Tuesday and Wednesday’s games were much better to my picks as I went 6-1 in my predictions which moved my overall record on the season to 11-7. While I got the picks right, several of the games still did not go as expected.
LSU needed overtime to beat Georgia at home, South Carolina blew out Texas A&M, Mississippi State comfortably beat Missouri (my only miss), and Alabama seemed to have no problems with Florida.
Now, as we head into another Saturday slate of SEC games, we have our first SEC games being delayed for COVID. The SEC made quick work with a solution as LSU will now travel to face Ole Miss since each team had their previous opponent become unavailable with South Carolina and Missouri having to go on pause.
That means that this is at least South Carolina’s third COVID-related pause this season. It’s good that the other teams were able to get a game in this weekend and hopefully the SEC will continue to do similar switches throughout the year so that all delayed games are just saved for the end of the season. South Carolina is quickly falling behind the rest of the SEC in games played, but at least they looked good in their one conference game so far.
With all that said, here are my previews and predictions for each SEC basketball game this Saturday.
Alabama (3-0) at Auburn (0-3)
Not to spoil my power rankings, but after Alabama beat Florida pretty comfortably, even without their point guard Jahvon Quinerly, following the win at Tennessee, I think that Alabama is the best team in the SEC for the moment.
Alabama, at least in the past, has a tendency to follow up streaks of good games with a puzzling off performance, and that could be more of the case against their biggest basketball rival (even if some fans won’t admit it), especially in Auburn Arena where the Tide hasn’t won since 2015.
Auburn on the other hand has started league play 0-3 and looks even more disappointed than expected. A lot is going against the Tigers right now as they have still not heard about Sharife Cooper’s eligibility and the guy who was excelling while filling in for his role, Justin Powell, had to miss Auburn’s game against Ole Miss due to a head injury suffered in the Texas A&M game last Saturday.
Despite losing all three games, it seems that Auburn is just missing a single piece to tie all of the young talents together, and with or without that piece, the non-conference schedule showed that the Tigers can still produce good games, as long as almost everyone is playing well together, and in better control.
However, Alabama’s defense has been the best in the SEC so far in conference play, and they’ll like to disrupt Auburn’s offense and force them to continue committing large amounts of turnovers, even at home.
Alabama is still playing without Quinerly, but since that seemed to not be a big issue against a better Florida team, I don’t think it will factor in too much in this game unless one or two of Alabama’s other guards find themselves in foul trouble early on.
Overall, I think that when Alabama is hitting shots, they can beat just about anyone in the SEC, or maybe the entire country. On the other hand, even when Auburn is hitting their shots as they did against Arkansas at the start of SEC play, the turnovers and other issues can lead to them still finding themselves behind for most of the game.
At this point, based on the last few games as a sample, Alabama is playing well and Auburn is not. Without fans in Auburn Arena, I don’t think it’s magic will be as effective as it usually is in the rivalry game. Auburn has the talent to still make this competitive, but unless Alabama regresses compared to their last few games, I still think the Tide get their first win in Auburn Arena since 2015 and if they do, will be my number one team in the power rankings, and will be ranked in my national top-25.
Prediction: Alabama 80, Auburn 75
Mississippi State (2-1) at Vanderbilt (0-2)
After losing in double-overtime to Kentucky, the better Mississippi State team that we saw against Georgia showed up against Missouri and got another convincing win.
Vanderbilt also lost to the same Kentucky team, and while close, did not even take the Wildcats to overtime. I think I’m leaning toward Vanderbilt just being a bad team again with a few good players.
With Mississippi State being one of the hardest teams to understand and evaluate at this point, it’s hard to know for sure that they should be favored in this game, but I’m willing to give them a slighter pass for the Kentucky game considering Dontaie Allen went into hero mode.
Iverson Molinar is still playing like one of the best players in the SEC while DJ Stewart Jr. and Tolu Smith are also contributing significantly. Vanderbilt is looking more like a one-to-two-headed monster with Scotty Pippen Jr. being their best player and guys like Dylan Disu stepping up for certain games.
With this being in Nashville and Mississippi State possibly having a one-game-on, one-game-off pattern to start the year, this might be a one where Vanderbilt has a chance to pick up a win. On the other hand, I really liked what I saw from Mississippi State against both Georgia and Missouri, so I think they’ll still win this.
Prediction: Mississippi State 85, Vanderbilt 72
Tennessee (2-1) at Texas A&M (1-2)
Texas A&M confirmed again that the close win over Auburn was just that, a close win over another struggling team. Tennessee on the other hand bounced back from their loss to Alabama with another good win over Arkansas.
I still think that Tennessee has the most overall talent in the SEC and will be the best team at the end of the year, but if they want to prove that they are still currently the best team in the league, they’ll need to show that clearly against Texas A&M.
