The first full weekend of conference play is full of games, with Arkansas the only team not playing this weekend. Here’s a rundown of the action for today and tomorrow:
Florida at Vanderbilt – 12 p.m.
The Gators travel to the Music city to play the ‘Dores on their ridiculous homecourt. Florida comes in a winner of three straight, most recently on a 75-footer from Chandler Parsons at the horn to beat NC State. The Gators, who are led in scoring by freshman Kenny Boynton, are as puzzling as any team in the country, with a win over Michigan State but bad losses to Richmond and South Alabama. Vanderbilt has won five straight against a bunch of softies, and has only a win over a decent Missouri team on which to hang their hat. Jeffery Taylor and “They’re still playing?” All-Stars Jermaine Beale and AJ Ogilvy lead the Commodores in scoring. Florida will be looking for a win with their beatdown at the hands of the Cats looming just days away, and Vandy will be looking to pull an NCAA tournament rÃ©sumÃ© out of thin air, starting with a triumph over Billy D’s boys.
South Carolina at Auburn – 1:30 p.m.
South Carolina has been largely disappointing in the second campaign for Darrin Horn, as a team plagued by injuries and discipline issues dropped five in their out-of-conference schedule. Devan Downey is still doing his thing, as he ranks second to Arkansas’ Rotnei Clarke in scoring in the SEC at 18.5/game, but two of the team’s other top scorers didn’t survive the first half of the year. Senior Dominique Archie was lost for the year to injury weeks ago and junior forward Mike Holmes was dismissed from the team just after the new year, leaving the Gamecocks awfully thin on quality talent. Auburn is Auburn. They’re 9-6, have zero quality wins and have failed to build on the success they enjoyed at the end of last season, which surprises no one because, after all, they’re Auburn.
Mississippi State at Ole Miss – 1:30 p.m.
The battle for the Magnolia State is an intriguing one, as both teams have the potential to take the western division and avoid the Cats until the SEC championship. The ever-present Jarvis Varnado anchors the Bulldogs, who dropped their last game to Western Kentucky and have yet to approach the lofty heights that Jerry Tipton predicted for them in the preseason. Meanwhile, Ole Miss sports a strong backcourt, led by Darius Miller’s USA basketball teammate Terrico White and Chris Warren. The Rebels’ best win was over now top-10 Kansas State, and a conference-opening victory over their cross-state rivals would go a long way toward solidifying an already good NCAA tourney rÃ©sumÃ©.
Alabama at LSU – 5:00 p.m.
The other west division battle of the afternoon involves two teams that have a way to go before they could consider themselves NCAA tourney candidates. The Tide come in at 10-4, winners of three straight but devoid of a quality win to date. Jamychal Green and Mikhail Torrance lead Alabama in scoring, but no other Tide player averages double figures and that lack of production is keeping them from making the next step toward becoming a big time team. LSU has not enjoyed the same success as in Trent Johnson’s first season, as the exodus of talent that they experienced after last year has not been easy to replace. Tasmin Mitchell, in his 19th season at LSU, leads the Tigers in scoring, but they’ve lost three out of four and haven’t come within 10 points of a decent team all year.
Kansas at Tennessee – 4:30 p.m. Sunday – CBS
Tennessee probably wasn’t coming within ten points of the top-ranked Jayhawks with Tyler Smith. Without him and his band of merry men? Well, you won’t have to worry missing any of the playoff game tomorrow. This one is pretty much guaranteed to get ugly.