I’m going into this week after a really good run last week and the SEC is coming back from a 5-4 win in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Kentucky had to delay their game against Missouri by a day, but the Wildcats should be back to action meaning we have a full SEC slate once again.
I think this week is highlighted by the games between Arkansas and Mississippi State, LSU and Alabama, and Vanderbilt and Texas A&M. The first two are games between teams that have a chance or are already near the top of the league while the last one will be close because it’s the battle of the basement in the league.
When I first looked at these games, I had a pretty quick idea of who I thought would win in each game. That’s probably a bad sign, and I’m sure there will be chaos, but after another week of good picks, I’m feeling like I have a good read on the conference for now.
Last week I went 15-3 with my picks and only missed Missouri at Auburn, Florida at West Virginia, and South Carolina at Vanderbilt. My record on the year is up to 44-23.
Tennessee (5-3) at Ole Miss (3-6)
Tennessee is starting to find their groove again after a 2-0 week last week and a big win against Kansas where their offense looked to be the best it has been all year. Kansas has been struggling, so the result could have more to do with that, but for now, the Volunteers look to be a top team in the SEC and country once again.
Ole Miss on the other hand lost to both Arkansas and Georgia last week and seemingly can’t find anything on offense consistently. Even the Rebels’ defense is starting to slip a little bit as they are down to just the 6th best defensive rating in the SEC, which isn’t making up for their 13th ranked offense.
With both teams having offenses in the bottom four of the league, this will likely be a low scoring affair. Judging by Saturday, Tennessee seems to be on a better trend with their offense, but Ole Miss could have a say in how much that keeps up.
Ultimately, I think the Kansas game was an opportunity for this Tennessee team to flip a switch and get back to their national aspirations and prove that they still have bigger goals for the end of the year. The Volunteers also just have too many weapons for Ole Miss’s squad to keep up with.
Devontae Shuler needs help from one or more other guys, but even if he does, it likely won’t be near enough to match up with Yves Pons, John Fulkerson, Santiago Vescovi and the Volunteers’ pair of talented freshmen.
Tennessee keeps it rolling from the Kansas game, even on the road in Oxford.
Prediction: Tennessee 65, Ole Miss 49
Georgia (3-6) at Auburn (4-5)
Georgia bounced back well after a blowout loss to South Carolina with a win over Ole Miss last week. An 0-2 week against that competition would not have been a good sign for the Bulldogs or Tom Crean.
If Georgia can get through Auburn, they’ll then have two easier games against Vanderbilt and Texas A&M. The hard part will be getting through Auburn, though.
The Tigers never really backed down against Baylor and also picked up a win over Missouri last week. Auburn also already has an 18-point win over Georgia in Athens and this time Sharife Cooper is only more adapted to the college game.
This will likely be a fast-paced, fun game, but I don’t think it will be as fun for fans rooting for the Bulldogs. Sahvir Wheeler gets another shot at Sharife Cooper in a matchup between two of the better point guards in the league.
Cooper has many more weapons to work with around him, though, and Auburn should get another win in this rivalry and complete the season sweep.
Prediction: Auburn 92, Georgia 71
Mississippi State (4-5) at Arkansas (5-4)
Like Tennessee, Mississippi State got a really big win over Iowa State on Saturday night. But unlike Tennessee, there’s no doubt that Iowa State is a really bad team that was even worse with a few guys out with COVID. The big win is still a good sign that Mississippi State can put up a lot of points, but I don’t think it points to the Bulldogs being any better than before the game.
Arkansas on the other hand keeps looking better again and had a shot to knock off Oklahoma State in Stillwater if it hadn’t been for another great finish by Cade Cunningham. While the Razorbacks haven’t been able to put it all together many times this season, they still have one of the deepest rosters in the SEC and can have any number of guys step up for any given game.
Mississippi State’s trio of Iverson Molinar, DJ Stewart Jr., and Tolu Smith will pose a good challenge for Arkansas, but I don’t know if they’ll be able to outpace the Hogs in Bud Walton Arena.
The Bulldogs shoot the fewest threes in the SEC with just 22.9% of their shots coming from behind the arc. While they make them at the fifth-best percentage, it doesn’t lead to enough points and I think Arkansas will speed up the pace of the game and make Mississippi State uncomfortable.
While the loss to Oklahoma State snapped Arkansas’s winning streak overall, I think they’ll pick right back up in conference play and move their SEC win streak to four games.
Prediction: Arkansas 76, Mississippi State 68
South Carolina (2-4) at Florida (6-3)
South Carolina has had a pretty wild last few games. They went from giving up 109 points to Auburn to beating Georgia by 24 and then turned right back around and was comfortably behind Vanderbilt for almost the entire game while the Commodores got their first SEC win.
In Florida’s last SEC game, they were able to actually beat Vanderbilt (like a lot of teams) but then followed it up with the biggest win of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge when they defeated West Virginia on the road.
Colin Castleton continues to step up in a big way to replace lost production from Keyontae Johnson being out for the year and Tre Mann and Tyree Appleby are also giving the Gators balance from the outside.
On an individual player level, Keyshawn Bryant and AJ Lawson have been two of the best players in SEC play, but as a team, Florida has been better almost all year and appears to be getting even better.
Frank Martin might be able to get his team to turn it around, but I don’t think it’s going to come in Gainesville.
Prediction: Florida 82, South Carolina 65
LSU (6-3) at Alabama (9-0)
Alabama snapped their 10-game winning streak with a loss to Oklahoma on Saturday, but that might have been the wake-up call they needed to return to SEC play and pick up where they left off and maintain their 9-game winning streak in league play.
LSU just blew a late lead against Texas Tech and will come into the rematch with Alabama after losing three of their last four, including the 30-point blowout at the hands of the Crimson Tide just three games ago.
Alabama seemed to peak with the last win over LSU, and it was definitely one of their best shooting nights which didn’t make things better for the Tigers. The Crimson Tide also seems to be hitting the point in the year where injuries and fatigue could play a part in slowing down their offensive and defensive machine.
If Herb Jones is not at full strength, it could weaken the Alabama defense just enough for LSU’s high-powered offense to take advantage. I don’t think LSU will allow themselves to get blown out again this time, but even if they’re able to hold a lead at points in this game and keep it close, I’m not sure I trust them to finish games, especially against a team as good as Alabama.
While LSU is currently tied for second place with Florida, and just three games behind Alabama, the Tigers will need to win these next two games against Alabama and Florida to stay in that race. I just don’t trust them to get it done.
Prediction: Alabama 88, LSU 80
Kentucky (4-4) at Missouri (4-3)
Kentucky might have dodged a bullet by going on COVID pause and canceling their game with Texas, but the pause probably won’t have a good effect on their chemistry and consistency that hasn’t really been there all year but was at least starting to look decent before the pause.
Missouri looked slow against TCU for most of the game, but Xavier Pinson exploded at the end and in overtime to get them through the week with just the loss to Auburn.
John Calipari loves to play a bunch of big men, and against most teams in the SEC, the size at least gives the Wildcats some advantage. However, against Missouri, they certainly won’t have the best big on the court.
Jeremiah Tilmon continues to be one of the best players in the SEC and is certainly the best inside presence. He had over 50 combined points last week against Auburn and TCU, and while Kentucky’s frontcourt will be able to throw more at him, he’ll likely still be able to score when he wants.
Even if Tilmon does not get going, Pinson is stepping up alongside other options in the backcourt which is where Missouri will have a real advantage in this game. Kentucky’s guards have struggled all year, and Missouri certainly won’t make that development any easier.
BJ Boston Jr. might have been figuring some things out before the pause, but I think the slight delay will only set Kentucky back a few steps, and they didn’t have many steps forward, to begin with.
Prediction: Missouri 69, Kentucky 63
Vanderbilt (1-6) at Texas A&M (2-6)
Vanderbilt got their first win in SEC play on Saturday against South Carolina and looked to be in control for almost the entire game. The win came at a good time because they now have another winnable game right afterward.
Texas A&M also comes into this game on a short winning streak after taking down Kansas State in a battle between two of the lesser representatives in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Texas A&M has the worst offense in the SEC while Vanderbilt still has the worst defense. While the Commodores’ defense might make things a little easier for the Aggies to score, their offense, led by Scotty Pippen Jr. is looking to at least be an asset that is only getting better.
Emanuel Miller was one of the best players in the SEC towards the end of non-conference play and into the beginning of SEC play, but through eight games in conference play, he’s down to just the 22nd best player in my player rankings and is scoring just over 13 points per game. Scotty Pippen Jr. on the other hand is averaging over 20 in SEC play and he just finished the South Carolina game with 23.
Pippen Jr. also has more help than Miller as Dylan Disu is averaging 17 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and Maxwell Evans put up 29 on Saturday.
It’s hard to pick Vanderbilt, but if there’s one team that makes me feel better about the pick, it’s Texas A&M.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 71, Texas A&M 61