By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Alabama Week 3 Review
The Crimson Tide capped off its best week of the season with a 76-71 win over Auburn in Coleman Coliseum last Wednesday (Jan. 17). Alabama ended Auburn’s 14-game winning streak and did so without leading scorer Collin Sexton. Freshman guard John Petty scored 27 points to lead all scorers, hitting eight three-pointers in the process. The Tide improved to 12-6 overall and 4-2 in the SEC. They host Mississippi State this Saturday (Jan. 20) as they look for their fourth consecutive win.
Auburn Week 3 Review
Before Auburn’s loss at Alabama, Bruce Pearl’s team was the hottest in the country. The Tigers are still off to their best start in nearly 20 years, and the 14-game winning streak earned them a ranking in the Top 20. Auburn is a half-game behind Florida for first place in the SEC and look to get back on track this Saturday as the Tigers host Georgia.
1. Florida (13-5, 5-1)
2. Kentucky (14-4, 4-2)
3. Auburn (16-2, 4-1)
4. Tennessee (12-5, 13-3)
5. Missouri (13-5, 3-2)
6. Georgia (12-5, 3-3)
7. Alabama (12-6, 4-2)
8. Texas A&M (12-6, 1-5)
9. Arkansas (12-6, 2-4)
10. LSU (11-6, 2-3)
11. South Carolina
12. Mississippi State
13. Ole Miss (10-8, 3-3)
14. Vanderbilt (6-12, 1-5)
Week 4 Previews and Predictions
Saturday, Jan. 20
Game of the Week: Florida at Kentucky. John Calipari once again has one of the most talented teams in the country, but this is also his youngest squad since taking over in Lexington. The Wildcats have been inconsistent but they’ve shown flashes of dominance at home with an 11-0 record at Rupp Arena. Florida probably has the best team in the SEC, though there isn’t too much of a gap between the Gators and the rest of the league. This matchup will be a measuring stick game for both teams. Prediction: Kentucky 84, Florida 80.
LSU at Vanderbilt. The Commodores are the worst team in the league this year, but second-year coach Bryce Drew has help on the way with a loaded recruiting class. They’ll struggle this season but will be a tough matchup at home. Will Wade has LSU ahead of schedule in his first year, but the Tigers must add some more road wins if they want to be in the NCAA Tournament conversation. Prediction: Vanderbilt 72, LSU 68.
Ole Miss at Arkansas. Before conference play started, Arkansas looks destined to reach the NCAA Tournament again. But Mike Anderson’s team has struggled so far in SEC play with only a 2-4 record in the league with a few blowout losses. Ole Miss is in the midst of a rebuilding year, so the Razorbacks can’t afford to let this game slip away. Prediction: Arkansas 85, Ole Miss 77.
Missouri at Texas A&M. Like Arkansas, the Aggies have been abysmal in the first couple of weeks of league play. Texas A&M was a Top 10 team in the country during the first two months of the season, but a 1-5 start in the SEC has the Aggies trending towards being a bubble team. The Aggies have had injuries and suspensions but they’re too talented to be playing this poorly. Missouri lost its best player in Michael Porter Jr., during the first week of the season, but the Tigers remain in the mix to reach the NCAA Tournament. Prediction: Texas A&M 76, Missouri 68.
Tennessee at South Carolina. The Gamecocks have difficulty scoring on offense, but Frank Martin’s team is one of the best defensive groups in the country. Despite losing most of its production from last year’s Final Four run, South Carolina has an outside chance of returning to the NCAA Tournament this season. Tennessee has a quality NCAA Tournament resume, and the Volunteers have a chance to add a quality road win on Saturday in Columbia. Prediction: Tennessee 66, South Carolina 63.
Georgia at Auburn. Auburn and Kentucky are the only two teams in the SEC who are still undefeated at home. The Tigers will put their 9-0 home record on the line against Georgia and will look to start another winning streak after their loss to Alabama. The Tigers haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2003 – the longest streak in the SEC – but Bruce Pearl’s team has a great chance of ending that skid. Georgia’s size and length could bother Auburn, so the Tigers might be relying on outside shooting to knock off the Bulldogs. Prediction: Auburn 74, Georgia 70.
Mississippi State at Alabama. The Crimson Tide will look to continue its winning streak against the Bulldogs, but the status of Collin Sexton is unknown heading into the game. Sexton has an abdominal injury and it’s unclear how long he will be sidelined. Alabama will need John Petty to continue shooting well from the outside, and the Tide have been one of the best defensive teams in the SEC. Mississippi State has struggled on offense at times this year, so this is a favorable matchup for UA. Prediction: Alabama 63, Mississippi State 56.
Tuesday, Jan. 23
Georgia 61, Arkansas 58
Tennessee 82, Vanderbilt 71
Alabama 67, Ole Miss 61
Texas A&M 77, LSU 75
Kentucky 83, Mississippi State 65
Wednesday, Jan. 24
Florida 76, South Carolina 59
Missouri 65, Auburn 60
In & around SEC basketball
By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent