Mississippi State. No, not that they are good, but how GOOD they are. The Roberts addition by Stansbury is a great pickup. He has made Mississippi State not only a contender for the SEC crown, but a solid contender for Elite Eight and maybe the final four with the right draw.
The other addition to Mississippi State that no many people talk about is the addition of Shane Power. Now, I used to live right on the Iowa border in NW Illinois, I got to see Shane in High School, and he is 3x better now and he was good in high school.
He makes their back stay together. If Roberts goes for the block he is there for the board, and vice versa. Stansbury has them gelled and they are ready for anyone. Losing Derrick Zimmerman hasn't slowed MSU at all either. Bowers is playing like a first team SEC player. Gary Ervin, if he keeps his head on straight and listens to Stansbury will be a star. Quick on quick and very offensively oriented, and he isn't bad on the defensive end either.
South Carolina. Now this is a surprise that they are in second at the time of this writing. Dave Odum has them playing his game and the players are on the same page. These guys play defense almost as good as UK, and at times are better. If they had a little more offensive prowess, they would be even more dangerous. The lack of offensive stars may be their downfall but don't tell them. They believe in themselves and that is more than half the battle.
Auburn. Many writers predicted Auburn to be either the champ or in second place. They barely above the cellar at the time of this writing. It is hard to pinpoint the problem. They have an excellent coach. They have two stars, if they want to be, in Marco Killingsworth and Kyle Davis. The one area where might be the center of the issue is the backcourt. Monroe has to step it up a notch or they may not make the NIT.
It seems as it is a two-horse race for the overall season championship between Kentucky and Mississippi State. Mississippi State has the edge in one area in that the west on paper is the weaker division (Mississippi, Arkansas) and that they have already played Kentucky and Florida.
They play at Columbia this Saturday and at Vanderbilt on Feb 28. Those two games will be key if they are to end up with a better record in the SEC than UK. Why do I say that? Kentucky has the edge in the head to head matchup. So if UK ends up tied, they get the nod on the head to head.
Kentucky still has key tough matchups at LSU and at SC later. The key for UK is avenge the loss at home to Georgia this Saturday and continue to play the rough hard nosed defense that has them 5th in the league in scoring defense (which is misleading in that the teams 2-5 are within 1 pt of each other).
South Carolina is still in it a ½ game back of UK, but they still have games at Florida, at Tennessee, with Mississippi State and home with Vandy. They will need to keep playing defense the way they have to stay with UK.
While they may not all end up this way, each team in the SEC has a winning record. No other conference can say that at this time. The SEC was thought to be down, but it is still one of the class conferences, if not THE CLASS, in the NCAA this season.