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SEC Basketball Preview: Midweek Games, 1/26 and 1/27

Missouri has a shot at maintaining its seed line on the road.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday’s Games

Game of the Night: Missouri at Auburn (8:00 PM CT, ESPN2)

It’s a bit telling that Missouri, ranked 12th in the country, finds itself as an underdog as it goes on the road to play Auburn. That’s in part a reflection of the fact that computers aren’t as high on the Tigers as the pollsters are — Missouri is ranked 32nd in KenPom and 38th in Sagarin — and in part a reflection on Auburn being a completely different team since Sharife Cooper was ruled eligible earlier this month. After an 0-3 start to SEC play, Cooper joined the team just in time for a 94-90 loss to Alabama at home; since then, Auburn has won three of four, and Cooper is averaging 21.2 ppg and 9.0 apg.

Missouri is on a three-game winning streak, most recently going to Knoxville and avenging an earlier 73-53 loss with a 73-64 win over the Vols. They’re up to a 3-seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology.

Mississippi State at Tennessee (6:00 PM CT, SEC Network)

Mississippi State has been a bit of a surprise to me; I thought they’d be pretty bad, but instead, they’re 4-4 in the SEC with D.J. Stewart and Iverson Molinar combining to average 35.5 ppg, and former Western Kentucky backup center Tolu Smith somehow averaging 13.2 ppg and 8.8 rpg. Tennessee, meanwhile, needs to stop a two-game slide that included a particularly ugly loss to shorthanded Florida last week; the Vols dropped all the way down to 18th in this week’s AP Poll.

Kentucky at Alabama (6:00 PM CT, ESPN)

It’s not just that Alabama is 8-0 in the SEC, it’s that the Tide have become an absolute buzzsaw over the last month; those eight wins are by an average of 16.8 ppg. That includes a 85-65 beatdown of Kentucky at Rupp Arena earlier in the month, and now they’re up to a 2-seed in Joe Lunardi’s bracket. A month ago, they looked iffy to even make the tournament, what with early losses to Stanford, Clemson, and Western Kentucky.

Kentucky snapped a three-game losing streak on Saturday with an 82-69 win over LSU, but going into Coleman Coliseum and beating Alabama is going to be an entirely different matter.

LSU at Texas A&M (8:00 PM CT, SEC Network)

Rough week for LSU last week; the Tigers got completely and utterly destroyed by Alabama at home. You might say “who hasn’t,” but not everybody falls behind the Tide by 43 points with ten minutes left in the game (the 105-75 final somehow makes the game look closer than it was, with Alabama easing off the gas in the last few minutes.) Then LSU went to Kentucky and lost there, too, setting up a must-win trip to Texas A&M; LSU is now a 10-seed in Joe Lunardi’s bracket, which is in the range of “absolutely cannot afford a loss to Texas A&M.” The Aggies sport the SEC’s worst offense (by a pretty wide margin behind 13th-place Ole Miss), but they’ve somehow managed to squeak out a couple of wins over Auburn and Mississippi State in a 2-5 SEC start.

Wednesday’s Games

Game of the Night: Ole Miss at Arkansas (7:30 PM CT, SEC Network)

Yeah, the Wednesday slate isn’t great, with 3-4 Ole Miss taking a trip to Arkansas qualifying as probably the best game of the three. Ole Miss got off the mat with two wins last week, including an impressive 64-46 win at Mississippi State and a 61-50 home win over Texas A&M. Arkansas, meanwhile, stopped a bit of a skid, beating Auburn and Vanderbilt after losing 4 of 5 following a 9-0 start. The Razorbacks are hanging on to one of the last four byes in Joe Lunardi’s bracket and obviously need a win over Ole Miss at home to hang on to that.

Vanderbilt at Florida (5:30 PM CT, SEC Network)

The good news about this is that if you work late, you may not make it home in time to watch this one.

Georgia at South Carolina (6:00 PM CT, ESPN2)

Georgia picked up a last-second home win over Kentucky last week, but couldn’t follow it up three days later as Florida pulled away in the second half for a 92-84 win. That brings up South Carolina, which returned from its most recent COVID pause (the second of the season for the Gamecocks, who basically missed the entire month of December and have played just eight games this season) and proceeded to lose three straight. The latest: a 109-86 loss to Auburn, at home. Neither of these teams are going anywhere in particular, and for some reason this game is on ESPN2.