It’s a new week of SEC basketball, and as always, there’s no way of predicting what will unfold.
Tuesday’s slate offers up several intriguing matchups, as the league’s two best teams hit the road to face opponents with unique styles.
Is there an upset brewing in one of those games?
Let’s dive into the Tuesday predictions.
Auburn (10-5, 0-3) at Missouri (5-9, 0-2) – 7 PM ET, SEC Network
There’s good reason for Bruce Pearl’s team to be concerned heading into this game.
For starters, Danjel Purifoy is out indefinitely with an ankle injury. He’s averaging nearly 14 points and six rebounds per game.
Then there’s the fact that Missouri resembled a basketball team at Georgia. Kevin Puryear (Missouri’s leading scorer) only scored two points the entire game, yet the Tigers only lost by five to the fifth best team in the SEC.
So, what does that mean for Auburn on Tuesday? It means that this is as must-win as it gets. With a road trip to Lexington coming up on Saturday, Pearl’s squad simply can’t afford an 0-5 start in league play.
It’s going to be far from easy, but thanks to another impressive performance from Jared Harper, Auburn sneaks out a close game on the road to keep Missouri winless in the SEC.
Prediction: Auburn 75, Missouri 70
No. 6 Kentucky (13-2, 3-0) at Vanderbilt (8-7, 2-1) – 7 PM ET, ESPN
Here’s the deal: I’d be crazy to pick Vandy to win this game based on what we’ve seen from both teams thus far. But what I will do is tell you how the Commodores can make this interesting.
When you shoot the ball as well as Vandy does, you’re going to give yourself a chance in plenty of games. Kentucky does present unique challenges, but at least Bryce Drew’s crew has the capability to score points at a quick pace due to these stats:
- 1st in the SEC in three-point field goal percentage (40.3%)
- 2nd in the SEC in three-point field goal attempts (380)
- 1st in the SEC in three-point field goals made per game (10.2)
Yes, the Commodores shoot the three well enough to make this game closer than anyone expects it to be.
The problem? The Wildcats haven’t exactly had trouble scoring points. Kentucky has scored 92 points or more in 11 of its 15 games this season. And on a night where leading scorer Malik Monk only had 12 points, this team still beat Arkansas by 26 at home.
Vandy’s zone defense may give Monk and company some problems throughout, but if the home team isn’t knocking down threes at a high rate, it won’t matter.
The Wildcats are going to have a road game along the way where they don’t look like world beaters. This may or may not be it, depending on whether the Commodores attack the boards and play with more physicality than they did in a loss at Alabama.
However, Kentucky is obviously the pick to win here.
Prediction: Kentucky 85, Vanderbilt 74
No. 23 Florida (12-3, 3-0) at Alabama (9-5, 2-0) – 9 PM ET, ESPNU
The Gators come into this game riding a five-game winning streak. They really turned it on in the second half to take down Tennessee last Saturday, and if KeVaughn Allen continues to work his magic, this is a team that can make a Sweet 16 run due to the plethora of talent at Mike White’s disposal.
But Alabama also has a winning streak of its own in scoring four straight victories. As usual, the Crimson Tide are getting it done with their toughness and physicality on the defensive end of the floor. Teams are only averaging 61.1 points per game against them and only shooting 39.5% from the floor (third in the SEC).
Of course, the biggest problem for Avery Johnson’s team continues to be long scoring droughts. The struggles are still present when it comes to scoring points (last in the SEC with 67.9 PPG), but luckily the defense is strong enough to give Alabama a shot against pretty much anyone on the schedule.
While I do think Florida is the second best team in the league, the Gators aren’t invincible.
Picking a team that struggles to score for long periods of time is risky, but I feel like Alabama’s defense will prevent Florida from getting a flurry of open threes like it did in the second half against Tennessee, which will make this a tight game.
There are going to be upsets in the SEC this season. We’ve seen a few mild ones so far, but others are bound to happen soon enough.
Although the stats say take Florida by double-digits, as I’ve said before, stats aren’t everything.
I’ll go out on a limb and take the Crimson Tide in an upset at home.
Prediction: Alabama 68, Florida 66
Mississippi State (10-4, 1-1) at Arkansas (12-3, 1-2) – 9 PM ET, SEC Network
You can throw the Razorbacks’ loss at Kentucky out the window. This is still one of the more complete teams in the SEC, and they should return to form this week in hosting Mississippi State and LSU.
While Arkansas’ aggressive style of play didn’t phase the Wildcats all that much, it will give teams like the Bulldogs problems.
There’s another lesser-known stat that makes the Razorbacks dangerous: they’re ninth in the country in free-throw percentage (77.7%). They’re averaging 25 free throws per game, so that certainly helps to be able to shoot at that high of a percentage.
As for Mississippi State, it scored a blowout win in Baton Rouge over a reeling LSU team. While LSU isn’t Arkansas, a road win of any type if good for an inexperienced team.
But winning at Bud Walton Arena is a completely different animal. I like the progress that Mississippi State is making, however, Arkansas won’t be too happy after the loss at Kentucky.
The Hogs take care of business.
Prediction: Arkansas 79, Mississippi State 67