Big 12 SEC Challenge Predictions

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The second best interconference battle tips off this weekend with the Big 12 SEC Challenge. Both conferences have surprising teams atop the league and a few loaded teams lurking just behind. There are ten matchups taking place on Saturday, January 25th and they are shaping up to be doozies. 

Big 12 SEC Challenge Predictions

Missouri Tigers at West Virginia Mountaineers

Missouri is a very young team without a senior on the roster. They do not get a lot of shots up, mostly because they turn the ball over a lot. While the lack of offense is concerning, they are excellent defensively. They only allow 39.5 percent from the field and only 30 percent from three. The only bad thing the Tigers do is foul. 

West Virginia is back from the dead after last season. They are a phenomenal rebounding team, as all Mountaineer teams seem to be. Additionally, they force enough turnovers and block enough shots to get their offense going in transition. As always, they are built on their defense and their ball pressure.

The Prediction

West Virginia 68, Missouri 51. The Mountaineers are too good for Missouri. They will force turnovers all game and Missouri will not be able to get into their stuff. West Virginia will struggle a bit offensively, but they will do more than enough to win.

Iowa State Cyclones at Auburn Tigers

Iowa State has been disappointing this season. Tyrese Haliburton has played himself into the first round of the NBA draft, but the rest of the team has been lackluster. Ames does not have the magic that it once did. The Cyclones score plenty of points, but they also give up a ton. They are in the midst of a big cold stretch.

Auburn was undefeated for a long time this season, but they did not beat any notable teams. After a two-game losing streak, they rebounded against South Carolina. However, they are still searching for a signature win. They score 79 points per game and are elite inside the three-point line. Auburn is able to draw a lot of fouls and can manufacture points from the free-throw line. They also limit opponents’ chances from the three-point line.

The Prediction

Auburn 83, Iowa State 70. Auburn is able to contain Tyrese Haliburton. The Tigers will score at will and handle this game easily.

LSU Tigers at Texas Longhorns

LSU is a solid offensive team. They are currently averaging 80 points per game and have been very efficient knocking down 48 percent of their shots. The one area they struggle in is from a distance but they shoot very few threes. Defensively, they can be porous at times, but when they are locked in they are a good defensive team. The Tigers have a tendency to turn the ball over quite a bit which can keep games close that should not be.

Texas is struggling this season. They have lost five of their last eight including a 38 point loss at West Virginia. Their offense is really bad, to say the least. The Longhorns do not score at all and it is mostly due to taking several poor shots. They shoot a large number of threes but only make 34 percent which is in the bottom half in the country. They are good defenders, especially because their guards can get after other teams. 

The Prediction

LSU 78, Texas 70. The Tigers are sloppy with the ball which keeps Texas in it. There is something to be said for a team coming off a blowout. However, LSU is far better and win the game after calming down in the second half.

Mississippi State Bulldogs at Oklahoma Sooners

Mississippi State started the season 8-2 and then got Nick Weatherspoon back which should have elevated the team. However, they are 3-4 since his return. The Bulldogs are a phenomenal offensive rebounding team and are solid inside the three-point line. The talent is there, it’s just a matter of finding ways to manufacture offense. 

Oklahoma is firmly planted in the middle of the pack. They have beaten all the teams they should beat and lost to all the teams better than them. They are great with protecting the ball but other than that they are as average as one can be in every stat.

The Prediction

Oklahoma 72, Mississippi State 67. The Sooners have more talent and are at home. They protect the ball and make enough shots to get the job done.

Tennessee Volunteers at Kansas Jayhawks

Tennessee has struggled to find offensive consistency after the departure of 80 percent of its starting lineup from last season. They also received tough news that Lamonte Turner would miss significant time, furthering those struggles. They have a few talented players, but they need to find their guy and play through him. 

Kansas is in a bit of a predicament. In their last game, there was a brawl that spilled into the crowd. The result is suspensions for Silvio De Sousa (12 games) and David McCormack (2 games). It is miraculous that is it. By avoiding any suspensions for their true stars, Kansas should continue winning. They are better and more talented than the Volunteers by a wide margin and that should be evident at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

The Prediction

Kansas 74, Tennessee 61. The Jayhawks need to keep Udoka Azubuike out of foul trouble. If that happens, Kansas can handle the Volunteers. Regardless, the guards for Kansas win the battle and the game.

Oklahoma State Cowboys at Texas A&M Aggies

Oklahoma State is a tough team to figure out. They have plenty of talent and some really capable scorers, but the offense is poor. Most of this is due to the inability to knock down long-range jumpers. The Cowboys have two knockdown shooters, but neither has found their rhythm this season. Luckily, the defense has been stout and they defend the three-point line well. 

