By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Alabama Week 8 Review
After a disappointing three-game losing streak, the Crimson Tide earned an impressive pair of wins to get back on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Alabama easily handled Vanderbilt, 68-61, in Coleman Coliseum, and followed up with an excellent 68-62 road win against South Carolina. The victory against the Gamecocks elevated the Tide to 8-7 in the SEC and 17-11 overall. UA hosts both LSU and Auburn next week, and a win in either of those games might be enough to lock up a bid for Avery Johnson’s team.
Auburn Week 8 Review
Auburn suffered its worst loss of the season last weekend, as Kentucky stormed past the Tigers, 80-53, at Rupp Arena. However, Bruce Pearl’s team responded with a narrow 78-75 road win at Georgia to move to 8-7 in league play and 19-9 overall. Chuma Okeke buried a game-winning three-pointer with 26 seconds remaining and as the shot clock expired to lift the Tigers over the Bulldogs. The victory inched the Tigers closer to securing a second consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament. Auburn hosts Mississippi State on Saturday (March 2) before traveling to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama next week.
SEC basketball rankings
1. Kentucky (23-4, 13-2)
2. Tennessee (25-3, 13-2)
3. LSU (23-5, 13-2)
4. Miss. State (21-7, 9-6)
5. Ole Miss (19-9, 9-6)
6. Auburn (19-9, 8-7)
7. Florida (17-11, 9-6)
8. Alabama (17-11, 8-7)
9. South Carolina (14-14, 9-6)
10. Texas A&M (12-15)
11. Arkansas (14-14, 5-10)
12. Missouri (12-15, 3-12)
13. Georgia (10-18, 1-14)
14. Vanderbilt (9-19, 0-15)
Week 9 Previews and Predictions
Season record: 64-23
Saturday, March 2
Game of the Week Kentucky at Tennessee. When these two contenders met two weeks ago in Lexington, the Wildcats breezed past the Volunteers, 86-69, to move into a tie for first place in the conference. The Vols now have an opportunity for revenge as they look for a second consecutive SEC title. Kentucky is playing as well as any team in college basketball but will be tested in Knoxville on Saturday. The winner of this game will be in position to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Prediction: Tennessee 81, Kentucky 77.
LSU at Alabama. LSU currently is in a three-way tie with Kentucky and Tennessee, but the Tigers have a tough path over the next few games. Alabama has played well over the last week and is a tough team to beat at home. LSU has been a surprise this year in Will Wade’s first season, and both of these teams look poised to make the NCAA Tournament. Prediction: Alabama 73, LSU 68.
Ole Miss at Arkansas. Arkansas nearly pulled off a massive upset at Kentucky to join the bubble, but the loss ended the Razorbacks’ at-large chances. Ole Miss missed a golden opportunity to earn a signature win against Tennessee, but the Vols snuck out of Oxford with a 73-71 victory. The Rebels remain in good shape for the NCAA Tournament but must avoid bad losses down the stretch. Prediction: Arkansas 76, Ole Miss 71.
South Carolina at Missouri. South Carolina’s NCAA Tournament chances took a major hit with a home loss to Alabama. Despite the Gamecocks’ quality conference record, they are only .500 overall on the season. If South Carolina win out, the Gamecocks might have a distant chance but will need to win several games in the SEC Tournament. Prediction: South Carolina 74, Missouri 72.
Mississippi State at Auburn. Both teams are headed for the NCAA Tournament and are simply playing for seeding at this point. Auburn is looking to avoid the 8-9 matchup, since the Tigers would potentially play a No. 1 seed in the second round. Several analysts have Auburn projected as either a No. 8 or No. 9 seed, but a few wins down the stretch could possibly vault the Tigers to a No. 7 seed. Prediction: Auburn 86, Mississippi State 80.
Vanderbilt at Texas A&M. Vanderbilt is still searching for its first conference win of the season, and it’s beginning to look as if the Commodores might go winless in the SEC. While Texas A&M is near the bottom of the league the Aggies are playing much better basketball in recent weeks. Prediction: Texas A&M 67, Vanderbilt 61.
Georgia at Florida. Florida is close to punching its ticket to the NCAA Tournament. The Gators were on the bubble a month ago but racked up some major wins in recent weeks. The road win at LSU was massive for Florida’s tournament chan-ces, and the Gators avoided bad losses since then. If Florida takes care of business at home against the Bulldogs, the Gators will be dancing again. Prediction: Florida 67, Georgia 59.
Tuesday, March 5
Texas A&M 72, South Carolina 70; Alabama 75, Auburn 71; Tennessee 83, Mississippi State 76; Kentucky 85, Ole Miss 79
Wednesday, March 6
Georgia 73, Missouri 69; Florida 75, LSU 73; Vand-erbilt 76, Arkansas 75