Forty-eight hours before its main sport gets the nation’s full attention, Southeastern Conference basketball proved it’s not bad, either.
Hold up, Nick Saban and Kirby Smart, allow Chris Chizzola and Tremont Waters to get their shine first.
Chizzola’s steal and buzzer-beating layup gave Florida a wild win at Missouri. Just over an hour later, Waters was LSU’s hero in College State with his 35-footer that lifted the Tigers over Texas A&M.
Saturday was capped with Tennessee’s upset of Kentucky.
These are good, highly competitive times on the SEC hardwood. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had eight SEC teams among the 68 he put in his latest NCAA bracket projection. Six SEC teams are ranked among Ken Pomeroy’s top 40. There are seven SEC teams with a top 40 RPI.
On the brink of Week 2 in league play, here’s our attempt at ranking the SEC:
1. Florida (11-4, 3-0 SEC)
Last week: 2-0 (Won at Texas A&M, at Missouri) | This week: Mississippi State (home), Ole Miss (away)
After a 6-4 start, the Gators have reeled off five straight wins, looking more like the Final Four contender some saw in the preseason.
2. Auburn (14-1, 2-0)
Last week: 2-0 (Won at Tennessee, beat Arkansas at home) | This week: Ole Miss (home), Mississippi State (away)
Twelve straight wins for the Tigers, including two over-ranked opponents last week. Bruce Pearl has done wonders with Danjel Purifoy and Austin Wiley is still sidelined after the FBI probe.
3. Kentucky (12-3, 2-1)
Last week: 1-1 (Won at LSU, lost at Tennessee) | This week: Texas A&M (home), Vanderbilt (away)
The Wildcats were outscored by 19 in the second half in Knoxville. John Calipari afterward: “They just threw us around. It was embarrassing."
4. Tennessee (10-4, 1-2)
Last week: 1-1 (Lost to Auburn at home, beat Kentucky at home) | This week: Vanderbilt (away), Texas A&M (home)
Few teams in the country as battle-tested as the Vols. They’ve already faced Purdue, Villanova, N.C. State, North Carolina and Kentucky.
5. Missouri (11-4, 1-1)
Last week: 1-1 (Won at South Carolina, lost to Florida at home) | This week: Georgia (home), Arkansas (away)
Cuonzo Martin is an early favorite for SEC Coach of the Year. Despite no Michael Porter Jr., the Tigers are still capable of making the Big Dance.
6. Texas A&M (11-4, 0-3)
Last week: 0-2 (Lost to Florida and LSU at home) | This week: Kentucky (away), Tennessee (away)
The Aggies entered last week ranked 11th nationally. They’re plenty talented, but injuries and suspensions have started to add up. Billy Kennedy’s crew must at least earn a split with upcoming trips to Lexington and Knoxville
7. Georgia (11-3, 2-1)
Last week: 2-0 (Beat Ole Miss and Alabama at home) | This week: Missouri (away), South Carolina (home)
Yante Maten, who torched the Tide for 26 points and 11 rebounds Saturday, is going to make the Bulldogs a tough matchup for any league member.
8. Mississippi State (13-2, 1-1)
Last week: 1-1 (Beat Arkansas at home, lost at Ole Miss) | This week: Florida (home), Auburn (away)
The Bulldogs didn’t play away from Starkville this season until Dec. 12. They’re 0-2 on the road with losses to Cincinnati and the Rebels.
9. Arkansas (11-4, 1-2)
Last week: 0-2 (Lost at Mississippi State, lost at Auburn) | This week: LSU (home), Missouri (home)
Consecutive roadies in this league can make for a difficult week, as the Razorbacks just found out. They can regroup this week without having to leave Fayetteville.
10. LSU (10-4, 1-1)
Last week: 1-1 (Lost to Kentucky at home, won at Texas A&M) | This week: Arkansas (home), Alabama (away)
After dropping 18 on Kentucky, Waters had 21 and the game-winning against the Aggies. The freshman is a near-future star in this league.
11. Ole Miss (9-6, 2-1)
Last week: 1-1 (Lost at Georgia, beat Mississippi State at home) | This week: Auburn (road), Florida (home)
After a 5-5 start, the Rebels are 4-1 in their last five, including a close win over the Gamecocks.
12. Alabama (9-6, 1-2)
Last week: 0-2 (Lost at Vanderbilt and at Georgia) | This week: South Carolina (home), LSU (away)
Collin Sexton is electric, but the freshman needs help. He scored half of the Tide’s points in Athens.
13. South Carolina (10-5, 1-2)
Last week: 1-1 (Lost to Missouri at home, beat Vanderbilt at home) | This week: Alabama (road), Georgia (road)
When Chris Silva stays out of foul trouble, the Gamecocks can compete with most of the league. When he’s on the bench, USC will struggle.
14. Vanderbilt (6-9, 1-2)
Last week: 1-1 (Beat Alabama at home, lost at South Carolina) | This week: Tennessee (home), Kentucky (home)
Vandy got beat up in the non-conference and the struggle’s continued since the calendar’s flipped to SEC season.