By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Auburn Week 7 Review
The Tigers earned a pair of much-needed victories over the past week, including a 79-56 rout of Arkansas at Auburn Arena. AU also defeated Vanderbilt on the road for the first time in nearly 20 years, though the Commodores are winless in the SEC this season. The victories moved the Tigers back over .500 in league play as they improved to 18-8 overall and 7-6 in the SEC. Auburn will be put to the test on Saturday (Feb. 26) as they visit Rupp Arena for a rematch against Kentucky.
Alabama Week 7 Review
A week ago, Alabama’s chances of returning to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament looking promising. However, the Crimson Tide dropped a pair of games in the last week, and they’ve now lost three straight games overall. Florida cruised past the Tide, 71-53, in Tuscaloosa, and Alabama followed that up with a disappointing 65-56 loss to Texas A&M. The Aggies swept the Crimson Tide this season, which could hurt Alabama’s NCAA Tournament chances on Selection Sunday. Alabama dropped to 15-11 overall and 6-7 in the SEC. UA hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday for a must-win game before traveling to Columbia to take on South Carolina.
SEC basketball rankings
1. Kentucky (21-4, 11-2)
2. Tennessee (24-2, 12-1)
3. LSU (21-5, 11-2)
4. Auburn (18-8, 7-6)
5. Mississippi State (19-7, 7-6)
6. Ole Miss (18-8, 8-5)
7. Florida (15-11, 7-6)
8. South Carolina (14-12, 9-4)
9. Alabama (15-11, 6-7)
10. Arkansas (14-12, 5-8)
11. Missouri (12-13, 3-10)
12. Texas A&M (11-14, 4-9)
13. Georgia (10-16, 1-12)
14. Vanderbilt (9-17, 0-13)
Week 8 Previews and Predictions
Season record: 52-11
Saturday, Feb. 23
Game of the Week: Tennessee at LSU. Analysts expected Tennessee and Kentucky to contend for the SEC title, but not many pundits projected that LSU would be battling for the league crown in late February. Will Wade has done a remarkable job in his second season in Baton Rouge, and his Tigers have an opportunity to move into first place with a win over the Volunteers. Tennessee is still in position to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, though the Vols have a challenging stretch to finish the regular season. Prediction: LSU 85, Tennessee 81.
Auburn at Kentucky. When Kentucky visited Auburn Arena earlier this season, the Wildcats escaped with an 82-80 win. Since then, Kentucky has emerged as a national title contender and recently han-ded Tennessee its first loss in conference play. Auburn has been very good at home this year but has struggled on the road. The Tigers have not shot well outside of Auburn Arena and need their best performance of the season to knock off Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Prediction: Kentucky 84, Auburn 77.
Georgia at Ole Miss. Kermit Davis has worked wonders in Oxford during his first season, and his Rebels are close to securing a bid to the NCAA Tournament. A home loss to Georgia would hurt the seeding, but it wouldn’t knock them out of the tournament. The ceiling for Ole Miss is probably a No. 6 seed in the tournament, depending on how well they perform for the remainder of the regular season. Prediction: Ole Miss 76, Georgia 64.
Missouri at Florida. A pair of wins catapulted the Gators onto the NCAA Tournament bubble, and now they need more victories to bolster their resume. Losing at home to Missouri would be damaging, and Florida does not have much margin for error this late in the season. The win at Alabama helped, but a loss to the Tigers would essentially undo that victory. Prediction: Florida 68, Missouri 59.
Vanderbilt at Alabama. A loss to a Vandy team that is winless in conference play would likely put an end to the Crimson Tide’s at-large hopes for the NCAA Tournament. Alabama cruised past the Commodores in Nashville two weeks ago, but Avery Johnson’s team has been inconsistent all year. Prediction: Alabama 77, Vanderbilt
South Carolina at Mississippi State. Ben Howland’s team is comfortably in the field at this point and is simply playing for seeding. South Carolina has a chance to enter the at-large discussion with a few marquee wins down the stretch. A win in Starkville certainly would boost their resume. Prediction: Mississippi State 79, South Carolina 70.
Texas A&M at Arkansas. The Razorbacks’ NCAA Tournament hopes are dwindling, so they need a plethora of wins in a hurry. Losing to Texas A&M at home would all but end their chances of an at-large bid, though the Aggies played well in recent weeks. Prediction: Arkansas 78, Texas A&M 72.
Tuesday, Feb. 26
South Carolina 70, Alabama 66; Mississippi State 81, Missouri 70; Kentucky 84, Arkansas 72; LSU 83, Texas A&M 75
Wednesday, Feb. 27
Tennessee 82, Ole Miss 77; Florida 64, Vanderbilt 59; Auburn 81, Georgia 74