7:30 pm ET, SEC Network/ESPN3
|Record||9-21 (4-14)||14-17 (4-14)|
|Head-to-Head||W 56-54 on 1/12||W 79-72 on 3/6|
If you're going to skip one game in the SEC Tournament, strongly consider passing on this one. Three teams finished in the abyss at the bottom of the conference standings this year, and two of them are squaring off here.
There's not a ton to say about this game. The winner won't have much spoiler potential, and it will be facing off against a very motivated Tennessee team that'll be looking to get off of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Will these two give us another snoozer in the 50s or another higher-scoring contest in the 70s? The latter would at least avoid the punch lines that some Big East basketball inspired last night.
Either way, these teams are just playing out the string in their respective coaches' first seasons. Rick Ray and Frank Martin took wildly different paths to end up here, but they had similarly dreadful starts to their careers as SEC head coaches. Perhaps by the time the weekend is through, they can commiserate together knowing that they both beat an NCAA Tournament team in Ole Miss. That's little consolation, but it's about all they've got.
The pick: South Carolina 65, Mississippi State 60
10:00 pm ET, SEC Network/ESPN3
|Record||9-22 (3-13)||17-14 (7-11)|
|Head-to-Head||A&M won 65-56 on 2/20|
The good news: Texas A&M won its first SEC Championship! And it was in basketball! The bad news, only as far as this game goes: it was in women's hoops, not men's. Texas A&M's second season under Billy Kennedy has seen the team get on the right side of .500, an improvement over last year in the Big 12, but it's not like this conference's basketball set is a big step up like it is in football.
But to get back to the good news, the Aggies will likely pick up an SEC Tournament win in their first year thanks to getting to play a pretty bad Auburn team in the first round. The Tigers are the third team in the deep, deep SEC cellar this year, and the 11th place Aggies aren't really close to that trio. There is a gap of more than 90 spots in the KenPom rankings between A&M and Auburn, the 11th- and 12th-rated teams in the conference.
In the regular season, a slumbering A&M team spotted Auburn a 12-0 lead before winning the rest of the game 65-44. Auburn doesn't really have an answer for All-SEC first teamer Elston Turner, who poured in 21 points on the Tigers in that game back in February. Both teams are playing for pride, as A&M has probably fallen too far for even the NIT at this point, but there's no real reason why the Aggies should lose this one. Of course, there wasn't really a good why TAMU allowed Mississippi State to take it to overtime in January either. You never know, but go with the favorite here.
The pick: Texas A&M 70, Auburn 56