The stakes are getting higher and higher as another week of SEC basketball gets underway.
There are four games on Tuesday’s schedule, with the top 25 showdown in Lexington certainly being the most intriguing.
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): 194-54
No. 15 Tennessee at No. 24 Kentucky – 7 PM EST, ESPN
The Vols have already won seven games away from home this season, although this would likely classify as the toughest true road game of the year to this point.
I trust Tennessee and Auburn more than anyone else in the SEC right now, and even with a loss here, my opinion of the Vols likely won’t change unless we see a 30-point blowout or something like that.
Many people keep going back to the size disadvantage that Tennessee faces, but that didn’t stop Rick Barnes’ team from grabbing 12 offensive rebounds and outrebounding Kentucky by seven in the previous meeting in Knoxville.
We should see a refocused group of Wildcats here after losing at Missouri, and that will make this tough for the visitors. However, I think the more physical team will grab a big edge, and the Vols have proven to be the better team in that department.
If this game is called tight, Tennessee will probably be in trouble due to its tendency to be physical on defense.
Everyone is going to pick Kentucky since this game is at Rupp Arena (and like most teams, Tennessee hasn’t had a lot of success there), but I’ll keep things interesting and go the other direction since I view the Vols as a top 10 caliber team.
Prediction: Tennessee 71, Kentucky 69
South Carolina at Arkansas – 7 PM EST, ESPN2
This is an important game for both teams.
The Gamecocks have three straight and four of five after finding their way into the NCAA Tournament discussion with wins over Florida and Kentucky.
As for Arkansas, the Hogs should be dancing in March if they can hold serve at home, with five of their final eight games taking place at the friendly confines of Bud Walton Arena.
The biggest issues for Arkansas have come on the defensive end of the floor, but the good news here is that South Carolina hasn’t scored over 63 points in two of last three games.
I’m leaning towards the Razorbacks in this one.
Prediction: Arkansas 74, South Carolina 68
Alabama at Mississippi State – 7 PM EST, SEC Network (Game Preview)
Here’s the big question entering this game: Do we see the Alabama team that won at Florida, or the Alabama team that looked flat against Missouri after knocking off Oklahoma? There’s no way of knowing based on the Crimson Tide’s up and down nature this season.
Alabama will need to be ready for the challenge, as Mississippi State has been nearly unbeatable at home this season. The Bulldogs are 15-1 in Starkville, and although the non-conference schedule wasn’t great, they’ve played very well in recent wins over Georgia, Missouri, and Vanderbilt.
I simply don’t have a great feel as to what to expect due to Alabama’s inconsistency this season. The Tide are good enough defensively to slow down Mississippi State’s offensive attack, but will that same energy that we saw in the second half of the Florida game be there in this game?
The Bulldogs outplayed the Tide in the second half in the previous meeting, and since Mississippi State has been the more consistent of the two in this situation, I’ll go with the home team.
But since Avery Johnson’s team tends to win when I pick against them, and lose when I pick them, this choice should give Alabama fans some relief.
Prediction: Mississippi State 70, Alabama 69
Missouri at Ole Miss – 9 PM EST, SEC Network
Few teams in America had as good of a week as Missouri. The Tigers picked up wins over Alabama and Kentucky, which helped them rise significantly in the NCAA Tournament discussion.
However, as is the case a lot of times after a huge, emotional win, there are concerns here about a possible letdown for Cuonzo Martin’s squad.
Unfortunately, if there is a letdown, it probably won’t result in a win. The Rebels are 6-1 in their last seven home games, which includes victories over Florida and Alabama. So, while Ole Miss has had its issues away from, this team has been able to rise to the challenge in Oxford as of late.
Mizzou will have a considerable size advantage in this game, and both teams will likely put up a lot of 3-point shots.
And while Kassius Robertson and company have seemingly turned a corner, I just get the feeling that Ole Miss will force some turnovers and play well in this spot after getting blown out at Tennessee earlier in the week.
Prediction: Ole Miss 77, Missouri 74
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