Saturday’s SEC basketball schedule is filled with important games across the board.
Let’s get right to thoughts on each game.
Season Prediction Record: 50-30 (conference play + SEC/Big 12 Challenge)
Missouri (7-18, 2-11) at Tennessee (14-12, 6-7) – 1 PM ET, SEC Network
The Vols have lost two straight after winning six of eight, so a home game against Missouri comes at the right time.
Rick Barnes has his team sitting at No. 47 in the RPI, while the Tigers are at No. 251. Tennessee is still in the bubble conversation due to that high RPI, but a loss here would effectively end all of that.
I think Robert Hubbs III (14.0 PPG) and Grant Williams (12.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG) lead the Vols to comfortable victory.
Prediction: Tennessee 71, Missouri 59
No. 15 Florida (21-5, 11-2) at Mississippi State (14-11, 4-5) – 2 PM ET, ESPN
Vegas loves the Gators in this one, but there’s obviously reason for concern for Mike White’s team.
The season-ending injury to John Egbunu was a big blow for Florida, as the team doesn’t have much depth in the frontcourt. He was the team’s leading rebounder and gave them a physical presence in the paint that you need in tough games in March.
There’s also the fact that Mississippi State played extremely well at home. The Bulldogs played well against Kentucky and South Carolina in Starkville, so there’s no reason to believe they won’t do the same against the Gators.
Overall, Ben Howland’s squad has lost its last three games by seven points or less.
Combine the Egbunu injury with Mississippi State’s tendency to play well against top teams at home, and I feel this game has upset written all over it.
Prediction: Mississippi State 74, Florida 71
LSU (9-16, 1-12) at Alabama (15-10, 8-5) – 3:30 PM ET, SEC Network
I’ve been asked many times about Alabama’s chances to make the NCAA tournament.
The formula is very simple: win as many games as you can and don’t suffer any bad losses.
Obviously, losing to LSU would be a bad loss for the Crimson Tide. The Tigers are all the way down at No. 152 in the RPI, while Alabama is at No. 69.
Braxton Key and company will get several opportunities to earn quality wins down the stretch (vs. Georgia, vs. Ole Miss, at Tennessee), but none of that will mean anything with a poor showing in this game.
The good news is that I can’t see Alabama playing nearly as bad as it did at Missouri on Wednesday.
As for LSU, it’s likely time to start considering potential replacements for Johnny Jones.
Prediction: Alabama 75, LSU 67
Auburn (16-10, 5-8) at Texas A&M (13-12, 5-8) – 4 PM ET, ESPNU
Good luck trying to figure out either one of these teams.
Auburn has had plenty of chances to get back on the NCAA bubble, but the lack of defense continues to hold the Tigers back. Here’s what they’ve given up in the past three games:
- 92 points vs. Mississippi State
- 90 points vs. Ole Miss
- 114 points vs. Florida
That’s a 98.6 points per game average for the last three opponents. Not good.
Meanwhile, the Aggies are battling their own issues after the news that DJ Hogg will miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury. While Texas A&M still has Tyler Davis and Robert Williams to crash the paint and score easy buckets inside, Hogg was a big asset in the backcourt.
Auburn has the advantage in this game when it comes to depth, and I still think this program will continue to move forward. But it’s impossible to know what to expect from this team on a game-by-game basis.
Guess what? The same applies to the Aggies.
Texas A&M at home feels like the best choice, but the sporadic play of these two makes this game a journey into the great unknown.
Prediction: Texas A&M 80, Auburn 76
Ole Miss (16-10, 7-6) at Arkansas (19-7, 8-5) – 6 PM ET, SEC Network
After losing at Missouri, getting blown out at Vandy, and needing a comeback at LSU, it was only natural that the Razorbacks would win at South Carolina on Wednesday.
Arkansas has been up and down all season, but has somehow managed to compile a 19-7 record overall. Mike Anderson will definitely take that.
Still, the Hogs have work to do to make the NCAA tournament. These last five games will not be easy, and it all starts with this intriguing home game against an Ole Miss team that has played very well as of late.
The Rebels have won four of five and should have won the game in Knoxville against Tennessee. Deandre Burnett (16.5 PPG) and Sebastian Saiz (15.2 PPG, 11.2 RPG) continue to be their usual selves, but it’s been the impressive play of sophomore guard Terence Davis (14.3 PPG) that has fueled Ole Miss recently.
Davis scored 26 in the win over Auburn last Saturday, then followed it up with a career-high 33 points against LSU earlier in the week.
I love the way Ole Miss has played, however, I think Arkansas found something in that road win at South Carolina.
The Razorbacks keep that momentum going here.
Prediction: Arkansas 85, Ole Miss 79
No. 13 Kentucky (21-5, 11-2) at Georgia (15-11, 6-7) – 6 PM ET, ESPN
The last time these two met, Kentucky needed a ridiculous three-pointer from the one and only Malik Monk to send the game to overtime, with the Wildcats winning by nine.
The difference between then and now is that John Calipari’s team is playing better basketball. The game in Lexington came after Kentucky suffered back-to-back losses against Tennessee and Kansas, so there was undoubtedly something missing.
But now, the Wildcats have won two in a row, including a dominance 25-point victory over Tennessee.
However, there’s no reason to believe that this will be a blowout. JJ Frazier and Yante Maten are more than capable of putting this team on their back and leading Georgia to a massive win, especially if players like Derek Ogbeide and Juwan Parker can step up around them.
Zone defense was the name of the game in the previous meeting. Georgia’s was effective in slowing down the Wildcats, and Kentucky’s rare use of the zone was effective in slowing down the Bulldogs.
Although I do think Georgia is playing well enough to score the upset, the Wildcats seem to be back in their groove. And they are hard to beat when that’s the case.
Prediction: Kentucky 81, Georgia 77
No. 21 South Carolina (20-6, 10-3) at Vanderbilt (13-13, 6-7) – 8:30 PM ET, SEC Network
The Commodores became a little more predictable after using a strong finish to complete the season sweep of Texas A&M on Thursday.
Yet again, scoring balance was the key to success for Vandy, and more of that will be needed to beat South Carolina.
After playing so well for a majority of the season, the Gamecocks have hit a rough patch. They’ve lost two straight home games and haven’t played particularly well for a few weeks, so this team is certainly vulnerable right now.
The problem for Vandy is that South Carolina is exceptional at taking away strengths and exploiting weaknesses.
One area of weakness for the Commodores is turnovers. The problem? The Gamecocks are fourth in the nation in turnovers forced (17.3 TPG).
The strength of the Commodores is shooting threes. The problem? The Gamecocks are the best in the nation in three-point FG defense (28.1%).
Those two lead me to believe that this isn’t the best matchup for Bryce Drew’s team.
Prediction: South Carolina 72, Vandy 66
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