Blake's Picks: Florida's tricky game at Auburn, Missouri wants revenge
Blake Lovell • 2/23/2021 in Basketball
(Shanna Lockwood/AU Athletics)
Let's jump into the SEC basketball picks for Tuesday, which features Ole Miss aiming to get back in the NCAA Tournament conversation with a win at Missouri.
Season Prediction Record (straight up): 4-2
LSU (14-6, 9-4) at Georgia (13-9, 6-9) - 7 PM ET, SEC Network
I've brought this up both on the podcast (subscribe) and on radio appearances this week, but I'll mention it again: LSU is good enough on offense to compete with most teams around the country. The Tigers' starting lineup features multiple future NBA players, with three players - Cam Thomas (22.8 ppg), Trendon Watford (16.3 ppg,), and Ja'Vonte Smart (16.1 ppg) - all ranking in the top 10 in the SEC in scoring. Darius Days (12.7 ppg) is just as important to their success.
Of course, the problem with LSU has never been offense. The Tigers sit at 147th nationally in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency metric, and in Will Wade's four seasons in Baton Rouge, his group has finished higher than 136th in that category just once. That was in 2018-19 when LSU won the SEC title and advanced to the Sweet 16. Go figure.
As for Georgia, it has actually played solid basketball down the stretch. Six of its last seven games have been decided by 10 points or less, with the Bulldogs going 4-3 in that stretch. Another close game may be in order, especially since the previous matchup between these two back in early January was a 94-92 overtime thriller won by the Tigers.
Georgia will likely put up points, but LSU should be able to earn the victory.
Blake's Prediction: LSU 84, Georgia 79
Florida (11-6, 7-5) at Auburn (11-12, 5-9) - 7 PM ET, ESPN
UPDATE 2/23: Sharife Cooper has been ruled out for Auburn, which completely changes the dynamic of this game. Florida is the better pick.
Just as the title says, this seems like a tricky spot for the Gators. I'm not sure what it is, but this Florida team is hard to figure out. Mike White's squad has won at West Virginia and dominated Tennessee by 26, but they've also lost home games to Kentucky (not looking so bad now) and South Carolina, and a road game at Mississippi State.
Meanwhile, Auburn is not playing its best basketball of the season, particularly on the defensive side of the floor. The Tigers have allowed 82 or more points in seven of their last eight games, unsurprisingly going 3-5 in those games. Some have pondered that it's a lack of motivation combined with inexperience that's leading to the lackluster defensive performances. No matter what is, I can promise you that Bruce Pearl, whose best Auburn teams have been hard-nosed defensive units, isn't happy about it.
But this is still an interesting spot for both teams. Florida is 1-2 since the SEC/Big 12 Challenge win at West Virginia, and more importantly, hit 70 points just once in those three games. The Tigers haven't lost three straight home games since Pearl's second season in 2015-16, so that's another thing worth noting.
Call me crazy (some of you will, and that's OK), but I think this is a decent spot for Auburn to pull off the win.
Blake's Prediction: Auburn 77, Florida 75
Ole Miss (12-9, 7-7) at No. 23 Missouri (14-6, 7-6) - 9 PM ET, SEC Network
The Rebels are back off the NCAA Tournament bubble for now following the loss to Mississippi State, and the formula becomes very simple for Kermit Davis's team. They just need to win games.
That'll be easier said than done in Columbia against a Missouri team looking for revenge. Ole Miss scored a dominant 80-59 victory when these two met in Oxford a few weeks ago, with the Rebels shooting 67.7% from 2-point range (21 of 31), 40.0% from 3-point range (8 of 20), and 82.4% from the free throw line (14 of 17). The latter two were uncharacteristic for this Ole Miss team, given that it ranks 335th nationally in 3-point shooting and 230th nationally in free throw shooting.
However, the Rebels have been a different team on the road, at least against the better teams in the SEC. Ole Miss is 0-3 in road games against projected tournament teams from the conference, losing 82-64 at Alabama on Dec. 29, 72-63 at Florida on Jan. 12, and 74-59 at Arkansas on Jan. 27.
The Tigers' convincing win at South Carolina was exactly what they needed after three straight losses, and they should come out with enough added motivation to get the win.
Blake's Prediction: Missouri 70, Ole Miss 62
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