Edwards: Saturday’s SEC Primer with Picks

Edwards: Saturday’s SEC Primer with Picks

**Arkansas at Alabama**

-I made Alabama (20-10 straight up, 16-13-1 against the spread) a nine-point favorite if Rylan Griffen doesn’t play and a 10-point ‘chalk’ if he’s upgraded. Griffen is ‘questionable’ with a calf injury. Griffen averages 11.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. He’s hit 38.2 percent of his 3-pointers. I anticipate Nate Oats resting Griffen for at least this game and possibly the SEC Tournament next week.

-KenPom had Alabama at -16 with a total of 174 points.

-On Friday afternoon, FanDuel opened Alabama as a 16.5-point favorite at a -118 price with a total of 174.5 points (‘under’ -114, ‘over’ -106). By Friday night, most books had the Crimson Tide at -14.5, but DraftKings was at -15.5. The total was in the 174 to 175.5 range.

-Alabama is 13-2 SU and 10-4-1 ATS at Coleman Coliseum, while Arkansas (15-15 SU, 11-19 ATS) is 2-6 SU and 4-4 ATS in eight road assignments.

-Alabama has won three in a row in this rivalry, but this is the first head-to-head meeting of the year.

-Alabama has lost back-to-back games and three of its last four, including last Saturday’s 81-74 home loss vs. Tennessee and Tuesday’s 105-87 loss at Florida. The 192 combined points sailed ‘over’ the 176.5-point total, and the Gators easily covered the spread as two-point home favorites. Mark Sears had a game-high 33 points in the losing effort, hitting 10-of-20 field-goal attempts, 4-of-6 launches from 3-point territory and all nine of his free-throw attempts.

-After missing four games in a row for the Tide due to a concussion, guard Latrell Wrightsell was back in uniform at UF. He only played eight minutes, though, scoring two points on 1-of-3 FGAs. Wrightsell missed both of his attempts from long distance.

-Arkansas has won three of its last five games and is 4-1 ATS in those contests. The Razorbacks are off a 94-83 win over LSU as 4.5-point home favorites. Khalif Battle led the way with 29 points, four rebounds, three blocked shots, two assists and one steal, while Makhi Mitchell added 19 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.

-The ‘over’ has hit in five straight games for the Razorbacks and is 9-1 in its last 10.

-The ‘over’ has cashed in eight of the Crimson Tide’s last nine games and is 12-3 in its last 15 to improve to 22-8 overall.

-ESPN will provide television coverage at noon Eastern.

PREDICTION: I like one unit on Arkansas +15.5 (DraftKings), and I’ll put one-half unit on ‘over’ 174 points. 

**Texas A&M at Ole Miss**

-I made Ole Miss (20-10 SU, 14-16 ATS) a three-point home favorite, but KenPom had the Rebels -1 with a total of 145.

-As of Friday night, most spots had Ole Miss installed as a 1.5-point favorite with a total of 144.5.

-Ole Miss is 14-3 SU and 8-9 ATS at home, while Texas A&M (17-13 SU, 13-17 ATS) is 5-6 both SU and ATS on the road.

-Ole Miss has played itself out of bubble consideration during a 2-7 slump both SU and ATS, including Tuesday’s 69-66 loss at Georgia as a two-point road underdog.

-Texas A&M has faded down the stretch, too, although it has won back-to-back games both SU and ATS. However, the Aggies lost five consecutive contests before winning 70-56 at Georgia last Saturday and 75-69 vs. Mississippi St. as 2.5-point home favorites on Wednesday. Nevertheless, Buzz Williams’s squad wasn’t even in the ‘Next Four Out’ of Joe Lunardi’s updated edition of ‘Bracketology’ released Friday morning on ESPN.com.

-When these teams met on Jan. 27 in College Station, Ole Miss won a 71-68 decision as an eight-point road underdog. The 139 combined points dipped ‘under’ the 143.5-point total. Jaylen Murray led the winners with 16 points and five assists, draining 4-of-9 attempts from 3-point range. Jaemyn Brakefield added 15 points and handed out three assists, while Allen Flanigan finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, three steals, two assists and one blocked shot.

-In the losing effort vs. Ole Miss, Wade Taylor IV led Texas A&M with 30 points, six rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals. The Aggies were a dreadful 12-of-22 (55%) from the FT line and 6-of-20 (30%) from downtown.

-The ‘over’ is 4-2 for the Rebels in their last six games to improve to 16-14 overall.

-The ‘over’ has cashed at a 7-2 clip for the Aggies in their last nine games to improve to 17-13 overall.

-Texas A&M’s Henry Coleman is ‘questionable.’ He averages 9.8 points and 6.5 RPG.

-Tip-off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. ET. on CBS.

PREDICTION: Hard pass. 

**South Carolina at Mississippi St.**

-I made Mississippi St. (19-11 SU, 14-15-1 ATS) a three-point home favorite in this spot, while KenPom had the Bulldogs at -4 with a total of 134.

