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XPS
01-18-2009, 10:32 PM
1. Kentucky (2) (14-4, 3-0)
2. Florida (3) (16-2, 3-0)
3. Tennessee (1) (11-5, 2-1)
4. Mississippi State (9) (13-5, 3-0)
5. LSU (8) (14-3, 2-1)
6. South Carolina (5) (12-4, 1-2)
7. Arkansas (4) (12-4, 0-3)
8. Vanderbilt (6) (12-5, 1-2)
9. Mississippi (10) (10-7, 1-2)
10. Auburn (12) (11-6, 1-2)
11. Alabama (7) (11-6, 1-2)
12. Georgia (11) (9-9, 0-3)
Last week's rankings are listed in parentheses before each team's record

Rising

Kentucky's single-game scoring record. Consider Kentucky's "rebuilding" process over. Kentucky isn't Kentucky just yet, but the Wildcats are back atop the SEC. Thank Jodie Meeks for that. Meeks has been the talk of the college basketball universe ever since he topped Dan Issel's school record with his sublime 54-point performance at Tennessee (http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn/viewtopic.php?t=506830) in which he hit 10 3's while barely harassing the net.

Meeks' emergence in his junior year -- he's averaging 25.7 points per game and has scored more points in 18 games this year than in the first 45 of his career -- adds an explosive element the Wildcats have lacked for nearly a decade. Billy Gillispie's teams are always known for defense, but Kentucky is averaging 12 more points than it did a year ago despite the loss of two of its three leading scorers.

Falling

Tennessee's defensive reputation. Bruce Pearl made a name for himself with relentless, swarming defense, but the Volunteers' deficiencies are harder to miss than Pearl's orange suspenders. Tennessee was 26th in defensive efficiency last year, according to kenpom.com (http://kenpom.com/rate.php). This year, that ranking has swelled to 100, a problem that came into focus when Meeks walked into Thompson-Boling Arena and calmly dropped 54 points. It was the sixth time in Tennessee's first 15 games the Vols allowed an opposing player to score a career high.

The Tennessee freshmen, while talented, seem completely disinterested in guarding people even while they are landing on the wrong end of SportsCenter highlights. Tennessee is clearly missing the toughness of the other Smiths -- Ramar and JaJuan -- as well as Chris Lofton's leadership. Unless the Vols solve their defensive lapses fast, they won't need to pack their home whites for the first round of the NCAA Tournament.