This party is just getting started. These rankings should not be taken seriously -- not in the sense that they hold any long-term meaning, or in the sense that certain teams are perceived as being superior or inferior to others in the SEC. Those matters will resolve themselves as the season continues. The degrees of variance in non-conference schedules will make the 2017 portions of this series very difficult to peg with any remote degree of accuracy. The definition and clarity of these rankings will begin to emerge in mid-January, and then a true picture of SEC basketball can come into focus.
With that out of the way, let's take a crack at Week 1, which unofficially extends back to Nov. 10, opening day.
1) TEXAS A&M
The Aggies have the best win on the board, the conquest of West Virginia. They forged the feat without two of their best players, Robert Williams and J.J. Caldwell. Everyone else can fall in behind the Aggies for now.
The demolition of Bucknell -- one of several mid-major mainstays which figure to contend for a conference title and an NCAA Tournament berth -- sent a message. A lot of SEC teams don't have a loss, but among them, the Hogs have a better body of work than everyone other than A&M.
The win over Memphis was achieved without star freshman Collin Sexton. Memphis might not be very good, but that result still represented the kind of performance Alabama basketball has not been able to expect in recent seasons. Early returns are not to be treated as Gospel truths, but they certainly are encouraging for Avery Johnson.
Egor Koulechov, the transfer from Rice, scored 34 against Gardner-Webb. If he is excellent this season, Florida should be excellent.
The win over UNC-Asheville is a quality win, better than most in the SEC at this early juncture of the season. Again, this was written before Sunday night's game against highly-ranked USC, so next week's ranking will reflect how the Dores performed in that game.
The Wildcats might be better than Vanderbilt or even Arkansas -- and it is likely that they will be better by the end of the season -- but these rankings reflect accomplishments at a given point in time. Kentucky gets credit for beating Vermont -- another mid-major with a good chance of making the NCAAs -- and for playing Kansas close. I could put Kentucky fifth, but the shaky win over Utah Valley keeps the Cats in the sixth spot.
7) SOUTH CAROLINA
The Gamecocks have lost their stars from last season's historic Final Four run, so even though they have not played world-beaters, their 4-1 start is noteworthy -- not as a banner headline, but as a Page 3 lower-box story. Many other teams coming off big seasons without their top players would stumble out of the chute.
The Tigers handled Iowa State well on a night when Michael Porter, Jr. was a relative non-factor. Mizzou would have been a top-three team last year had it beaten Iowa State, but this year's Iowa State team figures to be at the bottom of the Big 12. That's why Mizzou's ranking isn't higher. However, if Iowa State exceeds expectations, these rankings will try to note that.
9-13) LSU, GEORGIA, OLE MISS, MISSISSIPPI STATE, TENNESSEE
Let's not pretend we know what to do with these five teams. They are all unbeaten, but none have played particularly formidable opposition. Future rankings will allow for two- or possibly three-team ties, but we promise not to have another five-car freeway pile-up such as this. After one week, though, a fine and granular distinction among these five teams is plainly premature. "Having a take just to have a take," or "assigning one ranking just to assign one ranking," do not reveal intellectual honesty.
The Tigers are shorthanded, but beyond that, Temple soundly defeated them. Temple might be very good, but a decisive loss is something few SEC teams possess after just three or four games. Given the very small sample size of a one-week evaluation, Auburn gets the shortest straw in the league... which is nothing for fans to worry about.
What Auburn fans DO have to worry about? Austin Wiley being able to play.