February’s Demolition Derby on the SEC hardwood continues Saturday with the top four conference teams in the AP poll squaring off head-to-head. Sports bettors will be watching these marquee match-ups very closely to gain handicapping knowledge for the upcoming conference tournament and the Big Dance …
No. 5 Tennessee at No. 13 LSU (ESPN, 11 a.m.): Both teams have suffered recent high-profile crashes. Tennessee was run out of the gym a week ago at Kentucky, forcing the Vols to relinquish their No. 1 national ranking. They did bounce back Tuesday with a 58-46 win over Vanderbilt, but failed to reach the high point spread of -17.5 points. That’s three straight non-covers for Tennessee, now 3-6 against the spread its last nine games.
LSU lost at home Wednesday night to Florida, falling 82-77 in overtime as favorites of -6.5 points. The Tigers are 0-2 ATS since upsetting Kentucky in Lexington, scoring only a four-point win at Georgia laying -7.5 points. It can be difficult for good teams to string together point spread covers once the market sees sustained improvement.
Tennessee is currently 12-1 in SEC play, LSU 11-2. This is the only regular season meeting, which could loom very large as a tie-breaker for SEC tournament seeding if the Tigers snatch victory.
No. 28 Auburn at No. 4 Kentucky (CBS, 12:30 p.m.): Auburn just misses the top 25, but ranks #28 in total votes (just behind Cincinnati and Wofford). An upset here would clearly zoom Auburn into the top 25, possibly the top 20. The Tigers are coming off double-digit victories over Arkansas and Vanderbilt that both covered the spread.
A week ago, we talked about Kentucky’s recent tendency to lose speed in the second half with big leads. That didn’t matter vs. Tennessee because the Wildcats built such a huge advantage! It did cost Kentucky a cover Tuesday in a 66-58 win as 11-point favorites. Let’s update that trend, which could be an issue vs. Auburn, or in the postseason…
▪ Kentucky was outscored 34-23 in the final 16:51 by LSU
▪ Kentucky was outscored 36-22 in the final 16:32 by Miss. State
▪ Kentucky was outscored 31-24 in the final 12:36 by Tennessee
▪ Kentucky was outscored 30-18 in the final 16:01 by Missouri
Kentucky is still a game-behind Tennessee at the top of the standings at 11-2. Auburn is a disappointing 7-6 in the SEC, struggling vs. other quality teams. Auburn is 0-2 vs. Ole Miss, and has suffered losses to Kentucky, LSU, and Mississippi State.
Remember to use Saturday’s settled point spreads to evaluate how “the market” sees these top contenders. Allot three points for home court advantage to determine what “neutral court” lines might be in SEC tournament rematches.
▪ VSiN’s estimate of “market” Power Ratings in the SEC based on midweek lines show Kentucky moving to the head of the pack. You probably noticed the Wildcats closed at -3.5 or -4 last Saturday at home vs. Tennessee. Here’s our latest scale reflecting neutral court margin estimates. Feel free to tweak them based on weekend point spreads…
Kentucky 87, Tennessee 86, Auburn 85, LSU 82, Mississippi State 81, Mississippi 80, Florida 78, Alabama 78, Arkansas 76, South Carolina 74, Texas A&M 73, Missouri 73, Vanderbilt 72, Georgia 72.
Auburn has been getting market respect because of blowouts vs. lesser lights. Let’s see if the Tigers can hang tough for 40 minutes in Lexington. It will be very interesting to see how sharp bettors move Saturday’s Tennessee/LSU line.
▪ Ole Miss hosts Georgia Saturday (SEC Network, 2:30 p.m.). The Rebels were stunned Wednesday at South Carolina 79-64, missing the spread by 18 points. Bad news because the Gamecocks snuck into the coveted #4 slot in the SEC standings with a 9-4 mark. That’s an amazing record, as SC has been an underdog in 10 of 13 league contests! Ole Miss fell to 8-5, currently fifth in the SEC. Georgia is next-to-last with a 1-12 mark. The Rebels have been a big money maker this season, covered 19 of 26 games for backers.
▪ Mississippi State hosts South Carolina Saturday (SEC Network, 5 p.m.). The Bulldogs were lucky to get out of Athens with a win Wednesday at Georgia. (You may have seen highlights of a key late play by a stuffed animal!). State is tied for sixth in the SEC with Auburn and Florida. Clearly this is a huge game in terms of conference tournament seedings. SC has covered four in a row, while MSU is 5-8 ATS its last 13.