Maybe Reed Arena is the difference in whether Texas A&M plays well considering both of their blowout losses were on the road, but I think it has more to do with the teams they were playing. Tennessee would certainly fall into the same category of talent as LSU and should be way better than South Carolina.
This will be the first of three games against teams I currently think are comfortably below them in the SEC, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt before they travel to Florida.
Running up a winning streak here will be useful for the Vols in their quest for another SEC regular-season championship and I think they can get it done.
Emanuel Miller continues to be the top player in the SEC by my ratings, but he was quite literally the only bright spot against South Carolina on Wednesday. He’ll need more help if Texas A&M wants to match up with all the weapons that Tennessee has.
I think Tennessee follows up the Arkansas win with another comfortable victory here which makes the first few steps back to them showing why they’re one of the best teams in the SEC.
Prediction: Tennessee 65, Texas A&M 53
Georgia (0-2) at Arkansas (1-2)
Georgia had their perfect non-conference season ended and have the opposite record in SEC lay so far, sitting at 0-2. Arkansas also had their win streak snapped when they lost last week to Missouri and are now on a two-game losing streak of their own, just like Georgia.
The Bulldogs managed to keep the game with LSU much closer than I expected and honestly should have had a chance to win it with a puzzling decision to not review a play at the end that likely would have given Georgia a late possession instead of LSU.
Arkansas has been missing Justin Smith quite a bit in their last two games after he got hurt against Auburn. Teams with size, like Missouri and Tennessee, were able to get what they wanted against Arkansas, and the Razorbacks didn’t have enough shooting to make up for it, especially against Missouri.
One of the things missing for Georgia is a really good big man, so that might give Arkansas even more of an upper hand. Arkansas will also look to clean up some of their defensive issues and will need to slow down Georgia’s backcourt of Sahvir Wheeler and Justin Kier who each had 20+ points against LSU.
Bud Walton Arena didn’t have the expected effect against Missouri, but I think it will give Arkansas’s shooters the homecourt advantage that they need to get back to being a truly high scoring offense.
I don’t want to call for another blowout against Georgia because they showed that they can still be competitive against LSU, but I do think that Arkansas is still the better team at the moment, so I’m taking the Hogs.
Prediction: Arkansas 87, Georgia 80
Kentucky (2-0) at Florida (2-1)
Unlike Georgia and Arkansas, Kentucky has used their early SEC games to supposedly turn their season around and sits at 2-0 in conference play after going just 1-6 in the non-conference schedule. But it might be too early to totally forget Kentucky’s concerns and Florida will be a great test for how far they really have come.
Florida had a much more difficult start to SEC play with games against LSU and Alabama already, but them losing to Alabama pretty handily did show that they might not be at the very top of the league like I previously thought.
Coach Calipari is already starting to show signs of his usual ability to make even the slowest starting Kentucky teams figure it out in league play. A win in Gainesville would really propel Kentucky back into the “they should be taken seriously again” category. Mike White would obviously like to make it seem like the Wildcat wins were mostly due to the competition.
Kentucky will have Keion Brooks Jr. back for the first time this year, and that might be another key missing piece for the Wildcats. Terrence Clarke is still expected to be out, so they still won’t be at full strength.
Florida is obviously still going to be without their best player Keyontae Johnson but despite their loss to Alabama, they have had guys like Colin Castleton, Tre Mann, and Scottie Lewis step up to fill in the production.
I think playing at home will allow Florida to get back on the right track and I really don’t think Kentucky is all the way back quite yet.
Prediction: Florida 71, Kentucky 65
LSU (2-1) at Ole Miss (1-1)
Ole Miss was able to throw enough different defensive looks at Auburn to significantly slow the Tigers down in Oxford on Wednesday, but that might require another level of success to slow down the LSU offense.
But for LSU, the Tigers continued to show that there are defensive issues lingering and that it is their major weakness left to be exploited.
I don’t know how much more time these teams got to gameplan for each other or if they found out they were changing up their plans for Saturday today like the rest of us. A shorter time to prepare would favor LSU in my opinion because I think Ole Miss relies more on a good scheme provided by Kermit Davis while LSU just has a wealth of talented scoring options.
If Ole Miss had a full week to prepare, I think I’d give them more of a shot to slow down and possibly beat LSU in Oxford, but given the short turnaround from the time this game was announced and it actually being played, I’m going to keep siding with the LSU Tigers in this one.
Devontae Shuler hasn’t quite had the season I expected from him, especially in SEC play, and Ole Miss will need his help and more scoring to keep pace with LSU.
The thing I’m watching for will be to see if Cameron Thomas can keep up his streak of 25+ point scoring games that has been active since December 26th. Thomas is averaging 24.8 points per game on the year and an even more impressive 28.7 points per game in SEC play, so I don’t want to predict that it will slow down anytime soon.
Prediction: LSU 82, Ole Miss 72