SEC Basketball Saturday Predictions: Florida/Vandy, Georgia/Arkansas and more

In Features by Blake Lovell

We’ve officially reached the final day of the SEC regular season, and there is plenty at stake for bubble teams around the conference.

Let’s jump right into the predictions.

Prediction Record: 72-37 (conference play + SEC/Big 12 Challenge)

No. 9 Kentucky at Texas A&M – 12 PM ET, CBS

The Wildcats have won seven in a row since being blown out at Florida in early February, and they’ll look to be the sole SEC regular season champion with a win in College Station.

I’ve talked about the Aggies as a potential SEC tournament sleeper. They have playmakers in Tyler Davis and Robert Williams, but to make a deep run, they’ll need consistent play from their backcourt to limit turnovers.

Pace of play will be the thing to watch in this game. Kentucky obviously loves to push the tempo and get out in transition, while Texas A&M will need to make this a halfcourt game to have a chance.

John Calipari’s team won by 42 points when these two met in Lexington on January 3. This one should be much closer, but the winner will stay the same.

Prediction: Kentucky 81, Texas A&M 72

Alabama at Tennessee – 1  PM ET, SEC Network

Tennessee has hit a wall after playing so well in the first half of the conference season. The Vols haven’t been the same since coming back to beat Ole Miss on February 8 and have lost five of six since.

Of course, the most head-scratching loss of that stretch came on Wednesday when they allowed LSU to snap its 15-game losing streak.

Meanwhile, Alabama heads into this game having bounced back from an 0-2 week to score an impressive home win over Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide held the Rebels to their second lowest point total of the season (55), and should be able to cause similar problems for a struggling Tennessee team.

While Alabama is sure to have a lengthy scoring drought or two, I’m more concerned with the Vols right now.

Prediction: Alabama 69, Tennessee 65

Georgia at Arkansas – 2 PM ET, ESPN2

If you love close games, then Georgia is the team for you. Just look at how many close games this team has had in conference play:

  • 67-61 loss vs. South Carolina
  • 71-66 win vs. Missouri
  • 80-76 loss at Florida (OT)
  • 63-62 loss at Texas A&M
  • 90-81 loss at Kentucky (OT)
  • 77-75 loss at South Carolina
  • 76-75 win at Tennessee
  • 82-77 loss vs. Kentucky
  • 60-55 win at Alabama
  • 82-80 win vs. LSU
  • 79-78 win vs. Auburn

That’s 10 games decided by six points or less. So, why should we expect anything different in Fayetteville?

The Razorbacks had their five-game winning streak ended by Florida earlier in the week, and Mike Anderson will need to have his team ready to go here due to what’s at stake. Arkansas isn’t an NCAA tournament lock yet, while Georgia needs to win this game and a couple in the SEC tournament to feel good about its at-large chances.

JJ Frazier has been dominant in the past six games (28.3 points per game), but I see the Hogs getting back on track here to burst the Bulldogs’ bubble.

Prediction: Arkansas 78, Georgia 73

No. 12 Florida at Vanderbilt – 2 PM ET, ESPN

This will be the biggest game in Memorial Gym in a while.

Yes, the Commodores are still on the NCAA tournament bubble. Don’t let Jerry Palm or anyone else tell you any different.

But for Vandy to stay there, it has to win this game. If it doesn’t, winning the SEC tournament will be the only path to earning a bid. It is as simple as that.

The Gators still have a shot at clinching a share of a regular season title, but Kentucky losing at Texas A&M seems unlikely.

Considering the magnitude of this game and the countless pleas from Vandy fans to pick against their team after my memorable streak of incorrect picks, I’ll be nice and do the right thing.

Florida wins.

Prediction: Florida 77, Vanderbilt 74

Missouri at Auburn – 3:30 PM ET, SEC Network

This could be the final regular season game of the Kim Anderson era at Missouri. There have been games where his team has played good basketball this season, but it’s hard to overcome three straight seasons of 20+ losses.

As for Auburn, it still has a shot at playing in the NIT, which could help build momentum for what should be a breakthrough 2017-18 season.

Missouri may play with an added fire here due to the potential coaching change. However, Auburn pulls away in the second half to score a comfortable win.

And there’s a good chance that these teams will turn around and play again on Wednesday in the first round of the SEC tournament.

Prediction: Auburn 82, Missouri 68

LSU at Mississippi State – 6 PM ET, SEC Network

Speaking of rematches, here’s another one that you’ll see on Wednesday if Auburn beats Missouri.

Mississippi State blew out LSU in the first meeting between these two on January 4, but the Tigers may have finally found a small amount of confidence with the win over Tennessee. And like with the Anderson situation at Missouri, that victory shouldn’t change Johnny Jones’s likely exit as the team’s head coach.

The Bulldogs have played solid at home this season, and they should snap their own losing streak with a close win.

Prediction: Mississippi State 80, LSU 77

South Carolina at Ole Miss – 8:30 PM ET, SEC Network

I thought the Rebels had a decent chance of winning at Alabama earlier in the week, but their up and down nature continued.

Ole Miss feels like a team that should be better given the talented scorers across the board. However, the Rebels simply haven’t played well enough on the defensive end of the floor to make that push for an NCAA bid.

South Carolina has scored a couple of wins in a row, which should lock up their spot in the tournament.

Although picking Andy Kennedy’s squad didn’t work out well against the Crimson Tide, I’ll take them to upset the Gamecocks.

Prediction: Ole Miss 73, South Carolina 68

Blake Lovell is the founder of Southeast Hoops. He hosts the Marching to Madness podcast, which features interviews with coaches around the country. He also hosts a weekly college basketball show on WNSR 560AM/95.9 FM in Nashville. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Athlon Sports, Rivals, FanRag Sports, and many more.