At least over the past three games, that hasn't been the case.  How do you shoot 58 percent from the floor and also score less than a point per possession?  Answer: turn the ball over a lot (17 times, in fact), and don't grab a single offensive rebound.  That was A&M's performance at Baylor, and the Aggies also let 6'9" Baylor freshman Johnathan Motley score at will.  The Aggies basically scored at will against Youngstown (when they weren't turning it over, anyway), but recent returns suggest that the defense may not be so great -- and the offense (probably) isn't good enough to outscore the better teams on the schedule.

8.  Vanderbilt (6-2)

Last week: W 81-71 vs. Purdue

RPI: 107; Pomeroy: 71; Sagarin: 74

Obviously, it's hard to write too many bad things about a win over a solid Purdue team, but, well... no, Vandy isn't going to shoot 58 percent every night, nor will Riley LaChance go for 26 every night.  The defense is going to have to do better than that, but hey, a win!

9.  Alabama (6-2)

Last week: W 65-53 vs. Tennessee Tech

RPI: 16; Pomeroy: 67; Sagarin: 74

Much like Texas A&M, Alabama's defense is a bit of a question mark, and also like Texas A&M, this threatens to cancel out whatever improvements the Tide have made on the offensive end.  The defense did shut down Tennessee Tech, but given that Tennessee Tech is a bad team, this doesn't mean much; what's more disturbing is that Alabama's offense did not perform all that well, suggesting that the early hot start on the offensive end might have been a mirage.  This still can be a pretty good team, but right now I'm not really buying it.

10.  Tennessee (4-3)

Last week: W 67-55 vs. Butler

RPI: 83; Pomeroy: 88; Sagarin: 128

It's past time to admit this: Tennessee is actually a decent team this year.  Or at the very least, the Vols aren't terrible.  Sure, they are going to struggle to rebound, but even with only one player taller than 6'8" (after Dominic Woodson left the team this week), they managed to hold Butler to 32 percent shooting on twos.  And 6'5" Armani Moore is averaging 6.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.  Basically, Tennessee probably isn't going to be able to do much to stop teams with good offensive bigs unless they can turn them over, but if we're being honest, the list of SEC teams who have much scoring punch inside is rather short: Kentucky (obviously), Florida, Arkansas, Vandy, LSU, and maybe Georgia.  After wins over Kansas State and Butler, and being competitive with VCU and Kansas, this team clearly doesn't look like they'll finish in the cellar.

11.  Ole Miss (6-3)

Last week: L 74-81 vs. Western Kentucky

RPI: 84; Pomeroy: 91; Sagarin: 93

It's actually rather disturbing how much Ole Miss is dependent on getting jump shots to fall.  Against Western Kentucky, the Rebels built a 13-point halftime lead on the strength of 53 percent shooting; then, they went out and shot 24 percent in the second half and wound up losing.  Jarvis Summers, the purported star player on this team, is averaging 11.7 ppg... but on 32 percent shooting.  Combine that with a pretty horrendous defensive performance, particularly in the second half (when Western hit 14-27 from the floor and also went 15-for-15 from the foul line) and Ole Miss is now the first SEC team with two losses to non-power conference teams.  This team will be dangerous when the shots are falling, but they frequently aren't going to fall.

12.  Missouri (5-5)

Last week: W 78-73 vs. Elon, L 58-74 vs. Xavier

RPI: 133; Pomeroy: 159; Sagarin: 204

Missouri finally got freshman JaKeenan Gant eligible, and he scored 13 points in just 15 minutes against Xavier.  That wound up not making much difference against a hot-shooting Xavier team, but as the season goes on and Gant starts to get more minutes, this should end up making Missouri a better team.  But it's quite another thing to need a hot shooting night just to put away a mediocre Elon team.  Even with Gant this team will struggle, but at the very least this team is finally getting some good news.

13.  Auburn (3-5)

Last week: L 61-72 at Clemson

RPI: 131; Pomeroy: 163; Sagarin: 196

Like Missouri, Auburn had an addition to the roster this week with 7'2" freshman Trayvon Reed joining the team after spending a semester at a prep school trying to establish eligibility.  Of course, the immediate effects were limited with Reed playing eight minutes against Clemson (and managing to pick up four fouls in that stretch.)  But once Reed adjusts to the college game, the effects of having a 7'2" player on defense should be fairly obvious.  Auburn also got Antoine Mason back in the Clemson game as well.

14.  Mississippi State (5-3)

Last week: L 49-59 at Oregon State

RPI: 77; Pomeroy: 102; Sagarin: 139

I'd been holding off judgment a bit on Mississippi State until Craig Sword was 100 percent.  Well, Sword played 31 minutes at Oregon State and took eight shots (seven of them threes) while committing six turnovers; basically, Sword looked like the player he was his freshman year when he settled for jump shots and coughed the ball up a lot.  If that's what he's going to do this year, I think we've established that the Bulldogs won't be that much better.  I mean, Oregon State lost to Auburn.  So, Mississippi State will probably battle Auburn and Missouri for last place.