Saturday brought a few surprises in SEC basketball, as Georgia took down Marquette in Milwaukee while Arkansas got blown out at Houston.
Those two developments added a few more in the season predictions loss column, but I’ll try to get back on track today with several great games.
As always, my predictions are based on team analysis and who I think will win. Score projections are for my own amusement.
Also, I’m launching a new college basketball radio show today on WNSR in Nashville. Be sure to listen online and call in with any SEC hoops questions that you have.
Let’s get to the picks, which are a bit more abbreviated than usual.
Season Predictions Record (straight up): 81-14
UCF at No. 24 Alabama – 2 PM EST, ESPNU (Game Preview)
The Crimson Tide have managed to pull out close games at home the past few weeks, and that’s a good sign going forward.
Meanwhile, the Knights just lost at home to Missouri, which allowed the Tigers to end their 36-game road losing streak.
Johnny Dawkins’ team simply hasn’t played that well since getting blown out by 38 points at the hands of West Virginia, and while big man Tacko Fall will present some challenges, I’m not sure UCF can match Alabama’s depth.
The Tide should push the pace, and Collin Sexton’s ability to get to the rim and create opportunities for his teammates will be too much for a UCF team that’s still one of the worst shooting teams in the country.
Prediction: Alabama 77, UCF 65
Kansas State at Vanderbilt – 2:30 PM EST, SEC Network+
The Commodores are searching for answers on the offensive end of the floor right now, as the consistency hasn’t been there just yet.
The good news is that Riley LaChance’s career-high 27 points in the win over Radford should help the senior play with plenty of confidence going forward and perhaps make him the top scoring threat on this team.
As for Bruce Weber’s squad, they’re a two-point loss to Arizona State away from being flawless on the season. The Wildcats boast three players that are averaging with the 14 points per game range: Kamau Stokes at 14.4 ppg, Barry Brown at 14.3 ppg, and Dean Wade at 14.0 ppg.
Wade may be the X-factor here, with the 6-10 junior being more polished and experienced than Vandy’s unproven trio of big men in Djery Baptiste, Clevon Brown, and Ejike Obinna.
Believe it or not, Vanderbilt has been one of the poorest 3-point shooting teams in the country in shooting 29.6 percent from beyond the arc (314th nationally). And to make matters worse the Wildcats are shooting 38.1 percent from outside and holding opponents to just 60.3 points per game.
But while the Commodores have yet to play a complete game all season and have struggled in close wins over UNC Asheville and Radford, I just get a feeling that this may be where they start to build a little momentum.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 76, Kansas State 73
George Mason at Auburn – 3 PM EST, SEC Network+
Bruce Pearl’s squad has been impressive in scoring three straight wins following the Charleston Classic loss to Temple.
What’s been the difference for Auburn is the depth, and freshman Chuma Okeke is starting to show why he was such a highly coveted recruit in averaging 9.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game thus far.
George Mason has been competitive in away and neutral court games against Louisville, Louisiana Tech, and Fresno State, so the Patriots are more than prepared for the challenge.
Unfortunately, the visitors aren’t deep enough to keep up with the high-scoring attack of the Tigers.
Prediction: Auburn 82, George Mason 67
Tennessee at Georgia Tech – 6 PM EST, ESPNU
I’ll continue to label Tennessee as the most underrated team in the SEC until proven otherwise, and the Vols will get an opportunity to get another solid win here.
Georgia Tech scored the somewhat surprising home win over Northwestern on Tuesday, but then turned around and lost at home to Grambling State in one of the most head-scratching losses you’ll ever see.
The Yellow Jackets are undoubtedly missing all the things that Josh Okogie brings to the table, with the sophomore guard still out for the foreseeable future due to suspension.
So, while Georgia Tech is only giving up 59.2 points per game (12th nationally), the Vols have used their athleticism to penetrate in the lane and knock down open 3-pointers. Tennessee is ranked 16th in the nation in shooting 43.0 percent from 3-point land, and that’ll be a huge asset in this one.
With the Yellow Jackets clearly battling through consistency issues, Grant Williams and company feel like the better pick in what’ll likely be a low-scoring affair.
Prediction: Tennessee 65, Georgia Tech 59
Dayton at Mississippi State – 8 PM EST, SEC Network
The Bulldogs remain undefeated and are set for their seventh straight home game to open up the season.
Dayton may be the best team that Mississippi State has played thus far, which may not be saying a whole lot since Anthony Grant’s squad is 3-3 and still rebuilding with players in new roles.
We knew Ben Howland had depth on his team, but Tyson Carter’s recent scoring emergence has certainly added another dimension. The sophomore guard has gone for 35 points and 25 points in two of his last three games, and he gives the Bulldogs another talented scoring option in an already loaded backcourt.
While I still have question marks about how Mississippi State will match up against SEC competition, I do think the Bulldogs are in better shape right now than the Flyers.
Prediction: Mississippi State 73, Dayton 69
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