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Big 12 vs SEC Challenge Preview

The seventh annual Big 12/SEC Challenge is finally here. The Big 12 leads the all time series 4-1 with one tie. The Big 12 has a 35-25 combined record lead over the SEC.

The NCAA RPI rankings by conference have the Big 12 atop of the standings with a .598 rating. The SEC comes in at the fifth spot just above the ACC with a .573 rating. The Big 12 has four ranked teams including two of the top three teams. The SEC sits with two in the top 25.

We’ll preview each of Saturday’s matchups and predict a winner.

Missouri: 9-9 (1-5) @ No.14 West Virginia: 15-3 (4-2)

12 pm, ESPN

Challenge Record: Missouri 1-1, West Virginia 1-5

Missouri finds themselves in the Big 12 vs SEC Challenge for the first time since the 2014 – 2015 season. That year the Tigers had their hands full at Oklahoma who was No.22 at the time. Cuonzo Martin’s club had things put together at the end of December but has lost four of five since then.

Bob Huggins has the Mountaineers back on track after a rough year this past season. The famous “Press Virginia” is in full effect forcing nearly 16 turnovers per game. West Virginia has a solid resume with their only three losses coming on the road. This should be an easy win.

Prediction: West Virginia

Iowa State: 9-9 (2-4) @ No.16 Auburn: 16-2 (4-2)

Big 12 vs SEC Challenge Preview
Auburn is on pace to make the NCAA Tournament three seasons in a row for the first time since the 1980s. (Photo by 247sports.com).

12 pm, ESPNU

Challenge Record: Iowa State 3-3, Auburn 1-3

Iowa State looks to be in the midst of another rebuilding season. Replacing the top three scorers from last year’s NCAA team appears to have been too tall of a task for the Cyclones. Going back to the shocking New Year’s Eve loss to Florida A&M, Iowa State is just 2-5.

In what was expected to be a down year for last season’s Final Four team, Auburn shocked the college basketball world by starting off as one of the hottest teams. They won their first 15 games before a two game road skid in SEC play.

Prediction: Auburn

LSU: 14-4 (6-0) @ Texas: 12-6 (2-4)

2 pm, ESPN

Challenge Record: LSU 1-2, Texas 3-3

LSU fell victim to close endings in several early season losses. However recent luck has flipped their way as they have won each of their last five games by four points or less. LSU finds themselves alone atop the SEC and are currently riding a seven game winning streak.

Texas started the season very strong at 9-1. They have slid to a 3-5 mark, however, have faced the top three teams in the Big 12 during that span. They come in with an extremely balanced five man attack. This shapes up to be another very close game for LSU either way.

Prediction: LSU

Mississippi State: 12-6 (3-3) @ Oklahoma: 12-6 (3-3)

2 pm, ESPN 2

Challenge Record: Mississippi State 0-1, Oklahoma 4-2

Mississippi State finds themselves a part of the Challenge for the first time since the inaugural season in 2013-2014. The Bulldogs had a rough start to conference play after suffering a few hiccups to close out the nonconference. They have been impressive during their recent three game winning streak.

Oklahoma has been dominant on their home court this season. Their lone loss at home was to Kansas, leaving the other five losses away from home. Oklahoma is still looking for a big, signature win to solidify a solid resume.

Prediction: Oklahoma

Tennessee: 12-6 (4-2) @ No.3 Kansas: 15-3 (5-1)

4pm, ESPN

Challenge Record: Tennessee 4-1, Kansas 4-2

Tennessee has had a respectable season thus far, especially considering the production they lost from last year’s team. They have six losses but no terrible eyesores that would keep them on the outside of the bubble.

Kansas is fresh off the ugly brawl to end the Kansas State game this past week. The result has been suspensions of David McCormack and Silvio De Sousa for this game. Even with those absences, Kansas shouldn’t have too much trouble handling Tennessee at home.

Prediction: Kansas

Oklahoma State: 9-9 (0-6) @ Texas A&M: 9-8 (3-3)

4 pm, ESPNU

Challenge Record: Oklahoma State 4-2, Texas A&M 2-3

Oklahoma State started the season as hot as anyone rolling off seven wins to begin the year. The Cowboys have just two wins since dominating Ole Miss at the end of November. They are currently riding a six game losing streak and are desperately trying to get back on track.

Texas A&M has done the opposite. Since a four game losing streak to get them to a 3-5 record they have strung together a nice 6-3 mark. Buzz Williams has the Aggies clicking as they’ve begun conference play and is hoping for another big home win to keep the ball rolling.

Prediction: Texas A&M

TCU: 13-5 (4-2) @ Arkansas 14-4 (3-3)

4 pm, ESPN2

Challenge Record: TCU 4-2, Arkansas 2-3

Of the 4 pm tipoff slate this is the most intriguing. TCU enters with an impressive 13-5 and coming off a huge win against Texas Tech. The Horned Frogs are centered around senior guard Desmond Bane who leads the teams in minutes, points, assists, steals and is second on the team in rebounds.

Arkansas is the surprise of the SEC after starting the season at a 14-1 mark. They have flirted with the top 25 this year. However, the SEC slate has provided some challenges as they have fallen to the top two teams in LSU and Kentucky as well as most recently on the road at Mississippi State.

Prediction: Arkansas

No.15 Kentucky: 14-4 (5-1) @ No.18 Texas Tech: 12-6 (3-3)

Big 12 vs SEC Challenge Preview
Texas Tech came just short of a National Championship last season. (Photo by washingtonpost.com).

6 pm, ESPN

Challenge Record: Texas Tech 4-2, Kentucky 3-3

Kentucky has shown signs of greatness this year but have also had several disappointing games much to the chagrin of Big Blue Nation. John Calipari’s squad is once again very young. They’ll have their work cut out for them on the road.

Texas Tech is not as bad as their record may show with two close overtime losses as well as two losses to ranked Big 12 teams. Five of their six losses have come away from home this year. They were able to dominate then No.1 Louisville on a neutral court and are looking for revenge this game after losing to TCU their last time out.

Prediction: Texas Tech

Kansas State: 8-10 (1-5) @ Alabama: 11-7 (4-2)

6 pm, ESPN2

Challenge Record: Kansas State 3-3, Alabama 2-1

Kansas State is without two players after the brawl in Lawrence but neither player should have much of an impact on the game in their absence. The Wildcats have struggled all year but have one shining positive spot on the schedule in their dominant win over West Virginia.

Alabama started the season slowly at a 2-4 mark. However, the Crimson Tide have righted the ship and are 6-2 in their last eight and towards the top of the SEC rankings. Kansas State is going to have their hands full with junior John Petty Jr. who is averaging 16.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

Prediction: Alabama

No.1 Baylor: 16-1 (6-0) @ Florida: 12-6 (4-2)

8 pm, ESPN

Challenge Record: Baylor 5-1, Florida 4-2

Baylor is the next team to top the NCAA rankings at 16-1. Their lone loss came in the second game of the season – a three point loss on a neutral court to Washington. They have wins over ranked Villanova, Arizona, Butler, Texas Tech and Kansas.

Florida is the most disappointing team in the SEC this season. The team many predicted to be a Final Four caliber team has bad losses to UCONN, Utah State and Missouri. A win against the top ranked team would pad their resume and you can be sure the O’Connell Center will be buzzing Saturday night.

Prediction: Baylor

 

 

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