In & around SEC basketball


By Cole Fredrick/Sports Correspondent

Auburn Week 5 Review
The Tigers keep moving up in the rankings and now have a two-game lead over Florida and Kentucky for first place in the SEC. Auburn dominated LSU, 95-70, and Bruce Pearl’s team controlled the game from the opening tip. The Tigers followed up that win with a 79-70 victory over Ole Miss, the program’s first win in Oxford in nearly 10 years. Bryce Brown led the Tigers with 23 points and Mustapha Heron chipped in 16 as the Tigers improved to 20-2 overall and 8-1 in league play. Auburn returns home to host Vanderbilt on Saturday (Feb. 3), and then Texas A&M visits The Plains on Wednesday (Feb. 7).
Alabama Week 5 Review
Alabama submitted its best performance of the season in front of a sellout crowd at Coleman Coliseum in defeating Oklahoma, 80-73. Collin Sexton outdueled Trae Young in a battle of freshmen phenoms, with Sexton scoring 18 points while holding Young to 17. Young entered the game averaging over 30 points per game but struggled against the Alabama defense. The Crimson Tide followed up that performance with a letdown at home against Missouri. The Tigers defeated the Tide, 69-60, and Alabama had one of its worst offensive performances of the season. The Tide hits the road for a challenging test at Florida on Saturday and follow that up with another road game at Mississippi State on Tuesday (Feb. 6).
SEC rankings
1. Auburn (20-2, 8-1)
2. Florida (15-7, 6-3)
3. Kentucky (17-5, 6-3)
4. Tennessee (16-5, 6-3)
5. Arkansas (15-7, 4-5)
6. Alabama (14-8, 5-4)
7. Georgia (13-8, 4-5)
8. Texas A&M (14-8, 3-6)
9. Missouri (14-8, 4-5)
10. Miss. State (16-6, 4-5)
11. South Car. (13-9, 4-5)
12. LSU (12-9, 3-6)
13. Ole Miss (11-11, 4-5)
14. Vanderbilt (8-14, 2-7)
Week 6 Preview and Predictions
Week 5: 13-6
Season: 21-12
Saturday, Feb. 3
Game of the Week: Alabama at Florida. Both the Gators and the Crimson Tide are comfortably in the NCAA Tournament at this point in the year, and both teams have shown flashes of excellence this season. They’ve also been inconsistent, however, and it’s getting close to time for teams to start peaking heading into the postseason. Alabama has struggled on the road all season and only have one true road win this year (at LSU). Florida has one of the best home court advantages in the SEC, so this will be a measuring stick game for Avery Johnson’s young team. Prediction: Florida 75, Alabama 68.
South Carolina at Texas A&M. The Aggies finally started to look like the team most people thought would be the best in the SEC in their impressive 80-66 win over Arkansas. But their resume still needs a lot of work after a 3-6 start to conference play, and A&M probably needs to get to 9-9 in the SEC to feel safe about earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament. South Carolina had a prime opportunity to earn a marquee win at home over Texas Tech but the Gamecocks let the game slip away late. A road win at Texas A&M would get Frank Martin’s team closer to the right side of the bubble. Prediction: Texas A&M 68, South Carolina 62.
Kentucky at Missouri. Kentucky earned its most impressive win of the season on the road at West Virginia but was nearly upset a few days later at home against a shorthanded Van-derbilt team. Still, John Calipari’s team is in good shape, though the schedule is very difficult over the next few weeks. The Wildcats are facing a Missouri team that is squarely on the bubble. The Tigers are desperate for a big win and will need to play at their best to knock off Kentucky. Prediction: Kentucky 70, Missouri 65.
Arkansas at LSU. When these two rivals met earlier this season, the Tigers went into Fayetteville and whipped the Razorbacks by a score of 75-54. Arkansas has not been very good on the road this season but the Hogs are still projected to make the NCAA Tournament. They can’t afford to let too many winnable games slip away, however, so Arkansas needs to take care of business against a reeling LSU team. Prediction: Arkansas 85, LSU 78.
Georgia at Mississippi State. Georgia is one of se-veral SEC teams hovering around the bubble, and the win over Florida provided a boost to the Bulldogs’ resume. Winning on the road in the SEC is never easy, and Mark Fox’s team likely will be in for another ba-ttle against a Mississippi State team that has been very good at home. Georgia is the more talented team, but this will be a tough test in Starkville. Prediction: Georgia 65, Mississippi State 64.
Ole Miss at Tennessee. The Volunteers have flown under the radar compared to the SEC’s other top teams, but Rick Barnes has one of the best teams in the league. Tennessee has been excellent at home and are facing an Ole Miss team that is winless on the road this season. The Rebels have an explosive offense but Ole Miss has not traveled well this year. Prediction: Tennessee 80, Ole Miss 69.
Vanderbilt at Auburn. Auburn is undefeated at home this season, and Auburn Arena has quickly turned into one of the best atmospheres in college hoops. The Tigers have do-minated their opponents in league play and they have won their eight conference games by an average scoring margin of about 14 points per game. Vanderbilt has struggled for most of the year but remain capable of pulling off an upset if the Tigers sleepwalk through this game. Auburn is in position to earn a No. 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament as long as the Tigers continue to take care of business during the second half of conference play. Prediction: Auburn 87, Vanderbilt 74.
Tuesday, Feb. 6
Kentucky 82, Tennessee 77
Arkansas 74, South Carolina 67
Alabama 71, Mississippi State 65
Ole Miss 76, Missouri 74
Wednesday, Feb. 7
Florida 81, LSU 64
Georgia 74, Vanderbilt 71
Texas A&M 84, Auburn 80

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