The SEC had to move games around again with Texas A&M and Florida still dealing with COVID issues, but they at least minimized the loss by moving Georgia and Tennessee’s matchup so the two teams will now play each other on Wednesday.
That game comes at a good time for Georgia as the Bulldogs are on a three-game winning streak and could have the opportunity to take down the Volunteers like Ole Miss was able to last week. On the other side of that coin, Auburn will look to snap its two-game SEC losing streak with a win at Vanderbilt before the schedule gets even tougher down the stretch after two missed opportunities against Ole Miss and Georgia last week.
Wednesday will feature two games that I think are both likely to be good games when Missouri travels to Ole Miss and LSU travels to Mississippi State. Missouri and Ole Miss are very similar while LSU and Mississippi State are close to near opposites in the style of play, but seem to be at about the same level right now.
I had another down week last week going just 3-3 in the midweek games and 3-2 on Saturday’s picks. That was enough to get me my 50th correct pick of the season and my total on the year is still looking pretty good with 50 correct picks to just 28 misses.
Alabama (10-1) at South Carolina (3-5)
After a slow start against Missouri, Alabama looked more like the dominant team they’ve been all throughout conference play in the final five minutes and almost managed to come back for the win.
South Carolina got beat handily at home by Mississippi State just a few days after pulling off a big upset on the road at Florida.
It doesn’t bode well for Alabama to catch South Carolina after a big loss because over the last few weeks, that’s usually when they’ve played their best basketball. If South Carolina’s good play was enough to win at Florida, it could be enough to give Alabama another loss, especially if Alabama starts slow.
Keyshawn Bryant and Justin Minaya will probably give Alabama problems, but I think the Missouri game will serve as another wake-up call and have Alabama ready to play. After their other slow game and loss to Oklahoma, Alabama came out and played well against LSU. I suspect they’ll do the same this week and remind the rest of the conference why they’ve held the top spot in the standings all year long.
Herb Jones may finally take a break, as I think he should, but if he doesn’t play it might make this game a little bit closer. With or without him, though, I still have the Crimson Tide getting their 11th SEC win.
Prediction: Alabama 84, South Carolina 76
Arkansas (6-4) at Kentucky (4-6)
Arkansas has been playing great defense lately and is on a good run overall, but going into Rupp Arena will still be a difficult challenge, even if Kentucky is on a major down year.
Kentucky looked to be on their way to a big win over Tennessee on Saturday, but once again could not close the game and allowed Tennesee’s struggling offense to score 82 points on their defense which has been Kentucky’s one reliable aspect this season.
If Tennessee’s offense was able to score over 80 against Kentucky, Arkansas should technically be able to do the same since the Razorbacks have been almost five points per 100 possessions better than Tennessee on offense in SEC play so far.
It’s hard to point at any Kentucky player and reliably expect them to have a big game that can give the Wildcats an advantage, but as long as Olivier Sarr can have a decent game the size might be a good mismatch for Kentucky against the Razorbacks.
I’m not counting on that to happen, but it is one area where they might have a chance. Overall I think Arkansas is playing too well right now, has way more options to go to, and Kentucky is just not able to defend their home court like they’re used to this season.
Prediction: Arkansas 72, Kentucky 68
Auburn (4-7) at Vanderbilt (1-7)
Auburn had a good opportunity last week to pick up some wins and momentum and climb up the SEC standings. Instead, they took two bad losses and exposed even bigger flaws with their defense.
While Vanderbilt is still a step below Georgia and Ole Miss, the game will be in Nashville, where Auburn has struggled over the past several years. The Commodores also have a good enough offense to really take advantage if Auburn doesn’t at least show some improvement on defense.
My initial reaction was to pick Vanderbilt in this one because I think they’ll be able to put up a lot of points on Auburn, mostly coming from Scotty Pippen Jr. However, the other side of things is that Vanderbilt is actually the worst defense in the SEC with a defensive rating of 115.8 in SEC play.
