By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Auburn Week 9 Review
The Tigers had a chance to clinch the regular season SEC championship but dropped a pair of road game at Florida and Arkansas to keep Tennessee within striking istance. Auburn fell behind in the first half of both games and late second-half runs fell short as the Tigers dropped to 24-6 overall and 12-5 in the league. AU welcomes South Carolina to Auburn Arena this Saturday (March 3) in a rematch of a game played two weeks ago where the Gamecocks knocked off Auburn, 84-75, in Columbia. If Auburn wins, the Tigers will clinch the SEC regular championship and will be the top seed in the SEC Tournament next week in St. Louis.
Alabama Week 9 Review
Alabama picked the wrong time of the year for its worst slump of the season. The Crimson Tide have lost four straight games, and their performance at home last week against Florida was abysmal. The Gators dominated Alabama,73-52, while holding the Tide to a woeful 4-for-30 shooting performance in the first half. Alabama lost at home to Arkansas the game before and now UA has some work to do if it wants to make it to the NCAA Tournament. The Tide fell to 17-13 overall and 8-9 in league play. Alabama finishes the regular season on the road in a must-win game at Texas A&M on Saturday (March 3).
1. Auburn (24-6, 12-5)
2. Tennessee (22-7, 12-5)
3. Kentucky (21-9, 10-7)
4. Arkansas (21-9, 10-7)
5. Florida (19-11, 10-7)
6. Texas A&M (19-11, 8-9)
7. Missouri (19-11, 9-8)
8. Mississippi State (21-9, 9-8)
9. Alabama (17-13, 8-9)
10. South Carolina (15-14, 7-10)
11. Georgia (16-13, 7-10)
12. LSU (16-13, 7-10)
13. Vanderbilt (11-19, 5-12)
14. Ole Miss (12-18, 5-12)
Week 10 Previews and Predictions
Week 9: 8-4; season: 51-35
Saturday, March 3
Game of the Week: Kentucky at Florida. The Wildcats and Gators are playing at their best entering the regular season finale, and this should be an excellent game as both teams turn their attention to the postseason. Kentucky has won four straight and looked much better offensively in recent weeks, while the Gators won impressive back-to-back games over Auburn and Alabama to guarantee themselves a winning record in conference play. Both teams are locks to make the NCAA Tournament, and now they’re playing for seeding and a possible double bye in the SEC Tournament. Prediction: Kentucky 69, Florida 66.
Mississippi State at LSU. Mississippi State’s chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid took a serious hit after a double-digit home loss to Tennessee. The Bulldogs had a chance to add a statement win to its resume but were outplayed in the second half of the loss. Ben Howland’s team still has a great record but likely will need to at least make the conference championship game to even have a chance, and the Bulldogs might need to win the whole conference tournament. LSU was a longshot, but its blowout loss at Georgia last week pretty much ended its at-large chances. Prediction: LSU 75, Mississippi State 70.
Alabama at Texas A&M. Alabama has lost four straight games and desperately need a win over the Aggies in order to make the NCAA Tournament. A win would likely earn the Tide a bid regardless of how they fare in the SEC Tournament, but a loss would be a devastating blow to their tournament chances. The only reason Alabama is still in the conversation is because of a difficult schedule. The Crimson Tide are running out of opportunities, however, and last week’s no-show against Florida likely won’t sit well with the tournament committee. Alabama breezed by the shorthanded Aggies, 79-57, in December, but this is a different Texas A&M team that is playing much better now. It’s the most important game of the Avery Johnson era, as a loss could easily send the Tide into the NIT. Prediction: Texas A&M 73, Alabama 68.
South Carolina at Auburn. With a win, the Tigers will secure their first regular season conference championship since 1999. Bruce Pearl has done a tremendous job with this young and undersized group, and while they might not be built for postseason success, it’s been a terrific year for the Tigers. The best part for Auburn is that everyone on the roster is expected to return next season. South Carolina is a tough and defensive-minded group under Frank Martin, so this might not be an easy win for the Tigers. But AU should be able to win and claim the top spot in the conference tournament.Prediction: Auburn 83, South Carolina 71.
Georgia at Tennessee. The Volunteers were picked to finish 13th in the SEC before the season began, but Rick Barnes has his team tied for first in the conference with only one game remaining. If Tennessee beats Georgia and Auburn loses to South Carolina, the Vols will win the conference outright. Otherwise, the best they can do is tie for first, and Auburn has the tiebreaker. Regardless, it’s been an excellent and unexpected season for the Vols, and Barnes deserves the credit for turning this team into one of the best in the country. Prediction: Tennessee 70, Georgia 61.
Arkansas at Missouri. Back-to-back wins over Alabama and Auburn was more than enough to secure the Razorbacks into the NCAA Tournament field, and now the Hogs will be playing for seeding for the remainder of the season. Missouri should be in the tournament, and a home win over Arkansas would likely lock them into the field heading into the SEC Tournament next week. Prediction: Missouri 78, Arkansas 73.
Vanderbilt at Ole Miss. Neither the Rebels nor the Commodores have had the seasons they wanted entering the year, and both will be participants in the play-in round of the SEC Tournament on Wednesday, March 7. One team will have the chance to ends its season on a positive note heading into the conference tournament, where they will have to win five games in five days to reach the NCAA Tournament. Prediction: Ole Miss 76, Vanderbilt 75.