With the second full week of SEC basketball action came more surprising results. Some teams have stepped up while others seemed to have stepped back. Kentucky had to go into Nashville where the Commodores had just knocked off Alabama three days earlier. Vanderbilt’s second home game on TV in a row was another chance for an upset. The Commodores jumped out in front early by double digits, but Kentucky made a late run just before halftime. Vandy took a lead into halftime, but the second half went just the opposite of the first. The Wildcats found their rhythm and smacked the ‘Dores around the Memorial Gym for the last twenty minutes and cruised to a fairly easy win over Vanderbilt. A huge SEC West battle took place in Tuscaloosa Wednesday night. Mississippi State was coming off two losses to Florida and LSU to start the season and was looking for a much-needed win while Alabama was looking to protect the home court. The Bulldogs came out and dominated the first twenty minutes of the game and took a double-digit lead to the locker room. However, like in the Vandy/KY game, the “Tides” turned, and MSU found themselves in a battle. Alabama forced overtime, and the Tide, behind Erwin Dudley and Mo Williams, finished off Mississippi State and captured the win.
Also on Wednesday, the Auburn Tigers traveled to Columbia to take on South Carolina. The Tigers were the only undefeated team in the SEC West and were looking to keep that going. South Carolina and Auburn played a close game, but it was the Tigers who came out on top. Auburn, however, wasn’t done for the week. In-state rival Alabama came to the Plains on Saturday looking to end the Tigers’ win streak in conference play. The Tigers roared out to a lead before the Tide came back in the first half. In the final twenty minutes, Auburn was able to jump out and hold a lead consistently about 8-10 points and capture the huge win on their home floor.
Wednesday night’s action also included Tennessee’s trip to Florida where the Gators took care of the Vols to continue their winning streak. Kentucky had a huge out-of-conference battle with Notre Dame on Saturday. The Wildcats did not have a let-down as they stepped out of the SEC and pounded the Irish. UK rushed out to an early lead and never gave it up, winning the game easily by double-digits. All other games on Saturday in the SEC were conference matchups. Mississippi travled to LSU and picked up a huge win over the Tigers. The Rebels had yet to win a game in the SEC this year until Saturday, but Rod Barnes now has the Rebels back on the winning track. Vanderbilt, for the second straight game, was unable to keep their magic going as the Commodores fell to Tennessee in Knoxville. Georgia went on Fayetteville and easily dismissed Arkansas. The Hogs are struggling this season, and the road in the SEC doesn’t provide much hope.
After moving into the top 25 last week, the LSU Tigers will likely fall out of the rankings after losing at home to Mississippi. Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky should all move up in the rankings after winning their games this week. A large number of teams ranked in the top 10 this past week lost games, so that should help these SEC East members jump very high into the rankings. Mississippi State lost their only game of the week to Alabama, but the Bulldogs probably won’t fall out of the polls after being ranked 14th last week. Alabama will also drop slightly after a road loss to Auburn but should remain in the top 15 in the country. The Auburn Tigers will almost certainly move into the top 25 this week after their stellar start to the SEC season. The Tigers have already beaten South Carolina and Arkansas on the road while also knocking off Vanderbilt and Alabama at home. The road for AU gets much tougher this week, though, as the Tigers travel to Kentucky on Wednesday and Georgia on Saturday.
SEC Team of the Week....
This week there has to be a co-team of the week in the Southeastern Conference. Both Kentucky and Auburn have gotten off to super starts in conference play and are well on their way to making some postseason noise. Kentucky went on the road to the Memorial Gym in Nashville in front on a national TV audience and knocked off Vanderbilt after the Commodores upset Alabama just days before. UK then returned home and hosted Notre Dame, a team ranked high in all the national polls. The ‘Cats easily defeated the Irish by double-digits. Auburn, on Wednesday, went into Coumbia, SC and came away with a huge win of the Gamecocks. That was followed up on Saturday by a win over the 10th ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
Top SEC Games This Week....
A huge SEC West showdown takes place in Oxford in front of a national TV audience on Tuesday night. The Rebels host Alabama as they try to keep their win streak alive. The Crimson Tide is coming off 2 losses in a week and needs to rebound so as not to fall too far behind Auburn. Bama has struggled on the road this year with losses coming at Utah, Vanderbilt, and Auburn. Meanwhile, the Rebels are usually a completely different team at home than on the road. The Rebel defense should keep this one close throughout.
The Auburn Tigers will have to try to keep their winning streak going against a very tough opponent this Wednesday. The Kentucky Wildcats host Auburn on Wednesday in a matchup of two teams who are undefeated in SEC play. Whoever pulls out a win in this game will remain atop their division while the loser will slide back down to the crowded middle portion of the standings. It will be tough for AU to hang with the ‘Cats in Lexington for the entire game.
Also on Wednesday, Tennessee will travel to Georgia. The Volunteers suffered a tough loss last Wednesday to Florida but bounced back for a good home victory over Vanderbilt. This mid-week test will be just as tough as last week’s. Georgia’s only loss in the SEC came to Florida in Gainesville on a shot at the buzzer. The Vols will have to be at their very best to pull out a win in Athens.
