In & around SEC basketball


By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent

Auburn Week 4 Review
During the first half of last Saturday’s game between Auburn and Georgia, it looked as if the Tigers were still suffering from the hangover of losing to Alabama. The Bulldogs led 40-26 at the half, and there was no energy in Auburn Arena. Whatever Bruce Pearl told his team at halftime worked, because the Tigers started the second half on a 31-4 run en route to a 79-65 victory. Auburn followed that up with perhaps its most impressive win of the season in defeating Missouri on the road, 91-73. The Tigers improved to 18-2 overall and 6-1 in league play. Auburn hosts LSU on Saturday, Jan. 27, before traveling to Ole Miss.

Alabama Week 4 Review
The Crimson Tide followed up its win over Auburn with a 68-62 home win over Mississippi State last Saturday. Braxton Key scored 16 points in the win, and the Crimson Tide managed to win its second consecutive game without star freshman Collin Sexton. But Alabama’s road woes continued in a 78-66 loss to Ole Miss that dropped the Tide to 13-7 overall and 5-3 in conference play. Alabama hosts Oklahoma as a part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge this Saturday before hosting Missouri on Wednesday, Jan. 31.

SEC Rankings
1. Auburn (18-2, 6-1)
2. Florida (14-6, 6-2)
3. Kentucky (15-5, 5-3)
4. Tennessee (14-5, 5-3)
5. Alabama (13-7, 5-3)
6. Arkansas (14-6, 4-4)
7. South Car. (13-7, 4-4)
8. Missouri (13-7, 3-4)
9. Georgia (12-7, 3-5)
10. LSU (12-7, 3-4)
11. Tex. A&M (13-7, 2-6)
12. Ole Miss (11-9, 4-4)
13. Miss. State (14-6, 2-5)
14. Vanderbilt (7-13, 2-6)

Week 5 Preview and Predictions
Saturday, Jan. 27
Week 4: 8-6
SEC/Big 12 Challenge
Game of the Week: Kentucky at West Virginia. The marquee matchup of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge sends Kentucky into a hostile environment as the Wildcats take on West Virginia. The Mountaineers are one of the best teams in the country thanks to their elite defense, and Kentucky will be in trouble if it cannot handle West Virginia’s full court pressure. The Wildcats’ size and length could bother the Mountaineers, but John Calipari’s team will need to be at its best to sneak out of Morgantown with a win. Prediction: West Virginia 73, Kentucky 65.
Texas Tech at South Carolina. After an impressive road win at Florida, the Gamecocks are hovering on the bubble. Frank Martin’s team has big wins over the Gators, Kentucky and Georgia, and a win over Texas Tech would be a tremendous boost to its resume. The Red Raiders have struggled on offense in recent weeks, and South Carolina is one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Expect a defensive slugfest in Columbia on Sa-turday. Prediction: South Carolina 64, Texas Tech 61.
Baylor at Florida. Florida probably has the best team in the SEC but has been inconsistent all season. The Gators have too many lapses on the defensive end of the floor, and it comes back to haunt them when their offense isn’t rolling. Baylor’s athletes could cause some problems for the Gators, but Florida should be able to get back on track on Saturday. Prediction: Florida 82, Baylor 73.
Ole Miss at Texas. The Rebels’ chances of making the tournament are slim, but they do have a pair of quality wins over Florida and Alabama. Their resume lacks any impressive road wins, however, and they have a chance to earn one this Saturday at Texas. The Longhorns already defeated an SEC team this year when they beat Alabama, and this certainly will be a challenge for Ole Miss. Prediction: Texas 70, Ole Miss 62.
Georgia at Kansas State. Georgia has been so close to earning big wins on numerous occasions but has had difficulty closing out games. The Bulldogs blew big leads last week against Auburn and Arkansas, and a win in either of those games would have provided them with a major resume boost. A win at Kansas State would help matters, but a loss could have Georgia staring at the NIT. Prediction: Kansas State 71, Georgia 63.
Oklahoma at Alabama. Two of the top freshman guards in the country will square off at Coleman Coliseum in Oklahoma’s Trae Young and Alabama’s Collin Sexton. Young is the frontrunner for National Player of the Year, while Sexton has shown flashes of brilliance this season, though he’s been limited with an abdominal injury in recent weeks. As of now Alabama is in decent shape as far as the tournament is concerned, but a win over Oklahoma would be valuable for March. Prediction: Alabama 75, Oklahoma 73.
Tennessee at Iowa State. The Volunteers have put together quite the impressive season and are destined for the NCAA Tournament, provided they don’t have a late season collapse. Iowa State is a tough place to play, but Tennessee should be able to go into Ames and win the game over the Cyclones. Prediction: Tennessee 75, Iowa State 70.
TCU at Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt lost guard Matthew Fisher-Davis for the season, so a bad season is only got worse for the Commodores. Bryce Drew has an impressive recruiting class coming in, however, so Vandy fans can look forward to next year. TCU should be a tournament team, but this could be a tricky spot for the Horned Frogs. Prediction: TCU 76, Vanderbilt 71.
Texas A&M at Kansas. Before conference play began, this matchup had the makings of a top-10 show-down. But the Aggies have struggled in the SEC and find themselves firmly on the bubble with about six weeks remaining until the tournament begins. A win at Kansas would drastically help Texas A&M’s cause, and this Kansas team isn’t quite as strong as the ty-pical Bill Self squad. The Jayhawks still very good, but this is a winnable game if the Aggies play at their best. Prediction: Kansas 78, Texas A&M 71.
Oklahoma State at Arkansas. The Razorbacks are looking for the sweep over the Big 12 teams from the Sooner state as they welcome the Cowboys to town. Arkansas already de-feated Oklahoma earlier this season, and this should be an even better matchup for the Hogs. If Arkansas is generating points off of turnovers, they are extremely tough to beat, especially at Bud Walton Arena. Prediction: Arkansas 82, Oklahoma State 70.
LSU at Auburn. Auburn is off to its best start since the 1998-99 season, and Bruce Pearl currently has his team playing better than anyone in the conference. The win over Missouri was the best Auburn has played from start to finish all season, and the Tigers moved into sole possession of first place in the SEC. LSU cu-rrently is on the outside looking in in terms of the NCAA Tournament, but a road win at Auburn would do wonders for its resume. Prediction: Auburn 80, LSU 74.
Missouri at Mississippi State. After a terrific start to the season in nonconference play, Mississippi State has struggled in the SEC. The Bulldogs are 2-5 and near the bottom of the league in the standings, and look to turn things around against a Missouri team in need of a win. Losing to Auburn at home isn’t necessarily a bad loss, but Missouri can’t afford to keep piling on losses if it wants to reach the NCAA Tournament. Prediction: Mississippi State 68, Missouri 65.

Tuesday, Jan. 30
Florida 73, Georgia 68
Auburn 82, Ole Miss 76
Kentucky 77, Vanderbilt 61
Texas A&M 75, Arkansas 71

Wednesday, Jan. 31
Tennessee 72, LSU 65
South Carolina 67, Mississippi State 63
Alabama 70, Missouri 62

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