This game might come down to which team can keep the other under 100 and I think Auburn at least has the ability to get big defensive plays at times. I also suspect that the two losses last week will be a big enough wake-up call and Bruce Pearl will make it clear to the team how much Auburn has a history of struggling in Nashville.
After the weekend’s games, I was sure I was going to pick Vanderbilt in this one. But after having time to think about it, and continuing to see that there is still a pretty big gap between Vanderbilt and the likes of Georgia and Ole Miss, I think Auburn has enough talent to get the road win, even if it is likely to be a shootout.
Prediction: Auburn 98, Vanderbilt 94
Georgia (5-6) at Tennessee (6-4)
This game was recently moved up because each team’s previously scheduled opponent is still dealing with COVID pauses. The earlier date might give Georgia a better chance since the Bulldogs are on a three-game winning streak and will look to keep up the good play.
Tennessee has been a great team at times, just average a lot, and pretty bad in some games, especially when their offense doesn’t show up. Georgia’s defense hasn’t been one of their strengths this season, and it currently sits as the second-worst in SEC play giving up 109.7 points per 100 possessions.
It has seemed that games between a decent offense, bad defense team, and a good defense, bad offense team have usually favored the team that can play defense. The game is also in Knoxville, which will give Tennessee a light boost.
Georgia’s picking up good wins at the right time and they’re actually in the top half of the SEC standings right now amongst a very crowded league in the middle. Tennessee will need to play well and can’t overlook the Bulldogs as they did at Ole Miss last week.
I still think Tennessee will win because they have to know there isn’t much more room for letdowns if they want to hold onto their chances of getting a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament this season. A bad Georgia defense will just give the Vols another opportunity to keep figuring things out on offense.
The two Tennessee 5-star freshmen both played well against a good Kentucky defense, so I think they’ll have another big game this week as well.
Prediction: Tennessee 78, Georgia 71
Missouri (6-3) at Ole Miss (5-6)
These two teams are probably the most experienced teams in the SEC and both have a good combination of a skilled big man and a well-run backcourt. Both teams are also coming off very good weeks last week and will both want to keep that up.
Missouri has more on the line because they’re trying to hold onto their first top-10 ranking since 2014, but Kermit Davis will have his team ready for anyone, especially at home.
Jeremiah Tilmon has been the best big in SEC play so far and might even be the best player overall. Romello White has also had bright spots, including one of the best games of the season against Auburn where he led the game with 30 points. In the backcourt, it’ll also be a good matchup between Xavier Pinson for the Tigers and Devontae Shuler for the Rebels.
I think that the difference will be the depth that Missouri has in both the frontcourt and backcourt and they will make the difference. Missouri also has a slightly better defense and better offense so far in SEC play, which should be enough to make up for the slight advantage that Ole Miss is the one hosting.
Prediction: Missouri 60, Ole Miss 56
LSU (6-4) at Mississippi State (5-6)
I’ve been more and more down on LSU in my power ranking recently and I can’t tell if that is more to do with their defense being even worst than earlier in the year or the fact that they look worse against a pretty tough stretch of games.
Mississippi State is even harder to figure out and has also had losses to some of the top teams like Alabama, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Mississippi State looked very good in their big win over South Carolina, but they’ll need to score more than 61 points if they want to get past LSU.
LSU was held to just 60 points in their second matchup against Alabama, but this game just feels like we’ll finally see the Tigers start clicking on offense again.
DJ Stewart Jr., Iverson Molinar, and Tolu Smith have been quite the three-way attack for Mississippi State, but I don’t think it can outscore the four-way attack of Cameron Thomas, Trendon Watford, Javonte Smart, and Darius Days if at least most of LSU’s stars are playing to their potential that they showed earlier in the season.
The homecourt advantage might be enough for Mississippi State, but I’m going to go against my inclinations and power rankings and pick LSU to get a win and remind people that they are still capable of challenging for the top of the SEC standings.
Prediction: LSU 72, Mississippi State 70