Who are the early favorites to win the regular-season conference title?
The Wildcats have silenced the critics early as evidenced by their 10-2 record heading into SEC play. They're the second-highest ranked team in the conference at No. 5 in the current AP Top 25 Poll and have a big road matchup against Florida this Saturday. Reed Sheppard, DJ Wagner and Rob Dillingham have proven they can co-exist on the hardwood and each has made their own case for SEC Freshman of the Year. They're the fourth-ranked scoring offense in college basketball (91.1 points per game) heading into January. With Antonio Reeves and Tre Mitchell as their veteran leaders, the Wildcats look poised to win the regular season title at the very least.
The Volunteers are 10-3 heading into conference play and the top ranked team in the SEC at No. 5 in the AP Top 25 Poll. With losses to Purdue, Kansas and UNC, they were another team in the conference who wasn't afraid to schedule some tough games to overcome. Head coach Rick Barnes has had a coaching revival of sorts and with Dalton Knecht, Josiah Jordan-James, Jonas Aidoo, Jordan Gainey and Zakai Zeigler in the rotation, they've been a tough opponent to defeat. Aidoo's emergence could get them over the hump in conference action. He's averaging 10.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per contest heading into the bulk of league play.
The Auburn Tigers have been another surprise in the SEC ranks as they're currently 25th in the latest AP Top 25 Poll. It's the first time the Tigers have been ranked all season, which could be a good sign for the 11-2 squad. With two convincing wins over Indiana and USC, it's easy to forget about their road loss to Appalachian State.
Johni Broome and Jaylin Williams have proven to be formidable foes in the frontcourt while freshman Aden Holloway has already begun to make his mark on the college basketball landscape. Holloway is averaging 10.5 points, 3.9 assists and 1.3 rebounds per contest on 36.6 percent shooting from deep. Things won't be easy for them to start off the conference slate as they'll visit Arkansas on Saturday before hosting Texas A&M on Tuesday.