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The SEC/Big 12 Challenge Takes Center Stage This Weekend, With Some Intriguing Matchups

The SEC will once again square off with teams from the Big 12 conference on Saturday as part of the now annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The Challenge features just one Top 25 matchup, when Kentucky travels to Kansas for a gigantic showdown.

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Oklahoma vs. Auburn (2 pm ET on ESPN)

The Auburn Tigers, riding a 16-game winning streak, will play host to Oklahoma. The Tigers had a close win at Missouri, but defeated Kentucky last Saturday in front of a sold-out crowd and got the best out of Jabari Smith. The Sooners enter this game coming off a win against West Virginia, but they are just 1-4 in their last five games. If the Tigers can control the game in the front court and let the guards work the perimeter, I don’t see this being much of a game.

Baylor vs. Alabama (4 pm ET on ESPN)

Over in Tuscaloosa, the No. 4 Baylor Bears will take on Alabama in one of the most intriguing games of the day. We’ve seen this Alabama team beat the likes of Gonzaga and Houston, but they also just lost to Georgia, who sits at the bottom of the SEC. They have the talent to beat anybody on their schedule, but we never know which Alabama team will show up. The Tide are led by Jaden Shackelford, who can attack the basket and cause Baylor problems. But who else can step up for Nate Oats? Maybe Jahvon Quinerly can get his team going from the perimeter. Keep an eye on this game, but there’s a reason Baylor is ranked 4th in the country.

Kentucky vs. Kansas (6 pm ET, ESPN)

The game of the day belongs to Kentucky and Kansas, who will battle it out in the prestigious Allen Fieldhouse. The Cats are led by Oscar Tshiebwe, who averages 16.3 points per game and also leads the team with 15.2 rebounds per game. His team will rely on him as well as Shaver Wheeler to get to the basket. There’s no denying that Ochai Agbaji of Kansas is one of the best players in the country, averaging 21.3 points per game. Agbaji scored a career-high 37 points against Texas Tech on Monday night and will try to bring that same level of intensity against the Wildcats. The venue, the teams, the history, all of this will be on display Saturday night, as these two teams battle it out. Sign me up for this one.

Tennessee vs. Texas (8pm ET, ESPN)

Down in Austin, the Texas Longhorns will welcome back former coach Rick Barnes, who brings his Tennessee team to town.  This game will most certainly bring out some emotion for the folks who helped build Longhorn basketball with Barnes, but after the video tribute, it’s all about basketball.

Over the last few games, we’ve seen a different type of Tennessee. They’re much more physical in the way they attack on both ends. The Vols are led by Santiago Vescovi, who averages 14.6 points per game and has taken on a leadership role on this team. But can players like Josiah-Jordan James and Kennedy Chandler help lead them to a victory in Austin? Well, that depends on their shooting, especially from the perimeter. The Vols need to play solid defense against Texas forward Timmy Allen, who leads his team in points and rebounds per game. The Longhorns enter this game 3-3 in their last six games, and they will certainly want to spoil the Rick Barnes homecoming. I have a feeling the Vols will have something to say about that.

Here are other games to keep an eye on.

  • LSU vs.TCU at 12 pm ET on ESPN2
  • Missouri vs. Iowa State at 2 pm ET on ESPNU
  • West Virginia vs. Arkansas at 2 pm ET on ESPN2 (The Hogs have won 5 straight in the SEC)
  • Kansas State vs. Ole Miss at 4 pm ET on ESPNU
  • Oklahoma State vs. Florida at 4 pm ET on ESPN2
  • Mississippi State vs. Texas Tech at 6 pm ET on ESPN2

We will also have two games in conference play, with Georgia traveling to Vanderbilt and South Carolina playing Texas A&M.

The SEC/Big12 Challenge could present a few surprises, so Saturday could be a nice day to just enjoy some basketball before the NFL takeover on Sunday. This could be an interesting weekend for the SEC, especially with the talent of some of these Big12 teams. Keep an eye on some of these non top-25 matchups, especially in Fayetteville and Gainesville.

Written by Trey Wallace

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