Edwards: Saturday’s SEC Slate

Edwards: Saturday’s SEC Slate

FanDuel currently has Tennessee as the -115 ‘chalk’ to win the SEC’s regular-season championship. Alabama, which hosts the Volunteers Saturday night at Coleman Coliseum, has -105 odds.

South Carolina is one game back of both teams and has a 20/1 number. Kentucky has 110/1 odds, followed by Florida and Auburn, who are both 140/1 longshots.

In Joe Lunardi’s latest edition of ‘Bracketology’ updated Friday morning on ESPN.com, there are seven SEC teams in the 2024 NCAA Tournament field. Texas A&M and Ole Miss are both in Lunardi’s Next Four Out, with the Aggies being the fifth team left outside of the bracket.

Tennessee is a #2 seed set to face 15th-seeded Fairfield in Charlotte, with the winner of a 7/10 game between Texas Tech and Nevada most likely facing the Volunteers in the Round of 32.

Alabama is a #3 seed matched up against Akron from out of the MAC in Memphis. If the Crimson Tide advances, it would move on to meet either sixth-seeded Wisconsin or the winner of a First Four showdown between New Mexico and Seton Hall.

Auburn and Kentucky are both #4 seeds, with the Wildcats getting sent to Spokane, WA., to take on 13th-seeded Vermont. The UK-Vermont survivor would collide against fifth-seeded Washington St. or 12th-seeded Appalachian St., which beat Auburn earlier this year.

Bruce Pearl’s club would face La. Tech in a 4/13 matchup at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, with the winner advancing to take on the survivor of Clemson vs. Richmond.

South Carolina would be a #6 seed waiting on the winner of a First Four showdown between Gonzaga and Providence.

While many ‘Bracketologists’ have Florida as a #6 seed in recent projections, Lunardi has the Gators as a #7 seed taking on 10th-seeded FAU. If this matchup would come to fruition (it won’t), I know one thing: Zero #2 seeds want to play UF or FAU in the Round of 32. In Lunardi’s latest forecast, that #2 seed would be North Carolina, which would have the location advantage in Charlotte.

Finally, Mississippi St. is matched up against Nebraska in Memphis, with top-seeded Houston presumably waiting on deck. Now let’s get into five of Saturday’s SEC showdowns.

**Florida at South Carolina**

-As of late Friday afternoon, DraftKings had South Carolina (23-5 straight up, 20-8 against the spread) listed as a 1.5-point home favorite with a total of 147.

-South Carolina is 13-2 SU and 9-6 ATS in 15 home games, while Florida (20-8 SU, 13-14-1 ATS) is 3-5 SU and 5-3 ATS in eight road assignments.

-Since Jan. 20, the Gators have won nine of their last 11 games while going 7-4 ATS. Their lone blemishes in that span came in a 67-66 loss at Texas A&M and a 98-93 overtime loss at Alabama. UF led by double-digit margins during the second half of both games.

-UF has won at South Carolina three straight times both SU and ATS, including 71-63, 81-68 and 65-41 victories.

-Lamont Paris’s squad is 9-2 SU and 8-3 ATS in its last 11 games. Since losing consecutive games at Auburn (101-61) and vs. LSU (64-63), the Gamecocks have scored back-to-back road wins at Ole Miss (72-59 as four-point underdogs) and at Texas A&M (70-68 as six-point ‘dogs).

-South Carolina’s Myles Stute is ‘questionable’ for Saturday’s home game vs. UF. Stute, who is averaging 9.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, has missed his team’s last two contests with a knee injury.

-Along with Kentucky and Auburn, UF is sporting a 10-5 record in SEC play that leaves them two games behind the co-leaders, Tennessee and Alabama, who are 12-3 in conference games. South Carolina is one game back of the Volunteers and Crimson Tide with an 11-4 mark vs. SEC competition.

-The ‘over’ is 3-1 in UF’s last four games to improve to 16-11-1 overall. The Gators had their three lowest totals of the season – 143, 133.5 and 144.5 – in their first three games. Since then, however, Todd Golden’s team has only had one total in the 140s. That was 147 in a 96-57 home win over Grambling that saw the 153 combined points elevate ‘over’ the total.

