Saturday’s SEC schedule is significant for many teams around the league.
Which ones will come out on top and which will suffer defeat?
Let’s get right to the Saturday predictions.
Prediction Record: 59-35 (conference play + SEC/Big 12 Challenge)
Tennessee at South Carolina – 1 PM ET, SEC Network
Wednesday’s home loss to Vanderbilt was about as deflating as it gets for Tennessee. The Vols missed a huge opportunity to take a step closer to NCAA tournament consideration with the 67-56 loss, and now it’s an uphill climb for Rick Barnes and his team.
The good news for Tennessee is that this trip to Columbia may not be as daunting as it would have been a month ago. South Carolina has lost four of five, and while they’re still safely in the tournament as of today, the Gamecocks don’t want to put more doubt in the committee’s mind with a loss here.
South Carolina has lost two straight home games, but I think that streak is broken with a much-needed victory.
Prediction: South Carolina 70, Tennessee 63
No. 13 Florida at No. 11 Kentucky – 2 PM ET, CBS
A few people might be watching this one. Just a few.
The Gators enter Lexington winners of nine straight overall, and most importantly, two straight without John Egbunu. As for the Kentucky, the Wildcats have won five in a row since losing the first meeting between these two in Gainesville.
Kentucky did struggle during games against Georgia and Missouri, but the common denominator there was that both were on the road.
Malik Monk and company have already gotten revenge in a big way once this season at Rupp Arena. That came when the Wildcats demolished Tennessee by 25 a week and a half ago.
Kentucky isn’t gonna beat Florida by 25. But I do see the Wildcats avenging their blowout loss from earlier in the month, with Bam Adebayo being the difference in the game.
Prediction: Kentucky 83, Florida 73
Missouri at Ole Miss – 3:30 PM ET, SEC Network
There is a 99.9% chance that Missouri will be looking for a new head coach this offseason. However, give Kim Anderson credit for this: the Tigers have more competitive in SEC play than we thought they’d be.
If you throw out the 39-point loss at Florida and the 20-point loss at Tennessee, Missouri has played decent basketball in February. The Tigers have wins over Arkansas and Vanderbilt, which could both wind up in the NCAA tournament.
Speaking of a team that’s played well for a while now, Ole Miss has won five of seven and have had impressive scoring across the board. Deandre Burnett and Sebastian Saiz get most of the attention, but Terence Davis and Breein Tyree have provided another scoring threat that could make this team dangerous down the stretch.
I don’t see the Rebels losing this one.
Prediction: Ole Miss 79, Missouri 65
Mississippi State at Vanderbilt – 4 PM ET, ESPNU
Rewind to a little over one year ago when the Commodores were fighting for an NCAA at-large bid in mid-February. They visited Starkville to take on a 10-14 Mississippi State team that had nothing to play for.
The outcome? The Bulldogs delivered a big blow to Vandy’s tournament chances with a 75-74 win at the buzzer. The Commodores still got in thanks to winning four straight after that, but it appeared to be a loss that could’ve kept them out of the madness of March.
Fast forward to the present, and a similar situation presents itself. Except this time around, Vandy would all but officially be out of bubble contention to the Bulldogs.
I think the Commodores are much closer to a bid than people think (the numbers love them), and even at 15 losses, this team could get in.
But first things first. I don’t foresee this being an easy game for Luke Kornet and company, but Vandy should get the win.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 71, Mississippi State 67
LSU at Georgia – 6 PM ET, SEC Network
Just when you thought Georgia was done for after Yante Maten’s injury against Kentucky, the Bulldogs play well in that game and then go get a huge road win at Alabama.
Of course, the catalyst for that success has been JJ Frazier. He’s averaging 25.6 points per game in his last five games, and he continues to put Georgia on his back in key moments in close games.
And believe it or not, the Bulldogs could find themselves back in the bubble discussion if they win their last three games (vs. LSU, vs. Auburn, at Arkansas).
Meanwhile, LSU basketball is as low as it has been in a long time. You who know I’m picking.
Prediction: Georgia 82, LSU 66
Alabama at Texas A&M – 8 PM ET, ESPN2
This was the game that worried me the most for Alabama. This was the game that I thought the Crimson Tide could slip up and lose in their quest towards an NCAA bid.
The loss to Georgia makes this game even tougher now. Just like with Tennessee against Vanderbilt, that loss to the Bulldogs was completely deflating for Alabama. How do the Crimson Tide respond?
Avery Johnson has talked about his team’s resiliency all season, but I get the feeling that this game could be another letdown. You never know about a team’s mentality after seemingly losing its NCAA tournament opportunity.
And even with a lackluster record, the Aggies have an impressive trio (Tyler Davis/Robert Williams/Admon Gilder) that could give the Crimson Tide fits.
Not knowing what Alabama’s mindset will be, I’ll take Texas A&M.
Prediction: Texas A&M 67, Alabama 64
Arkansas at Auburn – 8:30 PM ET, SEC Network
The Razorbacks are finally moving closer towards securing a spot in the NCAA tournament after winning four straight. The Tigers have struggled mightily in the past few weeks aside from a 98-75 blowout victory at LSU.
Logic would make you think that Arkansas is the easy pick in this game. Not so fast, my friend.
All season long, when we’ve thought we’ve finally figured out the Hogs, they’ve done something to make us scratch our heads. This might be the place where we see that again.
Picking Auburn is always a scary move due to the Tigers’ problems with playing defense on a consistent basis, but I’ll do it anyway.
This will be a fun game for those that love points.
Prediction: Auburn 87, Arkansas 82