Saturday holds a full slate of great games, including Kentucky’s trip to Alabama. The Wildcats will be coming off a tough game at home against Auburn while the Tide will also be just off a physical game at Mississippi. Both of these teams will almost undoubtedly be in the NCAA Tournament with high seeds, and there is the potential these teams could meet again in New Orleans for the SEC Tournament. Alabama can’t afford to lose a home game with the stiff competition in the SEC West, but this would be a huge victory for UK on the road.
After a tough game at Kentucky on Wednesday, the Auburn Tigers must turn around and play one on Saturday just as tough. The Georgia Bulldogs host the Tigers in a battle of two teams right at the top of the league. The Tigers have as many wins as anyone in college basketball, but UGA has played the tougher schedule so far this season. This should be a great game and will go along way in determining if Auburn can remain hot in the SEC.
Both LSU and Mississippi State suffered tough losses last week, and the Tigers must now travel to Starkville on Saturday. This will be the second and final meeting between these two teams in the regular season. The Tigers knocked off the Dawgs earlier in Baton Rouge. MSU will be coming off a home contest with South Carolina, while LSU will stay on the road after a trip to Arkansas. The Bulldogs are looking to get their season back on track, while the Tigers want to remain near the top of the SEC.
The only out-of-conference matchup of the week is a good one. The red-hot Louisville Cardinals make a visit to Tennessee for a non-conference battle. Rick Pitino’s Cardinals appear to be the best team in Conference USA this season but could find UT a tough place to win. This would be a huge confidence-builder if the Vols could pull out a ‘W’ here.
Around the nation....
The conference races are starting to hit stride all around the country, and that includes the Big XII. On ESPN’s Big Monday showcase, Texas Tech travels to Norman to battle the Sooners. This should be a super matchup of two extremely talented teams. Oklahoma will have to deal with the inside presence of Texas Tech, while the Red Raiders will have to be aware of all of OU’s weapons, White, Ere, and especially Hollis Price. Then on Saturday, Missouri travels to Austin to battle the Texas Longhorns. The Tigers had a very disappointing week last week, losing to Syracuse on the road and then again on the road at Oklahoma State. The Longhorns went into Baylor on Saturday and came away with a win against the pesky Bears. There’s also a huge out-of-conference matchup hosted by the Big XII on Saturday. Soon-to-be top ranked Arizona travles to Kansas to take on the Jayhawks. If this game was in Tuscon, the edge would have to go to UA, but the Kansas home court advantage should make this a fabulous matchup of national title hopefuls. Finally on Sunday, Oklahoma State will travel to Texas Tech. Both teams will be coming off tough mid-week games, the Raiders at Oklahoma and OSU at Baylor. Neither of these teams is likely to win the Big XII, but this win will look great when March Madness selection time rolls around.
ACC action this week has a couple of good Wednesday evening matchups. Maryland will travel to North Carolina to take on the Tar Heels who are coming off a tremendous win over Connecticut. Maryland, however, is also coming off a huge win, theirs a home court win over Duke. This ESPN telecast is a huge game in the ACC. Also on Wednesday, Duke travels to NC State as the Blue Devils remain on the road. NC State hasn’t played spectacular this year, but a win over Duke would boost NC State right towards the top of the ACC. Wake Forest will visit Virginia on Thursday night for an ESPN2 showdown. The Demon Deacons squeaked out a win over Georgia Tech on Sunday, while Virginia got tripped up at Clemson this past weekend. Finally on Sunday, North Carolina will travel to in-state rival NC State to cap off the week’s conference play. Not only is this a big game in the ACC standings, but both teams will be looking to gain any in-state advantage they possibly can.
The Big East moves on with conference play this week, and Connecticut’s trip to Miami, to be shown on ESPN on Monday night, gets things kicked off. UConn is coming off a disappointing loss to North Carolina on Saturday while the ‘Canes also lost their last game, at Seton Hall. Then on Wednesday, Boston College travels to Villanova. Villanova knocked off Rutgers on the road this past weekend, and BC edged past West Virginia at home. BC hosts Notre Dame on Saturday in what should be a great game. The Irish are also on the road early in the week as they take on Providence. Finally on Sunday, the Syracuse Orangemen travel to Miami, as the ‘Canes play their second big home game of the week.
Big Ten action kicks off again Tuesday evening in Bloomington, Indiana when the Hoosiers host Ohio State. The Buckeyes are coming off two straight home games last week but must now return to the road. Indiana picked up a huge conference win over Illinois on Saturday after grabbing a victory over Northwestern earlier in the week. On Wednesday, Iowa travels to Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes are undefeated in Big Ten play following their huge home court victory over Illinois last week. Then on Saturday, Ohio State travels to Iowa. Both teams will be coming off very tough road games and will be looking to end the week on a good note. The Hawkeyes need to continue to win on their home court while OSU would love to steal one on the road.
The PAC 10 has a couple of interesting matchups this week, beginning with UCLA’s trip to Stanford on Thursday. The FoxSportsNet game is not only an in-state battle but also big for both teams for other reasons. The Cardinal need to continue to win, especially at home, while UCLA needs to get back on track and win as many games as possible, beginning with this road trip. Then on Saturday, UCLA travels to another in-state rival, California. Also a FSN game, the Bruins will again try to steal one on the road. In Conference USA, Cincinnati travels to East Carolina on Wednesday. The Pirates started off the season hot but have since cooled down after last week’s home loss to Louisville. On Saturday, Memphis visits St. Louis in a CUSA showdown, and later in the day, South Florida will visit East Carolina as the Pirates host their second conference game of the week.