-The ‘under’ is 15-13 overall for the Gamecocks, who are looking at their fourth-highest total of the year in this spot. The ‘under’ went 3-0 in the three games they’ve had with higher totals. They beat Kentucky 79-62 with the 141 combined points dropping ‘under’ the 155.5-point tally. South Carolina lost 74-47 at Alabama when the 121 combined points fell ‘under’ 153, and it beat VMI 74-64 at home with the 138 combined points staying ‘under’ the 152.5-point total.

-Tip-off is scheduled for noon Eastern on ESPN.

PREDICTION: I like the Gators +1.5. 

**Arkansas at Kentucky**

-As of late Friday afternoon, FanDuel had Kentucky (20-8 SU, 17-11 ATS) at -12.5 (with a -120 price) while DraftKings had the Wildcats at -13. I made Kentucky a 12-point favorite in this spot, but KenPom had the number at -15. The total was 167.5 points at DraftKings, but FanDuel had it at 165.5.

-UK is 13-4 SU and 9-8 ATS in 17 home games.

-Arkansas (14-14 SU, 9-19 ATS) is 2-5 SU and 3-4 ATS in seven road games. The Razorbacks are in bounce-back mode following Tuesday’s 85-82 loss at home vs. Vanderbilt as 10-point ‘chalk.’

-After losing three of four games, John Calipari’s team has responded to go 4-1 both SU and ATS in its last five contests, including a 91-89 win at Mississippi St., a 117-95 home win over Bama and a 70-59 win at Auburn.

-Kentucky freshman sensation Reed Sheppard produced a legendary performance in Tuesday’s win at The Hump in Starkville. Sheppard scored 11 points in the last 96 seconds of the game, including the game winner on a runner in the paint with 0.5 seconds remaining.

-Arkansas has won outright in back-to-back trips to Rupp Arena.

-UK is up to #18 at KenPom and #20 in the NET rankings.

-The ‘over’ has hit in three straight Arkansas games and is on a 7-1 roll in its last eight.

-The ‘over’ is on a 20-6 run for the ‘Cats in their last 26 outings.

-UK’s Tre Mitchell is listed as ‘questionable,’ but I don’t anticipate him returning against the Hogs.

-CBS will have the broadcast at 1:30 p.m. ET.

**Mississippi St. at Auburn**

-As of late Friday afternoon, Auburn (21-7, 17-9-2 ATS) was -9.5 with a total of 145.5 at DraftKings. The Bulldogs were +365 on the money line at FanDuel, which also had the Tigers favored by 9.5 points. FanDuel’s total was 144.5 points, though.

-Auburn is 13-1 SU and 9-4-1 ATS in 14 home games. All 13 home wins have been by margins of at least 11 points and 12 have been by 15 or more.

-Auburn is in bounce-back mode after losing 92-84 at Tennessee on Wednesday night as a 6.5-point road underdog. Jaylin Williams returned after missing a win at Georgia due to a knee injury. In 21 minutes off the bench, Williams contributed 12 points, four assists (compared to zero turnovers), three rebounds and one steal.

-When these teams met The Hump in Starkville on Jan. 27, Chris Jans’s squad captured a 64-58 win as a three-point home underdog. The 122 combined points dipped ‘under’ the 144.5-point total. Josh Hubbard scored a game-high 17 points for MSU.

-Hubbard, who is a true freshman guard, scored 34 points in Tuesday’s home loss to Kentucky. He went for 32 in last Saturday’s 87-67 win at LSU. For the season, Hubbard is averaging 15.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He’s buried 36.4 percent of his 3-pointers and 83.3 percent of his free throws.

-In Lindy’s preseason magazine, the text about Hubbard reads like this: “Difficult to envision a rotation spot for this three-star in-state product.” 

-Mississippi St. (19-9 SU, 14-13-1 ATS) is #17 at K-Pom in defensive efficiency and #65 in offensive efficiency.

-KenPom has MSU ranked #27. The Bulldogs are 2-6 both SU and ATS in eight road games this year.

-The loss to UK ended a five-game winning streak for MSU, which has seen the ‘over’ cash in three straight contests.

