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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M infielder Ali Camarillo (2) thros to first during Texas A&M’s game against Louisiana at the NCAA Bryan-College Station Regional Final at Olsen Field on Sunday, June 2, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Around the SEC: Tennessee, Kentucky look to defend home court against underdogs

Photo by The Battalion
Mississippi forward Moussa Cisse (33) questions a call during Texas A&M’s game against Mississippi on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, at Reed Arena. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

South Carolina at No. 5 Tennessee

Tuesday, Jan. 30 — Food City Center — Knoxville, Tennessee

5:30 p.m. on SEC Network

South Carolina has emerged as the conference’s, if not the country’s, top turnaround program with a 17-3 record after an 11-21 mark a season ago. The Gamecocks are vastly improved in Year 2 of coach Lamont Paris’s tenure, and they have the results to show for it. Last week, they put the nation on notice with a 79-62 win over No. 6 Kentucky. South Carolina has improved on both sides of the ball, bettering both their points per game and points allowed by nearly 8 points.

The Gamecocks will take the spotlight once again versus a Top 10 opponent, albeit on the road this time. Tennessee is undefeated at the Food City Center, where it has feasted on opponents with a 10-0 record. The Volunteers are armed with one of college basketball’s best scorers in Northern Colorado transfer guard Dalton Knecht, who’s averaging 32 points over his last five games. He’s aided by junior forward Jonas Aidoo’s 11.9 points and junior G Zakai Zeigler’s league-leading 5.1 assists per game.

Prediction: Tennessee 77, South Carolina 69

Mississippi State at Ole Miss

Tuesday, Jan. 30 — The Pavilion at Ole Miss — Oxford, Mississippi

7:30 p.m. on SEC Network

Remember how much fun last week’s Auburn versus Alabama matchup was? Let’s see if the Egg Bowl can match the Iron Bowl’s excitement. Mississippi has largely been more of a baseball state in recent memory, but Mississippi State and Ole Miss have put high-quality basketball on display in the Magnolia State.

Both programs are characterized by hard-nosed defense that stifles opposing offenses. The Bulldogs limit opponents to 66 points per game, while the Rebels have taken on the same in-your-face defenses that coach Chris Beard built at Texas and Texas Tech.

Winning on the road in college basketball has never been harder, and it may just be the difference in this rivalry matchup. Ole Miss has developed a distinct home court advantage at The Pavilion with a 12-0 mark. On the other hand, Mississippi State has yet to pick up a true road win in its four tries, with each loss coming by an average of 9 points.

Prediction: Ole Miss 70, Mississippi State 66

No. 24 Alabama at Georgia

Wednesday, Jan. 31 — Stegeman Coliseum — Athens, Georgia

5:30 p.m. on SEC Network

Georgia deserves a seat at the table of the SEC’s most improved teams. The Bulldogs have engineered a 14-6 record this season after finishing 16-16 and 6-12 in conference play last year. They don’t have a showstopper that takes the spotlight, but are instead balanced with five players averaging 9 points or more.

Speaking of bouncing back, Alabama did just that after being crushed at Tennessee 91-71 a week ago. The loss led coach Nate Oats to question the toughness of his team, who heeded his call with a win over No. 8 Auburn before putting on an offensive showcase in a 109-88 drumming of LSU. Now leading the conference with 89.7 points per game, the Crimson Tide are beginning to look like last season’s SEC championship program.

With defenses that both rank 225th in the country or beyond, don’t expect the scoring to slow down. Alabama has gathered momentum and confidence over the past week, giving it the edge over a Georgia team that fell in overtime to rival Florida last weekend.

Prediction: Alabama 88, Georgia 82

Florida at No. 10 Kentucky

Wednesday, Jan. 31 — Rupp Arena — Lexington, Kentucky

7 p.m. on ESPN

I hope you like offense. This matchup pits the conference’s third and second-best scoring attacks against each other in one of the sport’s most historic venues. Last week, Florida quietly picked up two quality home wins over Mississippi State and Georgia while Kentucky shook off an upset loss to South Carolina by pulling out a gutsy win at Arkansas.

The game also presents an interesting contrast between the Gators’ strength in the paint and near the basket with the Wildcats’ terrific shooting beyond the arc. Florida graduate forward Tyrese Samuel and sophomore center Micah Handlogten are third and fourth in the SEC in rebounds per game, respectively, while Samuel’s 59.4% shooting percentage is the best in the league.

Kentucky is built around a mix of youthful and experienced to create the nation’s third-best 3-point shooting arsenal at 40.2%. Freshman G Reed Sheppard shoots lights-out from long range at 55.3% while fifth-year G Antonio Reeves is ninth in the conference with a 43.1% clip. Sheppard can do a bit of everything with 4.1 assists and an SEC-high 2.5 steals per contest.

Prediction: Kentucky 92, Florida 84

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About the Contributor
Luke White
Luke White, Sports Editor
Luke White is a senior telecommunication media studies major and sport management minor from Round Rock, Texas. He has served as head sports editor since May 2023.
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