Sidelines with John Clay

SEC basketball preview: Auburn tries to keep it going; Texas A&M needs a win

Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl yells to his players in the first half of Auburn’s 94-84 victory over Tennessee in an NCAA college basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, in Knoxville, Tenn.
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl yells to his players in the first half of Auburn’s 94-84 victory over Tennessee in an NCAA college basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, in Knoxville, Tenn. Associated Press

Previewing SEC basketball games on Saturday:

▪ Alabama (1-1) at Georgia (1-1): Fresh off a big win over Texas A&M last weekend, the Crimson Tide stumbled and lost 76-75 at Vanderbilt. Fresh off a tough five-point loss at Kentucky on Sunday, Georgia handled Ole Miss 71-60 on Tuesday.

Alabama will be looking for its first true road win. The Tide Lost 88-82 at Arizona before the loss in Nashville. Three-pointers were its downfall at Memorial Gym as the Commodores were 10-of-25 from beyond the arc.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s Juwan Parker scored just five points in 17 minutes at Rupp Arena. Back home at Stegeman Coliseum, Parker scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 27 minutes in the win over the Rebels.

▪ Florida (2-0) at Missouri (1-0): Have the Gators finally put the train back on track? After losing four of five, Mike White’s team has won four straight, including an 83-66 decision at Texas A&M on Tuesday.

Rice graduate transfer Egor Koulechov continues to be a valuable addition for Florida. He scored 22 points, going a perfect 10-of-10 at the free throw line, in last Saturday’s win over Vanderbilt. The 6-foot-5 guard followed that up with 19 points in the victory at College Station.

Missouri opened its SEC schedule with a 79-68 win at South Carolina on Wednesday. Kassius Robertson scored 23 points in the win. Friday brought some bad news, however, as point guard Blake Harris announced his plans to transfer.

▪ LSU (0-1) at Texas A&M (0-2): Despite LSU’s 74-71 home loss to Kentucky on Wednesday, I was impressed with the Tigers. New coach Will Wade has his team playing hard, fast and the crowd at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center responded to the effort.

Overlooked stat from that game: Tremont Waters, LSU’s 5-11 point guard, grabbed 11 rebounds. He also blocked a Quade Green shot in the open court, something I’m sure he probably razzed his buddy about after the game. Green surely had the “we won” retort.

Texas A&M is in desperate need of a win. Without Admon Gilder and D.J. Hogg, the Aggies were blown out 79-57 at Alabama last Saturday and lost 83-66 to Florida on Tuesday. With a trip to Kentucky set for next Tuesday, Billy Kennedy needs to get his team out of the ditch and back on the road.

▪ Miss State (1-0) at Ole Miss (1-1): Yes, Mississippi State played a pillow-soft non-conference schedule on the way to a 12-1 start, but Ben Howland’s team showed it will be trouble by beating No. 22 Arkansas 78-75 on Tuesday.

Now the Bulldogs have to go on the road to face their in-state rivals. They’ll need more combined excellence from Quinndary and Nick Weatherspoon, who each scored 22 points in the win over the Razorbacks.

If not for three non-conference overtime losses, Andy Kennedy’s team could be 10-3. After a 74-69 win at South Carolina on Sunday, the Rebels slipped on the road Wednesday in Athens. Shooting 35.7 percent from the floor didn’t help.

▪ Arkansas (1-1) at Auburn (1-0): Arkansas was flying high after its late rally beat Tennessee in overtime on Saturday. Then Mike Anderson’s club came up short at Mississippi State on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Auburn opened its league schedule by giving ex-Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl his first win in Knoxville since being fired as UT coach. Five players scored in double figures for the Tigers, who are 13-1 and just might be for real.

The numbers at kenpom.com has Pearl’s club 19th in adjusted offensive efficiency, 58th in adjusted defensive efficiency and 31st overall.

▪ Vanderbilt (1-1) at South Carolina (0-2): With its win over Alabama, Vandy proved its brutal non-conference schedule makes the Commodores’ 6-8 overall record deceiving. Saben Lee scored 23 points in the win over the Tide.

South Carolina’s 0-2 league mark is not deceiving, however. Frank Martin lost too much from last year’s Final Four team, especially Sindarius Thornwell. The Gamecocks are really struggling putting the ball in the basket. They’re ranked 157th in offensive efficiency by kenpom.

▪ Kentucky (2-0) at Tennessee (0-2): The best game of the day may be the last game of the day with the Cats and Vols tipping off at 9 p.m. in Knoxville. Old friends John Calipari and Rick Barnes will be going at it again.

Kentucky proved it can win a true road game by winning at LSU on Wednesday. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been terrific the past three games and Kevin Knox came out of his funk to score 16 points and grab 11 rebounds against the Tigers.

Tennessee just can’t hold the leads. The Vols led Villanova by 15 and lost. They led North Carolina by three with 1:09 to go and lost. They led Arkansas by nine late and lost. They led Auburn by 14 in the first half on Tuesday and lost. It can’t afford to lose Saturday.

College basketball on television Saturday

  • 12:00 - Xavier at Providence (Fox)
  • 12:00 - Louisville at Clemson (ACC)
  • 12:00 - Illinois at Michigan (Big 10)
  • 12:00 - Alabama at Georgia (SEC)
  • 12:00 - East Carolina at Connecticut (ESPN News)
  • 12:00 - Creighton at Georgetowwn (Fox)
  • 12:00 - UMass at Dayton (NBC Sports)
  • 1:00 - Florida at Missouri (CBS)
  • 2:00 - Texas at Baylor (ESPNU)
  • 2:00 - VCU at LaSalle (NBC Sports)
  • 2:15 - LSU at Texas A&M (SEC)
  • 2:15 - Nebraska at Purdue (Big 10)
  • 2:30 - Seton Hall at Butler (Fox Sports 1)
  • 3:15 - Notre Dame at Syracuse (ESPN2)
  • 3:30 - Duquense at Fordham (CBS Sports)
  • 4:00 - Tulsa at Memphis (ESPN News)
  • 4:00 - Iowa State at Oklahoma State (ESPNU)
  • 4:30 - Miss State at Ole Miss (SEC)
  • 5:15 - Indiana at Minnesota (ESPN2)
  • 5:30 - Fresno State at Colorado State (CBS Sports)
  • 6:00 - Arkansas at Auburn (ESPNU)
  • 6:45 - Vanderbilt at South Carolina (SEC)
  • 7:15 - Oklahoma at West Virginia (ESPN2)
  • 8:00 - Duke at NC State (ESPN)
  • 8:00 - Marquette at Villanova (Fox Sports 1)
  • 8:00 - St. Bonaventure at Saint Joseph's (ESPNU)
  • 9:00 - Kentucky at Tennessee (SEC)
  • 9:15 - Kansas at TCU (ESPN2)
  • 10:00 - Gonzaga at Loyola Marymount (ESPNU)
  • 11:59 - UC Riverside at UC Santa Barbara (ESPNU)

SEC basketball standings

Team

W

L

W

L

Kentucky

2

0

12

2

Florida

2

0

10

4

Auburn

1

0

13

1

Miss State

1

0

13

1

Missouri

1

0

11

3

Arkansas

1

1

11

3

Georgia

1

1

10

3

Alabama

1

1

9

5

Ole Miss

1

1

8

6

Vanderbilt

1

1

6

8

LSU

0

1

9

4

Texas A&M

0

2

11

3

Tennessee

0

2

9

4

South Carolina

0

2

9

5

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