-As of Friday night, most betting shops had Mississippi St. as a four or 4.5-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 133.5.

-Mississippi St. is 11-3 SU and 6-7-1 ATS at home, while South Carolina (24-6 SU, 21-9 ATS) is 7-3 SU and 8-2 ATS in 10 road games.

-Chris Jans’s team has lost three straight games both SU and ATS since winning five in a row, including a 75-69 loss at Texas A&M on Wednesday.

-Lunardi has Mississippi St. in his ‘Last Four Byes.’ Therefore, the Bulldogs probably need one more victory on their resume to feel supremely confident about garnering an at-large berth on Selection Sunday. They’re #39 in the NET rankings with a 3-8 record in Quad-1 games, a 4-2 mark in Quad-2 contests, a 6-0 record versus Q3 opponents and a 6-1 ledger against Q4 foes.

-Since South Carolina is #46 in the NET, this would represent a Quad-2 opportunity for MSU. On the flip side, it’s a chance for the Gamecocks to add a Quad-1 victory. (Q1 road games are against any opponent in the NET’s Top 70, but Q1 home games are only versus the NET’s Top 30.) In the event that the Bulldogs lose vs. South Carolina, they would not be able to afford a Q3 loss in Nashville next week without creating an extremely anxious atmosphere in Starkville for the Selection Show.

-South Carolina had its three-game winning streak snapped in Wednesday’s 66-59 loss to Tennessee as a six-point home underdog. Meechie Johnson had 17 points, five rebounds and three assists in the losing effort. Collin Murray-Boyles contributed 11 points, 11 boards, three blocked shots, two steals and two assists with only one turnover. The Gamecocks made only 5-of-10 FT attempts, shot 28% from 3-point range and just 38% from the field.

-South Carolina won a 68-62 decision vs. Mississippi St. as a 2.5-point home underdog back on Jan. 6. The 130 combined points slithered ‘under’ the 134-point total. Johnson paced USC with 24 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal, while Myles Stute added 15 points and six boards.

-In MSU’s loss at USC, we should point out that Tolu Smith was playing in only his second game of the season after missing the first 12 games of the year due to an injury. He played 20 minutes before fouling out, finishing with 13 points (4/6 FGAs, 5/5 FTAs) and four rebounds. In 18 games this year, Smith is averaging 16.4 points and 8.1 RPG.

-Stute had missed three games in a row with a knee injury until returning in the loss to the Volunteers. In 21 minutes of playing time, he had six points, one rebound and one steal, burying 2-of-3 attempts from beyond the arc. Stute averages 8.9 points and 3.2 RPG while shooting at a 39.6 percent clip from 3-point land.

-The SEC Network will have the telecast at 2:30 p.m. ET.

PREDICTION: Sorry to be a fence sitter, but it’s a large menu of options on Saturday’s slate. PASS.

**Kentucky at Tennessee**

-I made Tennessee (24-6 SU, 16-13-1 ATS) a 6.5-point favorite, but KenPom had the Vols at -9 with a total of 163.

-As of Friday night, most books had the Vols as eight-point home favorites, but DraftKings had UT -9. The total was 166 points.

-Since losing 85-69 at Texas A&M back on Feb. 10, Tennessee (#5 at KenPom) has ripped off seven straight wins, including an 86-51 home win over #51 Texas A&M, a 92-84 home victory over #6 Auburn, an 81-74 win at #9 Alabama and a 66-59 scalp at South Carolina to wrap up the SEC regular-season title. (*those rankings are using KenPom numbers.)

-Rick Barnes’s squad owns a 14-1 SU record and a 10-4-1 ATS mark in 15 home games.

-Kentucky (22-8 SU, 17-13 ATS) is 6-3 both SU and ATS in nine road games. The Wildcats are 5-1 ATS with four outright wins in six games as underdogs this year, including an 87-83 win over North Carolina in ‘Cat-lanta as one-point underdogs, an 87-85 comeback win at Florida as 3.5-point road ‘dogs, a 70-59 triumph at Auburn as nine-point road ‘dogs and a 91-89 win at Mississippi St. as five-point road ‘dogs. UK’s lone non-cover as a ‘dog came in a 97-92 loss at Texas A&M in overtime as three-point ‘dogs.

-When these teams met at Rupp Arena on Feb. 3, Tennessee captured a 103-92 win as a 1.5-point road underdog. The 195 combined points soared ‘over’ the 158.5-point tally. Zakai Zeigler was the catalyst with 26 points, 13 assists (compared to only two turnovers), three steals and a pair of rebounds. He hit 8-of-11 FGAs, 3-of-6 from 3-point range and 7-of-10 free throws. Josiah-Jordan James shared team-high scoring honors with 26 points and five boards, hitting 4-of-9 treys. Dalton Knecht added 16 points, but he made just 5-of-14 FGAs.

