SEC Basketball Predictions: Ole Miss/UGA, Kentucky/LSU, and more

In Features by Blake Lovell

Tuesday night’s action featured several intriguing results, and that trend will likely continue in a wildly competitive SEC.

There are three games on tap for Wednesday as teams try to stay ahead of the pack early on in league play.

As always, my predictions are based on team analysis and who I think will win. Score projections are for my own amusement.

Let’s get to the picks.

Season Predictions Record (straight up): 145-32

Ole Miss (8-5, 1-0) at Georgia (9-3, 0-1) – 6:30 PM EST, SEC Network

Despite some ups and downs in non-conference play, the Rebels are off to a 1-0 start in the SEC after scoring a hard-fought home win over South Carolina.

And while it’s early, now is a good time to remind you that Andy Kennedy has never finished lower than sixth in the SEC since the divisions were scrapped back in 2011.

But we’ve got a long way to go before seeing if that trend will continue, and Ole Miss will head to Athens to take on a Georgia team that fell short in its conference opener at Kentucky.

The Bulldogs have been good on the defensive end of the floor, although it still feels like something’s missing on offense. Maybe that’s the after effects of losing a player like J.J. Frazier, but Georgia’s backcourt has shown improvement as the season has gone along.

Both teams do a good job of taking care of the ball and rank around the Top 50 in the country in that category.

What stands out for me is that Mark Fox’s team has done a good job on the glass, and with the overall height advantage in this one, that could play a key factor in the outcome.

I do have concerns about Georgia’s mindset after the close loss at Rupp, but think the Bulldogs gain enough of an edge on the glass and make big stops down the stretch to pull out the win.

Prediction: Georgia 72, Ole Miss 68

No. 17 Kentucky (11-2, 1-0) at LSU (9-3, 0-0) – 8:30 PM EST, SEC Network

The SEC’s best team from a year ago faces the SEC’s worst team from a year ago, although both are in different places these days.

The Wildcats have been far from dominant despite an 11-2 start, and this will mark their first true road game of the season.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have fared better than expected this early into Will Wade’s tenure in Baton Rouge and are riding a nice amount of momentum after a road win at Memphis.

Here’s what concerns me for the home team: Kentucky’s overall size and length.

LSU will have to play physical to combat that challenge, and earning extra scoring opportunities off the offensive glass would be huge for the Tigers. Of course, it’ll also be important to stay consistent on defense and force Kentucky to win the game from outside rather than imposing its will in the lane.

Then there’s the clash of field goal percentages, as LSU is fifth in the nation in shooting 51.5 percent while Kentucky is 48th in allowing teams to shoot only 40.0 percent from the floor.

This matchup is fascinating. I’ve talked all season long about how John Calipari’s team could struggle more than ever on the road this season, and starting off SEC play at the team projected to finish last is quite the storyline.

A lot of people are leaning toward the upset here, which probably means that I’m better off going the opposite way and taking the Wildcats to squeak out a victory.

Although, my confidence in this pick is extremely low due to not having any idea how Kentucky will play on the road, and I can’t say I’d be shocked if the Tigers came out and won by double digits.

Prediction: Kentucky 79, LSU 77

Missouri (10-3, 0-0) at South Carolina (9-4, 0-1) – 9 PM EST, ESPN2 (Game Preview)

The first to 50 might win this game, as both teams pride themselves on being strong on the defensive side of the court.

Inconsistent offense on both sides might also keep this low scoring. Both the Tigers and Gamecocks have had issues with turning the ball over, and that problem could be taken to another level in what figures to be a physical game from start to finish.

Mizzou’s offense has been the better of the two thus far, but South Carolina is starting to build more scoring depth behind Chris Silva and Frank Booker.

I feel like this is as close to a toss-up as it gets, especially with this undoubtedly being a grind-it-out type of game where every possession will matter.

I still have concerns about South Carolina’s ability to shoot the ball well enough from outside, and against a Missouri squad that has enough size to affect shots in the paint, that could come into play.

While I have my worries about the Tigers getting off to a sluggish start after a long layoff (haven’t played since December 23), I’ll take them to score a solid road win.

Prediction: Missouri 64, South Carolina 60

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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.