Texas A&M has one of the worst offenses in college basketball averaging just 61.1 points per game. They shoot 26 percent from three as a team and 40 percent from the field. Like the Cowboys, they also rely on good defense to remain competitive. Unfortunately, Buzz Williams just does not have enough talent on this roster.

The Prediction

Oklahoma State 58, Texas A&M 50. The Cowboys are just better. They are able to manufacture enough points and suffocate the Aggies defensively.

TCU Horned Frogs at Arkansas Razorbacks

TCU is very much a middle of the pack team. They do not do anything great but are good at most things. TCU tries to muck up the game and play aggressive defense. They also are an above-average three-point shooting team. For the Horned Frogs, it is all about Desmond Bane. If he scores below his season average of 17 points, TCU really struggles. 

Arkansas has been a pleasant surprise this season. Eric Musselman took a somewhat depleted roster and put them right in the thick of things. They have a solid offense and a good defense. They are super consistent and do not hurt themselves. In their losses, they have shot particularly poorly from the three-point line.

The Prediction

Arkansas 72, TCU 65. Arkansas is just better. They contain Desmond Bane and make enough threes to seal the deal. The Muss Bus rolls on.

Kentucky Wildcats at Texas Tech Red Raiders

Kentucky has plenty of talent and a nice mix of experience this season. They have lost a few close games, but seem to be figuring out their roster by the minute. The Wildcats have a good inside out style and an aggressive defense led by Ashton Hagans. In games that Kentucky struggled, they have been sped up forcing them to take bad shots. Additionally, they have struggled to get consistent stops. If Kentucky allows less than a point per possession, they almost always win. 

Texas Tech is looking to repeat its Cinderella run to the National Championship last year. Yet again, the Red Raiders have a great defense, allowing less than a point per possession in every game except for two. They also have averaged more points this season than last and play at a much quicker pace. This has led to some losses because they have an inexperienced roster that lacks consistency. They have had some really sloppy offensive games, including a 32 percent effective field goal percentage in a loss to West Virginia.

The Prediction

Kentucky 64, Texas Tech 60. This should be a very messy game. Both teams will be sped up and force some bad shots. Ashton Hagans protects the ball just enough. Texas Tech is able to keep it close, but Kentucky has more scorers which propel them to a close win. This is one of the more intriguing Big 12 SEC Challenge games.

Kansas State Wildcats at Alabama Crimson Tide

Kansas State has struggled mightily this season. Entering this game, they have lost seven of their last ten and just flat out cannot score. In true college basketball fashion, they hung 84 on West Virginia which makes no sense. Although Kansas State is a top sixty defense, the numbers are a bit misleading because they allow more than 100 points per possession against power six teams. They play a very slow pace, which means there will be a clash of polar opposite styles in this game. 

Alabama started the season slowly in year one of Nate Oats’ coaching tenure, however, they have picked it up of late. They really only have one bad loss and it was in game one by one point to Penn. They have more than one point per possession in ten of their 17 games this season. However, the defense is a bit lackluster. In this matchup that should not be much of a problem.

The Prediction

Alabama 74, Kansas State 65. Alabama has too much talent offensively. They are at home and are on a hot streak. That continues as Kansas State struggles to match the Crimson Tide.

Baylor Bears at Florida Gators

This is shaping up to be the best matchup of the Big 12 SEC Challenge. Baylor is the number one team in the nation, which seems like more of a blessing than a curse this season. Regardless, they have played excellent basketball and have earned the distinction of the top team in the land. Baylor boasts the fourth-best defense and a top 30 offense. Baylor is an elite offensive rebounding team that creates easy opportunities. They also utilize a matchup zone and many different defensive looks to confuse opponents. In their close games, they have struggled to shoot and were limited on the glass. That seems to be the recipe for success to knock off the Bears

Florida is a confusing team this season. In terms of pure talent, the Gators are a top-five team. However,  they have been unranked since the beginning of December, and deservedly so. Like Baylor, Florida is propelled by its defense with a ton of athleticism on the floor at all tons. When the defense is rolling, they are tough to beat, like in a 69-47 win over Auburn. When the defense lacks focus, they are awful like in a 91-75 loss to Missouri. For this game, there should be no excuses with the number one team coming to town. Offensively, they struggle finding good shots and play far too much isolation without any real offense.

The Prediction

Baylor 62, Florida 57. Florida does not do enough to be trusted. The home-court advantage will be strong, but Baylor is more consistent. The Bears sneak one out by forcing Florida into bad shots.

The Final Result

The Big 12 SEC Challenge ends in a tie with both conferences winning five games. There are some matchups that involve very even teams, but undoubtedly, Baylor at Florida and Kentucky at Texas Tech are must-see television.

 

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