SEC Basketball Predictions: Kentucky/Texas A&M, Vandy/Tennessee, and more

In Features by Blake Lovell

The SEC is looking pretty in the RPI these days, and there will continue to be lots of movement with teams beating up on each other throughout the conference season.

There are four intriguing games on the Tuesday schedule, with the SEC’s lone winless team looking to score a season-altering win at a very tough venue.

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): 152-35

South Carolina (10-5, 1-2) at Alabama (9-6, 1-2) – 7 PM EST, SEC Network

Alabama desperately needs this game. The Crimson Tide have simply not played well in their last two games since drubbing No. 5 Texas A&M by 22 points in Tuscaloosa.

Meanwhile, South Carolina picked up its first SEC win of the year with an 11-point victory over Vanderbilt this past weekend.

The key to this game will be Chris Silva. He’s coming off a career night against the Commodores, and when he’s on the court, the Gamecocks can compete with anyone.

However, if he gets in foul trouble, things get interesting on offense. Frank Booker is the only other player averaging in double figures (10.9 ppg), and guys like Maik Kotsar, Justin Minaya, and Hassani Gravett are still trying to develop into consistent scoring threats.

Alabama guard Dazon Ingram will be a game-time decision due to illness, which isn’t ideal considering that the Tide only scored 46 points against Georgia, and half of those came from Collin Sexton.

I picked Alabama to beat Georgia, and we see how that turned out. But this is a great opportunity to get back on track, and I think the Tide get the win in a grind-it-out game.

Prediction: Alabama 65, South Carolina 58

Texas A&M (11-4, 0-3) at No. 21 Kentucky (12-3, 2-1) – 7 PM EST, ESPN

UPDATE: Kentucky point guard Quade Green has been ruled out with a back injury.

Billy Kennedy said on Monday’s SEC coaches teleconference that Robert Williams would be back after sitting out the LSU game due to illness.

Kennedy also said that he’s hoping to have guard Admon Gilder back in the lineup, which would be a welcome addition given the fact he was the team’s most consistent perimeter scorer before missing the past five games due to injury.

However, Duane Wilson is likely to be out another week, and that’s tough due to how well he’s played at point guard.

As for the Wildcats, they had their chances to win at Tennessee, but simply got outplayed down the stretch. They should return home with a chip on their shoulder, especially against a Texas A&M team that’s in a bad spot at 0-3 in the conference.

But here’s the thing: Being in desperation mode going into Rupp Arena isn’t a good spot to be in. The Aggies really need to win this game, because if they don’t, they may very well be staring down an 0-5 start with a game in Knoxville up next.

Unfortunately, there are too many unknowns for me to pick Texas A&M here. While it sounds like Gilder will play, we don’t know how effective he will be with Wilson sidelined.

Kentucky scores the close win.

Prediction: Kentucky 74, Texas A&M 69 

No. 24 Tennessee (10-4, 1-2) at Vanderbilt (6-9, 1-2) – 9 PM EST, SEC Network

This might be the most intriguing game of the evening for a couple of different reasons. Aside from it being a rivalry game, there are a few intriguing storylines worth watching.

For starters, the Commodores have certainly struggled away from home this season, but always seem to make things interesting in Nashville. They proved that in the win over Alabama a week ago, so perhaps they will carry that momentum over into this one despite suffering an ugly loss at South Carolina.

And then there’s the question of what to expect from Tennessee. The Vols scored a huge win over Kentucky, and it was one that they needed after starting 0-2 in the SEC.

But after such a thrilling win, will we see Tennessee come out a bit flat in this game?

Alabama did the same thing, and Vandy was able to benefit from that by jumping out to a fast start. The Vols can’t afford to let that happen here, as the Commodores have hit at least 10 3-pointers in their last three home games.

This feels like a toss-up. However, I’d feel better about picking Vanderbilt had it not played as poorly as it did at South Carolina.

And while the Commodores have been a different team as of late at home, they’ve been too inconsistent to feel confident about picking them against a team that’s played very well away from home this season.

I’ll go with Tennessee in a close game.

Prediction: Tennessee 71, Vanderbilt 70

Ole Miss (9-6, 2-1) at No. 22 Auburn (14-1, 2-0) – 9 PM EST, ESPNU

I talked about Auburn’s rise in great detail on Monday’s episode of the Southeast Hoops podcast, and now it’s time to see how the Tigers handle being ranked for the first time since 2003.

Ole Miss comes into this game feeling good after rallying to knock off rival Mississippi State in Oxford, and Andy Kennedy’s squad has won four of its last five games.

Of course, here’s the most noteworthy stat entering this game: The Rebels have won the last 10 meetings between the two schools.

But something feels a bit different about this year’s game, and that obviously has to do with how Auburn is playing right now.

I view the Tigers as the best team in the SEC as of today due to the confidence and energy that they’re playing with on both ends of the floor.

Bruce Pearl is getting contributions from everyone that steps on the court, and that’s significant since nine players are averaging 13 minutes or more per game.

So, while the Rebels have had the Tigers’ number in recent years, it’s extremely difficult to pick against Auburn.

This team continues to carry the “us against the world” mentality into each game, and it has worked thus far.

The Tigers keep the momentum rolling here.

Prediction: Auburn 87, Ole Miss 78

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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.