In a lot of ways, SEC Hoops has finally seemed to turn the corner from years of mediocrity. In recent year’s, Kentucky and Florida were the only teams of any relevance when it came to it’s performance in the NCAA Tournament. Last season, saw the SEC receive five bids (Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss). This season the league seems likely to get four. There is still plenty of time for there to be more, or less. Any push to secure more bids starts today when some of the SEC’s best clash with some of the Big 12’s best for a rare mid-conference season showdown. The Big 12 is widely looked upon as being the best conference so far this season. So, the the risk for the SEC will be high. However, with several marquee matchups on the slate, including a matchup between arguably the nation’s top two players (Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield and LSU’s Ben Simmons) and arguably the nation’s top two programs all-time (Kentucky and Kansas) those of us who just watch the games should have plenty reward. Let’s take a brief look at each game to get you ready for an important day of basketball for the SEC….
Games of the day
1 Oklahoma at LSU
Swag Factor: 9.5/10
Yeah, I know Kentucky and Kansas are playing each other at what’s probably the nation’s best venue to watch a college basketball game. But, that game doesn’t have star power like this one does in Baton Rouge. It’s Buddy Hield and number one ranked OU vs Ben Simmons and unranked LSU. The Sooners are having their best season since the days of Blake Griffin. LSU, has been largely disappointing. But, the Tigers have come on as of late and are 6-2 in the SEC. Simmons, does it all for LSU. But, you can’t forget abou Tim Quarterman. The junior averages 11.6 points per game and has been a perfect complement to Simmons. If you’re looking for OU’s Robin to Hield’s Batman. Look no further than Isaiah Cousins who averages 13 points per game. Still, this is a matchup of probably the top two picks in this year’s upcoming NBA Draft. Hield, leads the nation average 26 points per game. Simmons, is nearly averaging a triple double as he’s for 20 points 10 boards and 7 assists per game. This game should come down to which star has more impact. Playing in Baton Rouge won’t be an easy feat for OU. But, they’re use to hostile environments. Look for this one to go to the wire in what is a critical game for LSU’s NCAA at-large chances.
20 Kentucky at 4 Kansas
Swag Factor: 9/10
Tyler Ulis, leads the Wildcats into Lawrence Kansas to face Wayne Selden Jr. and the Jayhawks. Phog Allen Field House is no stranger to seeing the Wildcats roll into town. But, the last four visits by Big Blue dating back to the days of Larry Brown coached KU and Joe B. Hall coached UK I 1983, ‘The Phog’ got to them in the worst way. The Cats’ were blown out by a total of 121 points, including a 150-95 massacre in 1989. Rick Pitino’s first season in Lexington. Ouch! Today’s matchup figures to be a lot closer. The Jayhawks, who are led in scoring by the popular clothing and fragrance designer/forward Perry Ellis (ok, so it’s not the same Perry Ellis) are losers of a very uncharacteristic three of their last five games. Meanwhile, the Wildcats have been on a roll since John Calipari inserted seldom used senior forward Derek Willis. The move has been huge. Inserting Willis has opened up the floor more for Ulis and freshman Jamal Murray to drive the ball to the hoop. The Cats’ inside game isn’t near what it’s been in recent years. So, the pressure will be on their guards, just as it’s been all season. Both these teams seem to lack their usual star power. So, this game doesn’t quite have the sizzle it normally would. Still, These two fantastic programs and ‘The Phog’ should make for an incredible atmosphere.
14 Iowa State at 5 Texas A&M
Swag Factor: 8.5/10
The Aggies come into this game as the SEC’ s best team record wise. Jalen Jones, leads A&M in scoring at 17 points per game and is one of the more versatile forwards in the nation. They’ll get a strong test from the Cyclones who are led by their forward Georges Niang. The Aggies get a bit of break with this game being in College Station. Iowa State has been murder at home. But, can be had on the road. The Aggies who were undefeated in the league until they lost at Arkansas this past Wednesday night, need this victory to help build a strong enough case for a number one or two seed in the NCAA ‘s.
Other game’ s
9 West Virginia at Florida
Gators need this one to pad their at-large chances. The somewhat surprisingly top-10 ranked Mountaineers will be a tough test at the O’Connell Center in Gainesville.
Vandy at Texas
The disappointing Commodores’ are just about in desperation mode. They need all the wins they can get to try and set themselves up for an at-large bid. But, traveling to the Lone Star State to face Shaka Smart’s Longhorns may be a bit too much to ask.
Georgia at 17 Baylor
The Bulldogs have a long road toward being considered for NCAA at-large bid. But, a win today at Baylor could catapult the Dawgs into just that. Hard to see Georgia being successful in Waco, however.