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SEC Basketball Preview: Midweek Games, 2/2 and 2/3

Pickings are pretty light for your midweek viewing.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 30 South Carolina at Vanderbilt Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tuesday’s Games

Game of the Night: Tennessee at Ole Miss (6:00 PM CT, ESPN2)

Tennessee had a get-right week after losing two in a row, squeaking out a home win over Mississippi State before dominating Kansas for 40 minutes in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday. The Vols are now back up to #11 in the AP poll and a 3-seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology, and now this one’s about loss avoidance. Actually, Ole Miss, currently ranked 75 in the NET, would qualify as a Quadrant 1 win for now; the danger is that the Rebels aren’t playing particularly well and there’s a decent chance that a loss here would end up looking not so good.

Georgia at Auburn (6:00 PM CT, SEC Network)

Auburn obviously has become a completely different team since Sharife Cooper was declared eligible; while the Tigers are just 4-3 with Cooper in the lineup, two of the losses came against Top 10 opponents (Alabama and Baylor.) When Auburn faced Georgia previously, with Cooper in the lineup, the result was a 95-77 Auburn win in Athens and I wouldn’t expect this game to go too much differently.

Mississippi State at Arkansas (8:00 PM CT, SEC Network)

Mississippi State continues to be a mystery to me; I don’t think they’re that good, but they’re now 4-5 in SEC play. Arkansas had a three-game winning streak snapped on Saturday on a last-minute basket by Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham and right now are barely hanging on to a spot in Joe Lunardi’s bracket as one of the last four in; they clearly don’t need to pick up what would be a Quad 3 loss against #80 Mississippi State at home.

Wednesday’s Games

Game of the Night: Kentucky at Missouri (6:00 PM CT, ESPN2)

On Twitter on Saturday, I remarked that Missouri has a big 5-seed-that-loses-to-a-12-seed energy, and while technically the Tigers are currently a 4-seed in Joe Lunardi’s bracket, they’re also a team that’s currently ranked 38th in KenPom. That’s mostly because two of their three losses weren’t close, while they’ve squeaked out a couple of wins against teams that a 4-seed really shouldn’t be squeaking out wins over (namely, Bradley and TCU.) And now, on the other side, we get our seemingly annual “Kentucky hasn’t looked good at all this season but maybe they’ll start playing like their talent suggests they can.” Which won’t happen, of course, but Missouri’s penchant for close games could give the Wildcats a chance here.

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

It’s amazing how a four-game winning streak cleaned up a lot of things in Florida’s resume. After a road win at West Virginia on Saturday, the Gators are now back in the AP Top 25 and are up to a 6-seed in Lunardi’s bracket. And now, South Carolina, which would be a Quad 3 loss (shockingly, a team that lost to Vanderbilt may not be all that good.)

LSU at Alabama (6:00 PM CT, ESPNU)

On paper, this could be a decent matchup. In practice, the last time these two played each other, Alabama led by 43 points midway through the second half before coasting to a 105-75 win in Baton Rouge. LSU certainly has talent that’s better than barely hanging on to an NCAA Tournament bid (currently, they’re an 11-seed in Lunardi’s bracket); the problem is that the Tigers don’t play any defense. On Saturday, they led by seven points with a minute to go, and not only did they manage to lose in regulation, they didn’t even cover 3.5 points in a 76-71 loss to Texas Tech. As for Alabama, they had a ten-game winning streak snapped at Oklahoma on Saturday, but that’s hardly embarrassing, and they’re still a 2-seed in Lunardi’s bracket.

Vanderbilt at Texas A&M (7:30 PM CT, SEC Network)

The most notable thing about this game is that Vanderbilt won’t be in last place in the SEC if it wins. Texas A&M did beat Kansas State on Saturday, but that comes with the caveat that Kansas State is 5-13 and lost to a Division II team earlier this season; KenPom ranks them as the worst power conference team in the country.