SEC Basketball Predictions: Florida/Mississippi State, Georgia/Missouri, and more

In Features by Blake Lovell

Several SEC teams got back on track with victories on Tuesday, while Auburn kept its streak going with a comeback win over Ole Miss.

Wednesday features intriguing matchups across the board, as picking up road wins has become tougher than ever in this league.

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): 156-35

Mississippi State (13-2, 1-1) at Florida (11-4, 3-0) – 7 PM EST, SEC Network

Mississippi State has played only two road games this season and scored under 60 points in each of them.

That was one of the concerns about the Bulldogs’ non-conference schedule. Not only did it include few challenges overall, but it only included one true road test.

That road test resulted in a 65-50 loss at Cincinnati, in a game that never felt as close as the final score indicated.

And then there’s the Gators, who stole a win at Missouri and are now tied with Auburn atop the SEC standings. After losing four of five, Mike White’s team has turned things around by winning five straight.

The reason? They’re starting to play better defense, but they’re also getting more consistent frontcourt production. Keith Stone has been the catalyst to the team’s success in back-to-back games, and Kevvarius Hayes has stepped his game up as well.

With John Egbunu not due back until at least late January, the Gators need Stone and Hayes to stay consistent in the frontcourt.

With Florida riding high and Mississippi State letting a win slip away at Ole Miss, I see no reason to pick against the Gators in this spot.

Prediction: Florida 75, Mississippi State 68

Georgia (11-3, 2-1) at Missouri (11-4, 1-1) – 9 PM EST, ESPN2

Obviously, the home loss to Florida was a bit of a gut punch for the Tigers.

Chris Chiozza’s game-winning steal and layup was a deflating to end a game that Mizzou controlled at various points in the second half.

But now Cuonzo Martin’s squad must regroup and prepare for a Georgia team that has played very well since losing the head-scratcher in mid-December at UMass.

Yante Maten continues to show why he’s the frontrunner for SEC Player of the Year, as the senior is averaging 20.0 points and 9.4 rebounds per contest. And although the Bulldogs are still searching for consistency elsewhere, they have had a few different players step up to be the next scoring threat behind Maten.

But while Maten may get most of the attention here, let’s not overlook what Jordan Barnett is doing for Missouri. He’s coming off a career night against Florida, where he scored 28 points and knocked down 6 of 9 attempts from 3-point range. As long as he’s playing like that, the Tigers will have a chance to beat anyone in the SEC.

Of course, that 3-point shooting has been the biggest surprise when it comes to this Mizzou team this season. Barnett and company are shooting 40.3 percent from beyond the arc (24th nationally), which is a huge step forward from their 30.4 percent (337th nationally) a year ago.

Georgia has been stout on defense in ranking 20th in defensive efficiency and allowing opponents to shoot just 30.7 percent from long range (34th nationally), so that’s worth watching here.

However, I think the Tigers bounce back from Saturday’s tough loss with a close victory.

Prediction: Missouri 71, Georgia 68

LSU (10-4, 1-1) at Arkansas (11-4, 1-2) – 9 PM EST, SEC Network

Arkansas at Bud Walton Arena this season? Undefeated.

Arkansas in true road games this season? 0-3.

The good news for the Razorbacks is that they return home for this matchup against LSU, and if what we’ve seen already this season is any indicator of what’s to come, Mike Anderson’s team should play very well.

After rallying to a huge overtime win over Tennessee to open conference play, Arkansas let one slip away at Mississippi State before suffering a double-digit defeat at Auburn.

But again, the Hogs have been pretty much unstoppable in Fayetteville. Their average margin of victory at home this season has been 22.6 points per game, with some of those blowout wins coming against quality competition.

Meanwhile, LSU scored the buzzer-beater win at Texas A&M last weekend, which came courtesy of yet another unbelievable shot by freshman Tremont Waters.

When you look at how well Waters has played this season, it’s easy to understand why the Tigers’ rebuild is ahead of schedule in Will Wade’s first season in Baton Rouge.

And although Arkansas has had its struggles on the road, LSU is 2-0 with wins at Memphis and Texas A&M.

Both teams have been wildly impressive on the offensive end of the floor, so this has the potential to be a high-scoring affair. And obviously, how the Tigers handle the “Fastest 40” style from the Razorbacks will decide the outcome of this game.

The Hogs find themselves really needing a victory here, and since it’s at home, they should get it.

Prediction: Arkansas 84, LSU 76

Want more SEC basketball discussion? Follow Blake on Twitter for daily analysis and on Periscope for regular live shows!

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.