College Basketball State of the SEC Betting Report: Arkansas’ Hot & Texas A&M’s Not
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Chris Lykes (Arkansas)
We’re back for another edition of the SEC: State of the Union. Given what happened at Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday, it’s an ideal time to be checking back in on arguably the best conference in the country.
The Razorbacks handed Auburn its first conference loss of the season in what was a heck of a battle from start to finish. Eric Musselman’s team has now won nine in a row and is the hottest team in the league.
Several other squads have made statements over the last 10-14 days, and a few teams are really struggling as we get into the heart of February.
Let’s get into it.
Let’s start with the previously mentioned Hogs, who are beginning to live up to the preseason hype following last year’s Elite 8 run.
Arkansas had a stretch from mid-December to early January where it dropped five of six, including a loss to Hofstra and a home loss to Vanderbilt.
From that point forward, the Razorbacks have taken things to a different gear. Some of the victims of their nine-game streak include LSU, West Virginia, Mississippi State and the big one on Tuesday, Auburn.
JD Notae was unbelievable in the victory over the Tigers, and the senior takes the Arkansas offense to the next level when he gets it going from behind the arc.
The other team that has been en fuego over the last two weeks in the SEC resides in Lexington.
Kentucky has won five in a row, highlighted by road victories at Kansas and Alabama. The most impressive part of those two victories was just how dominant the Wildcats were from start to finish.
Beating Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse is rare as is, but to go in there and blow the Jayhawks out shows just how dangerous this team could be come March.
Oscar Tshiebwe continues to be a monster on the glass and on the interior, and I really like what veteran Kellan Grady gives this team on the perimeter.
It’s hard to remember a freshman as polished as 6-foot-10 forward Jabari Smith. Smith will likely be the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NBA draft, and it’s for good reason.
It’s virtually impossible to contest his jump-shot in traffic given his length, and Smith is shooting it at a high clip from behind the arc, as well. He can score from anywhere, and doesn’t really have a weakness in his game.
Aside from a rough shooting night at Missouri a few weeks back, Smith has been efficient from the field pretty much every night out.
He also grabs just under seven rebounds a game, and is a rock solid defender for the Tigers.
After a 4-0 start to conference play, things have really taken a turn for the worst for Buzz Williams and the Aggies. Texas A&M has now lost seven in a row after getting dismantled from start to finish by LSU.
The Aggies have also lost at home to South Carolina and Missouri during the skid, which were surprising results given some of the promise this team showed in early January.
Things aren’t going to get easier in College Station, as the next game is a road date on Saturday with the No. 1 ranked Auburn Tigers.
Since Jan. 12, guess how many teams not named Texas A&M that LSU has defeated? The answer would be zero. The Tigers have dropped six of eight, including Saturday’s debacle at Vanderbilt.
Will Wade’s team has came back to earth after a red hot start to begin league play. The issues lie in the half-court offensively, where the Tigers really struggle to score it against good defensive teams.
The good news is LSU is still an elite defensive unit, and the overall body of the work has the Tigers positioned comfortably inside the tournament as of today.
Games to Watch This Week
Tennessee vs. Mississippi State
Mississippi State continues to be one of the SEC teams that is hovering right around the bubble. Wednesday night gives the Bulldogs a big opportunity to add a Quad 1 win over the visiting Volunteers.
This line has opened with Tennessee as 1.5-point favorite, so expect a tight battle in Starkville.
Tennessee got unfortunate news earlier in the week when it was announced that forward Olivier Nkamhoua will likely miss the rest of the year with an ankle injury.
I’d lean toward backing the home Bulldogs here in a game they need to win.
Arkansas vs. Alabama
Will the Arkansas winning streak finally come to an end on Saturday when the Hogs head to Tuscaloosa? You’d think this would be a classic letdown spot after the massive win over Auburn, but it’s hard to pick against the Razorbacks right now with the way they are playing.
Alabama has been the ultimate unknown this year in the SEC. The Tide have looked like world beaters at times, as shown in the wins over Houston, Baylor and Gonzaga. There’s also been losses to Missouri, Georgia and other less talented groups.
Expect Alabama to open as a short favorite in what should be a great early game on Saturday.
Florida vs. Kentucky
Just as Mississippi State feels destined to hang around the bubble up until Selection Sunday, the same can be said about Florida.
Saturday afternoon presents the ultimate “everything to gain” opportunity for the Gators. A road victory at Rupp Arena would be a game changer for Mike White’s team, which has quietly won three in a row.
Kentucky will likely open as a double-digit favorite in this one, and while I think the Gators will hang tough, I don’t see them having the offensive firepower needed to pull off the upset.
Current NCAA Tournament Positioning
Lastly, let’s take a look at where all 14 teams stand when it comes to the postseason.
Comfortably In the Field
Firmly on the Bubble
- Mississippi State
In Need of a Dynamite Finish
- Texas A&M
- Ole Miss
- South Carolina
Fighting for Pride