The midweek games continued last Saturday's trend of upsets.
Kentucky, with a narrow win over Georgia, and Arkansas, with a blowout win over South Carolina, held serve just fine. Beyond them though, Vanderbilt took down Florida, Mississippi State edged out Tennessee, and Auburn managed to knock off LSU. Side note: for all the bad losses the Tigers are taking, I might just start a regular LSU basketball feature titled, "Seriously, guys?"
There was one game that wasn't just an expected win or upset, though. It was Ole Miss's 69-59 win over Texas A&M on Wednesday. The Rebels are steadily making their case in the conference, with no bad losses and now a victory that helps define the middle of the league.
Looking ahead, the weekend slate is nothing if not a catalogue of games where particular teams could really use a win:
- Tennessee at Georgia, noon ET, ESPN2
- Mississippi State at Arkansas, 4 p.m. ET, SEC Network
- South Carolina at Vanderbilt, 4 p.m. ET, FSN/ESPN3
- Alabama at LSU, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2
- Texas A&M at Missouri, 6 p.m. ET, ESPNU
- Ole Miss at Auburn, 6:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
- Kentucky at Florida, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Tennessee could really, really use that win over Georgia. The Vols have lost three of four with the only win coming against Auburn. They used to be able to argue that at least they hadn't taken on a bad loss, but they flushed that line of reasoning down the toilet on Tuesday. UGA shouldn't be feeling bad about itself the way it stormed back from a big halftime deficit against Kentucky, and a win here will put the team truly back on track after its bad loss to South Carolina last week.
There's an argument to be made, once you adjust for expectations, that Mississippi State is the hottest SEC team outside of UK. Since taking a 25-point beating to Florida on January 10, the Bulldogs are 4-3 with none of the losses being by more than two possessions. They've also just picked up consecutive victories over Tennessee and LSU. If they somehow win at Arkansas, it will genuinely be one of the best three-game stretches for any team in conference play this season. Meanwhile, the Hogs have held their last four opponents to 64 points or fewer and their last two foes to 56 and 55 points, respectively. If the suddenly rejuvenated defense keep this up, the Razorbacks should have no problems winning another laugher this week.
LSU desperately needs a win over Alabama tomorrow. Nothing can erase the stink of now having losses to Missouri, Mississippi State, and Auburn, but they can't allow the season to spiral away from them now. Defeating the Tide isn't going to save the season, but the Tigers could use any semblance of forward momentum right now. They haven't played their way into the NIT just yet, but they're on their way there.
After their midweek game, Ole Miss and Texas A&M and in similar positions this weekend. They have little to gain but a lot to lose in their matchups against Auburn and Missouri. These games are must-wins as they jockey for bubble position not so much because they need the Ws but because losses would be damaging. Both teams have been taking care of business for the last month, so I think they'll get through unscathed. We'll see.
Finally, this feels like a put up or shut up game for Florida. I've written off the Gators' March Madness hopes, but experts out there seem to think they're still a fringe bubble contender. Well, the biggest hole in Florida's resumé is the place where a signature win goes, and this game would certainly qualify. With as moribund as UF's offense has been lately though, I'd say the team is more likely to have a sub-20 point half against the Wildcats' fearsome defense than to actually win this game. While UK has struggled some in Gainesville in recent years, this UF team is a far cry from those of recent years.