Winners, Losers, and What to Watch
Here’s a look at this week’s winners and losers and Saturday’s premier match-up.
Winner: Auburn Tigers
Unlike some of the other surprise teams in the nation (i.e. Arizona State), the Auburn Tigers (20-2, 8-1 SEC) have entered February on a four-game win streak and have climbed to #11 in the country and to the top of the SEC standings. The Tigers have proved to be an offensive juggernaut. Auburn averages 85.7 points per game (10th nationally) and have outscored opponents by an average of 12.5 points in their eight conference wins. With four players averaging double figures in scoring, the Tigers are led by Bryce Brown who is averaging 16.6 points per game. With their only loss in SEC play coming to their arch rival Alabama on the road, Auburn will look to defend home court when they host Vanderbilt on Saturday at 8:30pm. The Tigers are in position to capture their first SEC regular season title since 1999 as they hold a two-game lead over second place Kentucky in the standings.
Loser: North Carolina Tar Heels
After a four-game win streak, in which North Carolina climbed its way into the top 10, the Tar Heels have lost three straight games and have fallen to #19 in the rankings. Most recently, North Carolina lost to Clemson 82-78 on the road. The Tar Heels were without senior forward Theo Pinson for a majority of the game as he suffered a shoulder injury after getting fouled in the first half. Pinson is expected to return to the lineup on Saturday when North Carolina hosts Pittsburgh at 8pm. The Tar Heels need to improve defensively if they plan on defending their title in March. Coach Roy Williams has said this may be his worst defensive team ever. North Carolina has given up 79.8 points per game to its opponents in their five losses in ACC play. With that being said, I am very skeptical of the Tar Heels moving forward.
Premier Match-Up: #21 Kentucky at Missouri (2pm CBS)
With no games between ranked teams this weekend, let’s take a look at a game with bubble implications. Back when the schedule came out many circled this game as a chance to see future NBA prospects go at it, but with Michael Porter Jr. suffering a back injury in the season opener, the game lost some of its luster. Missouri (14-8, 4-5 SEC) could use this win if they hope to end up on the right side of the bubble on Selection Sunday. The Tigers are coming off a 69-60 win over fellow bubble team Alabama on the road Wednesday night and will hope to keep the momentum going. Missouri is led by Canisius-transfer, Kassius Robertson, who is averaging 16 points per game. Kentucky enters the game on a three-game win streak after coming back from 14 points down to beat Vanderbilt 83-81 in overtime Tuesday night. Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will look to lead the Wildcats over the Tigers on Saturday. The duo is averaging 41 points per game over Kentucky’s three-game win streak. Look for the Wildcats to continue their winning streak with a big win on the road.