-The ‘over’ is 5-2 in Auburn’s last seven games, but the ‘under’ maintains a 16-12 overall record.

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

PREDICTION: Auburn -9.5. 

**Texas A&M at Georgia**

-As of late Friday afternoon, there was still no line out for this game. I made the Aggies 1.5-point road favorites.

-Texas A&M (15-13 SU, 11-17 ATS) is 4-6 both SU and ATS in 10 road games. The Aggies have lost five games in a row both SU and ATS.

-Texas A&M has won four games in a row over Georgia and eight of the last nine in this rivalry. However, the Aggies are only 2-1 SU and 1-2 ATS in their last 3 games at UGA, with the two wins coming by merely three combined points.

-The ‘over’ is on a 6-1 run for the Aggies, who are #59 in the NET rankings.

-UGA is ranked #87 at KenPom. The Bulldogs are #92 offensive efficiency and #89 in defensive efficiency. They’re #57 in pace.

-UGA is mired in a 1-8 SU slump, going 4-5 ATS.

-The ‘under’ is 15-13 overall for UGA.

-Tip-off at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. ET. on the SEC Network.

**Tennessee at Alabama**

-As of late Friday afternoon, FanDuel had Alabama (20-8 SU, 16-11-1 ATS) listed as a 2.5-point home favorite (at a -115 price) vs. Tennessee with a total of 167.5. The Volunteers were +125 on the money line.

-Nate Oats’s squad is #6 in the NET rankings and #7 at KenPom. The Crimson Tide bounced back from last Saturday’s 117-95 loss at UK in Oxford on Wednesday, rallying from a double-digit deficit in the first half to beat Ole Miss 103-88 as a five-point road favorite. Mark Sears led the way with 26 points, five rebounds, three steals and four assists without a turnover. Aaron Estrada produced a triple-double with 18 points, 10 boards, 10 assists (& only 1 turnover) and four steals.

-Alabama is 13-1 SU and 10-3-1 ATS in 14 home games.

-The ‘over’ is on a 7-0 roll for ‘Bama to improve to 21-7 overall. When the Tide has had totals in the 170s, the ‘over’ is 2-0. When it has seen totals of 165.5 or higher, the ‘over’ has cashed at a 6-1 clip.

-Tennessee (22-6 SU, 14-13-1 ATS) is ranked #5 at both KenPom and in the NET rankings. The Vols are 6-3 SU but just 3-6 ATS in nine road outings. They’re 5-5 in Quad-1 games and 6-1 versus Q2 foes.

-Rick Barnes’s team is off a 92-84 win over Auburn as a 6.5-point home favorite. The 176 combined points soared ‘over’ the 151.5-point tally. Dalton Knecht enjoyed a spectacular performance, scoring 39 points on 12-of-21 FGAs and 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point territory. He also had three steals and only one turnover in 33 minutes of action.

-UT has won five games in a row, going 4-1 ATS. Since losing at The Hump (they also lost at UNC & at Texas A&M), the Vols have won five of their last six road games with scalps at UGA, at Vandy, at UK, at Arkansas and at Missouri. They also won 80-70 at Wisconsin back in November.

-KenPom has the Vols at #4 in defensive efficiency and #18 in offensive efficiency.

-The ‘over’ is 13-8-1 for UT in its last 22 games to improve to 16-11-1 overall.

-Bama’s Latrell Wrightsell, who had scored 21 and 16 points in two previous games, has missed three in a row due to a concussion. He remains ‘questionable’ tomorrow. Wrightsell averages 9.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 SPG. He’s hit 27/27 FTAs and 57-of-128 from 3-point range (44.5%).

-ESPN will have television coverage at 8:00 p.m. ET.

PREDICTION: Alabama -2.5 and ‘over’ 167.5. 

-IF Alabama’s Team Total is 86.5 points or fewer, I’ll also be on its Team Total to go ‘over.’ The Tide has produced at least 95 points in five consecutive contests and has scored 85 points or more in eight of its last nine games.

For more opinions from Brian on SEC basketball, check out Friday’s edition of Bets & Ballgames w/ Edwards and Greeson for Southeastern 14.