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Super Bowl LVI is not until Feb. 13 in Los Angeles, but the SEC Super Bowl of basketball is on for Saturday at 1 p.m. eastern on CBS.
It will be No. 2 Auburn (17-1, 6-0 SEC) and No. 12 Kentucky (15-3, 5-1 SEC) playing for first place in the league in Auburn, Alabama.
Auburn is the only undefeated team in the best league in the country – or close to it – after dispatching last place Georgia, 83-60, Wednesday night in Auburn for its 14th straight win in front of 9,121 at Auburn Arena. Kentucky won its fourth straight and eighth of nine at Texas A&M, 64-58, on Wedensday night.
The Auburn-Kentucky clash will be the biggest game in Auburn Arena since it opened in 2010.
“It’ll be a clash of the titans for sure,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said.
Pearl inherited a program before the 2014-15 season that had gone through five straight losing seasons from 2009-14 — the last four under coach Tony Barbee and one under Jeff Lebo. Pearl had losing seasons in his first two years but is off to his fifth winning season out of the last six. He took the Tigers to their first Final Four in 2019 and finished 30-10 after losing in the national semifinals, 63-62, to eventual champion Virginia. He won Auburn’s first SEC title since 1999 in 2018 at 26-8 and 13-5.
A win Saturday will likely give Auburn its first Associated Press poll No. 1 ranking in program history on Monday.
“Based on the resume, we probably should have been No. 1,” Pearl said on the Paul Finebaum Show Tuesday. “But that’s OK. It’s all about at the end, not right now.”
Kentucky, meanwhile, won in workmanlike fashion after trailing by 13 three times in the first half before outscoring the Aggies (15-3, 4-1 SEC) 13-2 to end the first half down 35-30. The Wildcats did not take their first lead until the nine-minute mark at 49-48 on a Kellan Grady layup. TyTy Washington’s jumper gave Kentucky its largest lead to that point at 58-54 with 4:48 left, and the Wildcats held on.
“They look Final Four good,” Pearl said, spinning in classic form. “This might be one of the better Kentucky teams that I’ve ever coached against. He’s got power at the rim. He’s got athletes. He’s got shooters on the wings.”
Point guard Sahvir Wheeler led Kentucky with 12 points, and Davion Mints added 10. Henry Coleman III scored 17 to lead Texas A&M, which had won eight straight and 10 of 11.
“People should be all over them,” Pearl said of Kentucky. “This could be our biggest challenge, even though the game is at home.”
But Auburn had to get by Georgia first to reach super Saturday.
“We didn’t talk about Kentucky at all coming into this game,” said Auburn point guard Wendell Green Jr., who had 12 points, 11 assists and four steals against Georgia (5-13, 0-5).
Forward Walker Kessler scored 15 with six rebounds for Auburn, which is tied with Davidson for the nation’s longest winning streak at 14.
Auburn is off to its best start in 63 years. It was last 6-0 in the SEC in 1959 when it opened 12-0 in the league and finished 20-2 overall and 12-2 for a second-place tie with Kentucky behind first place Mississippi State (24-1, 13-1).
In other games Wednesday, Alabama held off No. 13 LSU to win 70-67 in Tuscaloosa after LSU coach Will Wade’s wild tantrum and technical nearly brought the Tigers all the way back from 13 down, and Florida beat Mississippi State 80-72 in Gainesville.
Anthony Duruji led the Gators (11-6, 2-3) with a career-high 22 points with 18 of those after halftime. Mississippi State (12-5, 3-2) led 41-35 at the break.
Florida won without leading scorer and rebounder Colin Castleton, who missed the game with a shoulder injury.
“It’s significant,” Florida coach Mike White said of the injury.
SATURDAY’S GAMES (All Times Eastern)
No. 12 Kentucky (15-3, 5-1) at No. 2 Auburn (17-1, 6-0), 1 p.m., CBS
Vanderbilt (10-7, 2-3) at Florida (11-6, 2-3), 1 p.m., SEC Network
Georgia (5-13, 0-5) at South Carolina, (10-7, 1-4), 3:30 p.m., SEC Network
Ole Miss (9-8, 1-4) at Mississippi State (12-5, 3-2), 4 p.m., ESPNU
No. 13 LSU (15-3, 3-3) at No. 24 Tennessee (12-5, 3-3), 6 p.m., ESPN
Missouri (8-9, 2-3) at Alabama (12-6, 3-3), 6 p.m., SEC Network
Texas A&M (15-3, 4-1) at Arkansas (15-3, 3-3), 8:30 p.m., SEC Network