There are important SEC games across this board this week, and all the action gets started on Tuesday with four intriguing games.
Here’s some complimentary reading material to get you ready for the week:
- SEC Basketball Sunday Notebook: Wild few weeks ahead for bubble teams
- SEC Basketball Power Rankings: Bubble teams making moves
Let’s get to the predictions.
Auburn (16-11, 5-9) at LSU (9-17, 1-13) – 7 PM ET, SEC Network
Number of points per game that Auburn has allowed in its last eight games? 89.8.
Number of points per game that LSU has allowed in its last eight games? 89.0.
So, a high-scoring affair seems likely in Baton Rouge.
But here’s the deal: LSU has lost 13 straight games. And although Johnny Jones’ team’s closest loss of the SEC schedule game against Auburn on January 18 (78-74), I don’t have much faith in LSU playing well enough on defense to win this game.
The same could be said for Auburn, but I feel better about Mustapha Heron and company’s chances in this one.
Prediction: Auburn 92, LSU 88
South Carolina (20-7, 10-4) at No. 13 Florida (22-5, 12-2) – 7 PM ET, ESPN
Game one without John Egbunu went well enough for the Gators to pick up an ugly win at Mississippi State. But game two will feature a much tougher opponent, even if South Carolina has played its worst basketball of the season as of late.
The Gamecocks have lost three of their last four, and while questioning their NCAA tournament chances makes sense given the way last season unfolded, I still think they’re fine for now.
But South Carolina doesn’t want to put itself in a position to where the committee has to make a tough decision, which is why this is a big week. If Sindarius Thornwell (21.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG) can fuel the Gamecocks to victory in either this game or the home game against Tennessee on Saturday, all will be well.
However, getting this win will certainly be difficult. Even with Egbunu out, Florida is more than capable of winning games in March due to its outstanding guard play.
The great unknown heading into this game is the status of Canyon Barry. Mike White said yesterday that Barry would be a game-time decision due to the ankle injury he suffered in Starkville, so that would be another flow for the Gators if he can’t play.
For now, I’ll assume that he plays. If he does, I think Florida wins its ninth game in a row.
Prediction: Florida 70, South Carolina 67
No. 11 Kentucky (22-5, 12-2) at Missouri (7-19, 2-12) – 9 PM ET, SEC Network
Yes, Missouri has played better at home than on the road this season.
Yes, Missouri has beaten two potential NCAA tournament teams in Arkansas and Vanderbilt.
And yes, Kentucky has gotten teams’ best shot when playing on the road this season.
But you know where I’m headed with this pick.
Prediction: Kentucky 80, Missouri 60
Ole Miss (16-11, 7-7) at Mississippi State (14-12, 5-9) – 9 PM ET, ESPN2
The Rebels destroyed the Bulldogs in the first meeting between these two in Oxford. Ole Miss crashed the offensive glass and forced 19 turnovers in cruising to an 88-61 victory.
This time around should be a little different.
While Mississippi State still hasn’t found the formula for success against good teams in close games, Ben Howland has his team getting better. Had the Bulldogs not shot so poorly against Florida (2-for-23 from behind the arc), there’s a decent chance they would’ve won that game.
As for the Rebels, they have a chance to play their way back onto the NCAA bubble, but it’ll likely take winning out during the regular season and winning a few games in Nashville to get there.
The problem is, I’m not sure they get this one. Mississippi State gets its revenge in Starkville.
Prediction: Mississippi State 76, Ole Miss 72