After an interesting slate of mid-week games in the SEC, the weekend matchups are shaping up to be the biggest to date. It all starts with Kentucky heading to Auburn and wraps up with LSU traveling to Knoxville for a rematch. As we head into Saturday’s slate, Bruce Pearl has his Tigers sitting at No. 2 in the country with a chance to become the No. 1 team, come Monday morning.
The matchup between LSU and Tennessee in Knoxville also has a big fight feel to it, with both teams looking to keep themselves in the running for a top 4 seed in the SEC Tournament — and 20,000 fans screaming at Will Wade.
Let’s take a look at the matchups.
No. 12 Kentucky (15-3, 5-1) at No. 2 Auburn (17-1, 6-0), 1 p.m., CBS
The Wildcats are coming off a huge win on the road against Texas A&M, snapping the Aggies’ SEC winning streak in front of a sold-out crowd. Kentucky kept battling back, overcoming a 13-point deficit to finally take the lead at the nine-minute mark of the second half.
We know the Wildcats will rely on Oscar Tshiebwe in the paint, but the most interesting matchup could be Ty Ty Washington against Jabari Smith. How the Wildcats handle the pressure from the Tigers will be key, especially if they are forced to commit turnovers. Can Walker Kessler keep himself out of foul trouble?
Plus, Bruce Pearl vs. John Calipari is always fun to watch, with their frantic pacing along the sidelines.
This will be the biggest game of the season in the SEC, so let’s hope it lives up to the billing.
Vanderbilt (10-7, 2-3) at Florida (11-6, 2-3), 1 p.m., SEC Network
After Anthony Duruji and his 22 points led the Gators past Mississippi State, Florida is looking to continue its winning ways against Vanderbilt. Now, the Gators will most likely play without their leading scorer and rebounder Colin Castleton, who is dealing with a shoulder injury. But Jerry Stackhouse seems to have put all of his chips on Scotty Pippen Jr. and Myles Stute. If those guys get hot behind the perimeter, they could cause the Gators some problems. This is one of those games that Florida should win, but Vanderbilt has the shooters who could make it interesting. Keep an eye on this one, as one of these teams will fall to 2-4 in conference play.
Georgia (5-13, 0-5) at South Carolina, (10-7, 1-4), 3:30 p.m., SEC Network
The Bulldogs might’ve looked good on the football field, but they look horrible on the basketball court. After getting destroyed by Auburn, the Dawgs will head to South Carolina, looking for their first conference win. Honestly, the Gamecocks shouldn’t have a problem here, especially if Erik Stevenson and Devin Carter can get hot. Frank Martin’s team plays with tenacity on defense, which will cause Tom Crean to pull his hair out on Saturday. I don’t expect Georgia to get its first SEC win this weekend.
Ole Miss (9-8, 1-4) at Mississippi State (12-5, 3-2), 4 p.m., ESPNU
The Egg Bowl on the hardwood court will go down in Starkville this weekend. The Bulldogs are coming off a tough loss to Florida and looking to get Iverson Molinar going against the Rebels. Molinar, who leads the team in PPG and assists, has become a bright spot for this Bulldog team. Look for him to cause trouble on Saturday.
As for the Rebels, they defeated the Bulldogs just eleven days ago, in their only conference win so far this season. If Matthew Murrell can get hot from behind the perimeter, then I could see this Kermit Davis team hanging tough. But I really like how the Bulldogs have played this season and keeping that 4th spot in the standings — and the payback — should be enough motivation for Saturday.
No. 13 LSU (15-3, 3-3) at No. 24 Tennessee (12-5, 3-3), 6 p.m., ESPN
The Tigers, who have dropped two straight games, are heading to Knoxville after a loss to Alabama. They’ll play without Darius Days and Xavier Pinson at the moment, which will hinder them on the offensive side. Credit to Tari Eason and Brandon Murray for stepping up against Alabama, but we will see if they can do it twice.
The Vols have one of the best defenses in the country, especially with Santiago Vescovi, Zakai Ziegler and Kennedy Chandler leading the way at the guard position. The Vols are coming off a gritty performance at Vanderbilt, and now hope that the spark on offense will finally ignite. Credit to Uros Plavsic for stepping up for the team, as he got the start over veteran forward John Fulkerson. If Rick Barnes rolls the same lineup on the court Saturday night, they could cause problems in the paint for the Tigers.
This game will hopefully be the dogfight we all expect it to be. The 20,000 Tennessee fans in the building will make life miserable for Will Wade and the Tigers, giving the Vols that extra juice, which they’ve only truly experienced against Arizona this season. I’d expect a sold-out crowd and a battle around the basket for this one. A very big game awaits for both teams. Bring on the craziness.
Missouri (8-9, 2-3) at Alabama (12-6, 3-3), 6 p.m., SEC Network
Well, Cuonzo Martin’s Tigers destroyed Ole Miss on Tuesday, which makes me wonder which team will show up at Alabama. Don’t forget, the Tigers have already defeated the Tide this season in Columbia. If Kobe Brown can’t get things going against a tough Alabama defense, this game could get out of hand. The Tide are coming off a big win over LSU, and Jaden Shackelford is playing fantastic basketball right now, scoring 26 points on Wednesday night. We will see how Nate Oats schemes his defense against this Missouri squad, which does have the ability to get hot from the perimeter. Alabama should win this rematch, but they are currently 1-3 over their past four games, so they shouldn’t take anything for granted.
Texas A&M (15-3, 4-1) at Arkansas (15-3, 3-3), 8:30 p.m., SEC Network
This is my sleeper game of the weekend. The Aggies are playing solid basketball right now, even after the loss to Kentucky. And now, the Razorbacks have won three straight games, after starting 0-3 in SEC play. The Aggies won the first matchup in College Station, thanks to Quentin Jackson’s 16 points. JD Notae scored 31 points the last time the two teams met, so expect him to put on another stellar performance. I really like how Buzz Williams is coaching this team, especially with the offensive pressure. But Eric Musselman has instilled confidence in guys like Jaylin Williams, who can cause problems around the basket. This game has a lot of juice and could turn into one of the highlights of Saturday.
Enjoy the weekend of hoops, and stay tuned to OutKick for continued coverage of the SEC.