-In the losing effort, Rob Dillingham poured in a game-high 35 points before fouling out after being limited to 27 minutes of playing time. Dillingham buried 14-of-20 FGAs and 6-of-8 launches from downtown. Antonio Reeves added 21 points and Reed Sheppard finished with 16 points, six assists, five rebounds and two blocked shots. Tre Mitchell went scoreless in 24 minutes when he wasn’t as healthy as he is now in early March. Also, UK’s DJ Wagner (10.6 PPG, 3.4 APG) was out injured.

-UK is #18 at K-Pom. The ‘Cats have won four straight games and are finally at full strength from a health perspective.

-Kentucky went into Knoxville and won outright last year by a 63-56 score as an 11-point road underdog.

-Tip-off is set for 4:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

PREDICTION: Kentucky +9 (DraftKings)

**Florida at Vanderbilt**

-I made Florida an eight-point favorite, but KenPom had UF -11 with a total of 153.

-As of Friday night, most betting shops had Florida (21-9 SU, 14-15-1 ATS) listed as a 10-point road favorite with the total in the 151-152 range.

-This is a flat spot for the Gators, who are off the 105-87 win over Alabama in Tuesday’s home game. This just smells like a cruise-control game for UF, which will have to be sky-high for every other game it plays the rest of the season after this one.

-UF is #24 at KenPom, #27 in the NET.

-Todd Golden’s team picked up its fourth Quad-1 win of the season with a 105-87 win over Alabama as a two-point home favorite. The Gators are 4-8 in Quad-1 games, 3-1 in Q2, 8-0 vs. Q3 and 6-0 against Q4.

-Florida is 10-3 SU in its last 13, but it blew double-digit leads in the second half of all three defeats – 67-66 at Texas A&M, 98-93 at Alabama in overtime and 82-76 at South Carolina.

-Will Richard scored a team-best 23 points in the win over ‘Bama, sinking 8-of-12 FGAs and 3-of-5 launches from downtown. Walter Clayton Jr. added 22 points, while Zyon Pullin and Tyrese Samuel added 19 points apiece. Alex Condon contributed 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots in 20 minutes off the bench.

-The ‘over’ has hit in three straight Florida games and five of its last six to improve to 18-11-1 overall.

-Vandy (8-22 SU, 13-16-1 ATS) is 7-10 both SU and ATS in 17 home games this year.

-The ‘under’ is 17-7 in Vandy’s last 24 games to improve to 19-10-1 overall.

-When these teams met in Gainesville on Feb. 24, UF won a 77-64 decision but the Commodores took the cash as 15-point road underdogs. Richard paced the Gators with 21 points, four rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals. Clayton had 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, while Samuel added 15 points, six boards, two assists and two blocked shots.

-Since being limited to seven points and only playing 18 minutes (he wasn’t in foul trouble, either) at UF, Vandy’s Tyrin Lawrence has responded by scoring 21, 21 and 23 points in the Commodores’ last three games.

-The SEC Network will have television coverage at 4:30 p.m. ET.

PREDICTION: Vandy +10

**Georgia at Auburn**

-As of Friday night, most spots had Auburn (23-7 SU, 19-9-2 ATS) as a 16.5-point favorite with a total of 151.

-Bruce Pearl’s team is 14-1 SU and 10-4-1 ATS in 15 home games. All 14 wins have been by at least 11 points and 13 have been by margins of 15 points or more.

-Georgia (16-14 SU, 14-15-1 ATS) is 4-5 SU and 8-1 ATS in nine road games this season.

-When these teams met at Stegeman Coliseum on Feb. 24, Auburn rolled to a 97-76 win as a seven-point road favorite. The 173 combined points soared ‘over’ the 154-point tally. Chad Baker-Mazara led the way with 25 points, five rebounds, two steals, one blocked shot and four assists without a turnover. Johni Broome added 16 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and a pair of blocked shots. Noah Thomasson had a team-high 18 points for UGA.

-The ‘over’ has hit in six of Auburn’s last nine games, but the ‘under’ maintains a 17-13 overall record.

-The SEC Network will provide the broadcast at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

PREDICTION: It’s Auburn or pass, but I’ll probably pass due to UGA’s ATS success on the road and my general unwillingness to lay huge numbers like this.

**Missouri at LSU**

-My number was LSU -10. As of Friday night, most shops had LSU (15-14 SU, 13-17 ATS) installed as a 7.5-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 151.

-LSU has won four of its last six games, but it is in bounce-back mode after dropping a 94-83 decision at Arkansas.

-LSU is 11-5 SU and 6-10 ATS at home, while Missouri (8-22 SU, 8-22 ATS) is 2-9 SU and 5-6 ATS in 11 road contests.

-The ‘over’ has hit in four straight games for Missouri and is 11-5 in its last 16 to improve to 16-14 overall.

-The ‘under’ is 15-14 overall for Mizzou.

-Missouri won both head-to-head meetings last year, but LSU had won eight in a row in this rivalry prior to those two setbacks.

-The tip in Redstick at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center is slated for 8:30 p.m. ET. on the SEC Network.

PREDICTION: I’m okay with LSU as one leg in a money-team parlay if you have others to mix it with. Otherwise, I’ll pass.