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SEC Basketball Weekend Outlook: Contrasts and Pearl's Return

This weekend might not be full of juicy, consequential matchups, but it has some things to offer.

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

SEC basketball got through the midweek games without any upsets. Unless, that is, you want to count Florida's narrow win over Alabama as such, but it wasn't one at all based on KenPom where UF is 35 and Bama is 45. Otherwise, it was a by-the-books set of games.

There aren't a ton of real upset opportunities this weekend either, but that's not to say there aren't any interesting story lines.

  • Auburn at Tennessee, noon ET, ESPN2
  • Arkansas at Florida, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
  • LSU at Mississippi State, 2 p.m. ET, SEC Network
  • Georgia at South Carolina, 4 p.m. ET, ESPNU
  • Ole Miss at Missouri, 4 p.m. ET, FSN/ESPN3
  • Vanderbilt at Texas A&M, 4:30 p.m., SEC Network
  • Alabama at Kentucky, 7 p.m. ET, SEC Network

From a pure hoops standpoint, the most interesting game appears to be Arkansas at Florida. It's one of those "movable object meets a stoppable force" matchups with the Razorbacks' highly questionable defense facing the Gators' more than iffy offense. Recent—as in, the past week recent—trends favor Arkansas winning out, as the Hogs held Mizzou and Tennessee to 60 and 64 points, respectively, in their past two games. The Gators did edge north of 70 in their recent loss to Ole Miss, a team with comparable defensive ratings to Arkansas, but their own defense wasn't enough in that one.

From a story standpoint though, you can't beat Bruce Pearl's return to Knoxville. The circus is returning to Tennessee, a place where a fair number of fans would have been totally willing to hang onto Pearl even if he had to disappear from the sideline for a year. The Tigers have been something of a random number generator this year, mostly not good but occasionally springing a big game. This weekend could easily be one of those times, and the Vols could ill afford the loss.

Kentucky's undefeated team gets the tough Crimson Tide in the night cap, but not even Roll Bama Roll can find a whole lot of hope for that one. As with all of its SEC games, UK should win it. You can find some interest for the teams tied for the second-longest active winning streaks behind the Wildcats, though.

One of those teams is Georgia, winner of five straight, which is putting in work towards a solid March Madness resumé. The Bulldogs travel to Columbia to face the hard luck Gamecocks, who have suffered a disappointing 1-6 start to conference play. Four of those losses were by no more than two possessions, and one of the two bigger losses was to Kentucky. South Carolina is also looking to snap a five-game losing streak to the Bulldogs, as its last win in the series was in February of 2012.

The other team tied for second-longest win streak is Texas A&M, a fast riser in the SEC basketball power poll. Three of those five wins came against the dregs of the league, but there are quality victories over LSU and Tennessee in there. It easily could have been an impressive six in a row had the Aggies not run out of gas in the second overtime versus Kentucky three weeks ago. They have a winnable game against Vandy on deck before a rough five-game stretch that includes Ole Miss, Georgia, Florida, and LSU.

The final two games are basically tests of consistency for Ole Miss and LSU. Both are on the fringes of bracket projections, though the Tigers are in noticeably better shape than the Rebels are at present. LSU travels to Mississippi State, and Ole Miss goes to Missouri. The favorites should win those—win them comfortably, in fact—but they're also on the road. You never know with college kids playing on the road. I enter LSU's overtime loss at Mizzou as Exhibit A to back me up.

This weekend might not be full of juicy, consequential matchups, but it has some things to offer.