It’s championship Saturday in the world of SEC football, but there are also several great games lined up on the hardwood.
Five SEC teams are in action, with several facing some of their toughest competition of the season thus far.
My predictions record continues to be in good shape, but the action keeps getting tougher to predict as we march towards the start of conference play in late December.
As always, my predictions are based on team analysis and who I think will win. Score projections are for my amusement.
Let’s get to today’s picks.
Season Predictions Record (straight up): 78-12
Virginia Tech at Ole Miss – 2 PM EST, SEC Network+
Ole Miss will look to rebound from a 99-97 overtime loss to South Dakota State earlier in the week.
The Rebels couldn’t stop the Jackrabbits’ 3-point onslaught, as the visitors knocked down 18 of 41 attempts from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, the Hokies are rolling right along after pounding Iowa by 24 on Tuesday.
In looking at the numbers, there are a few glaring stats:
- Virginia Tech leads the nation in field-goal percentage at 56.1 percent and is fourth in 3-point range in shooting 46.8 percent
- Ole Miss is 178th nationally in field-goal percentage defense and 261st in 3-point field goal defense at 36.9 percent
It’s also worth noting that the Hokies shoot nearly 75 percent from the free-throw line, so they are certainly firing on all cylinders on the offensive end of the floor.
This is a home game for the Rebels, and they aren’t gonna get blown out of the gym, especially considering that they’ll be angry after the loss to South Dakota State.
However, even with it being Virginia Tech’s first true road game of the season, it’s hard to pick against a team that is shooting so well.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 85, Ole Miss 80
UMass at South Carolina – 2 PM EST, SEC Network+
The Gamecocks simply didn’t play well in the 76-60 loss to Temple on Thursday, and this short turnaround might not make this the prettiest game in the world.
Chris Silva didn’t have his best game in posting only five points, nine rebounds, and six turnovers. When his numbers are like that, it will be hard for South Carolina to win.
The good news is that UMass doesn’t pack the type of punch that Temple does. The Minutemen are rebuilding in Matt McCall’s first year on the job, and they’ve lost three straight games, with the most recent coming at 2-5 Quinnipiac.
Frank Martin will undoubtedly have his team’s attention after the showing at Madison Square Garden, and the Gamecocks should be the aggressor and take care of business.
Prediction: South Carolina 77, UMass 63
Georgia at Marquette – 2 PM EST, CBS Sports Network (Game Preview)
Like Virginia Tech, Marquette is a team that’s already found a groove on the offensive side of the court.
The Golden Eagles are scoring 83.7 points per game and shooting respectable percentages from all three phases. Andrew Rowsey has been a joy to watch in ranking ninth in the country with 23.7 points per contest, and he will be the driving force in this one.
Georgia’s guard play has gotten better with Turtle Jackson emerging as a consistent option in the backcourt, with the junior scoring at least 15 points in all three Wooden Legacy games in California.
And, of course, Yante Maten figures to be the focus of Marquette’s attention due to his size and ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor. The Bulldogs have the size advantage here and should be able to use to it control the boards, and those extra scoring opportunities will be essential to victory.
Just like Georgia, the Golden Eagles have had their bumps in the road and had trouble holding off Eastern Illinois at home in an overtime win earlier in the week.
And while I think the solid play at the Wooden Legacy will help Mark Fox’s squad, Marquette has scored the ball more consistently and should find a way to grab the win due to its explosive backcourt.
Prediction: Marquette 76, Georgia 71
Harvard at No. 7 Kentucky – 3:30 PM EST, ESPN
Harvard has a really good win on its schedule this season, as the Crimson knocked off Saint Joseph’s the day after Thanksgiving.
Unfortunately, Tommy Amaker’s team also has some head-scratching road losses in falling to teams like Holy Cross, Manhattan, and Cal State Fullerton.
And since none of those teams play in Rupp Arena, it may make this a bit of a challenge for the visitors.
Harvard does a poor job shooting the ball from outside (330th nationally at 27.6 percent from 3-point land) and scoring inside against the length of Kentucky is going to be difficult. The Crimson have also had issues with taking care of the ball, which is another bad sign entering this type of atmosphere.
The Wildcats dominate the glass and build off their blowout win over UIC last weekend.
Prediction: Kentucky 85, Harvard 64
Arkansas at Houston – 7:30 PM EST, CBS Sports Network
This is the only true road game until January 2 for the Razorbacks, so it’s time to find out what this team is made of.
But what Arkansas has going for it is that it has already proven what it can do away from home. This team was impressive at the PK80 in Portland in scoring good victories over Oklahoma and UConn, and the latter win was especially impressive considering the letdown of losing to North Carolina a few days earlier.
As for the Cougars, their only blemish of the season is a neutral-court loss to Drexel.
The Hogs will have the height advantage, and that’s a good thing because Houston is averaging nearly 14 offensive rebounds per game. The play of freshman big man Daniel Gafford has been huge for the Razorbacks, and they’ll need him to be just as good here.
Both teams shoot the ball well from downtown, and what could decide the outcome will be how effective Arkansas is in forcing turnovers. The Cougars are turning it over 13.3 times per game (152nd nationally), so that could play a factor.
Houston guard Rob Gray has been fantastic in putting up 23.6 points per game thus far, but Arkansas has more depth with Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford leading the way.
This is a toss-up, but the Hogs have been more consistent in the early going, so they’re the pick.
Prediction: Arkansas 81, Houston 75
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