SEC Conference Odds Report: Can Calipari Catch the Tigers by Their Tails?
By: Brent Booher
After enjoying one of the best college football seasons in history, life as an LSU Tigers fan must be really good right now.
Thanks to their college basketball team, life may even get better for Tiger Nation.
18th ranked LSU (17-4, 8-0 SEC) currently is riding a 10-game winning streak and is the lone unbeaten team in SEC conference play coming into the month of February.
After a promising season a year ago hit a snag when coach Will Wade was caught up in the Adidas scandal that disrupted several program seasons, LSU has rebounded incredibly well and has been one of the biggest surprises in college basketball this season.
Not many people believed LSU would resume their strong play a year ago, particularly after losing Tremont Waters and Naz Reid, but after surviving the NCAA’s clutches, Wade has assembled another very talented group capable of making a run at the SEC championship for the second straight year.
If there is a knock to LSU’s hot start to the season, it’s that their schedule has been relatively soft for the most part. They have yet to face Auburn or Kentucky this year, and their biggest win to date was a 84-82 home win over conference foe Florida. Essentially, we know LSU is good, we just don’t know how good they are just yet.
This week though, we should get a better idea to what this iteration of LSU basketball really looks like as following a trip against lowly Vanderbilt (Feb. 5), LSU heads to Auburn (Feb. 8) for their biggest test to date.
If they sweep this two-game road trip, the LSU Tigers should be a team to be taken very seriously going forward the rest of the way.
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Auburn’s Odds as They Prove Once Again They Are a Force to be Reckoned With
Bruce Pearl is showing this season that Auburn’s run to a Final Four a year ago was not a fluke as Pearl once again has the Tigers at the top of the SEC with very real championship aspirations, conference and National alike.
11th ranked Auburn (19-2, 6-2 SEC) is coming off a 75-66 win over Kentucky on February 1st, and has picked right up where they left off last season with a barrage of 3-point baskets and stingy defense up and down the floor.
The Tigers have quite possibly the most balanced attack in the conference, with five players averaging double digits in scoring and nine players averaging at least 11 minutes of playing time.
Despite Auburn trailing LSU by 2 games in the standings, oddsmakers are also keen on the Tigers chances to win the SEC as their SEC Odds are listed at +500 to do just that.
This week, Auburn faces a tough slate of games as the Tigers go on the road to play Arkansas (Feb. 4) before returning home to have a “Battle of the Tigers” when they host the aforementioned 18th ranked LSU Tigers (Feb. 8).
Of Course, Kentucky’s Odds are Fun as They Are Still Very Dangerous
The Kentucky Wildcats, as is often the case, have been a bit of an enigma in the first three months of the college basketball season.
Once again, John Calipari has a team filled with young talent that had to navigate through inconsistency in the early parts of the season. Kentucky opened up their season with a win over then #1 Michigan State, then followed that up with losses to Evansville, Utah and Ohio State.
Since then though, the Wildcats have begun to gel and as is typically the case with a Calipari team, they’re starting to pick up quite a bit of steam.
Kentucky has gone 8-2 since starting the season 8-3, including wins over Louisville and Texas Tech.
Last week, #15 Kentucky did have a 75-66 setback at the hands of Auburn, but this remains a team that is exceptionally dangerous to make a run at yet another SEC championship and potentially a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
As of this writing, the Wildcats are still considered the odds-on favorite to win the SEC at +250, and thanks to their remaining schedule – they have a very clear path to doing just that.
This week, the ‘Cats will host Mississippi State (Feb. 4) before heading to Knoxville for a date with Rick Barnes’ Tennessee Volunteers.
Handicapping the Rest of the SEC Odds
While the SEC is certainly more of a power conference in football, this is also a pretty deep conference in college basketball.
Florida (13-8, 5-3 SEC) currently squarely resides on the bubble in terms of the NCAA Tournament, and while they are a bit of a long shot (+700) to catch up to the top of the SEC standings and win the regular season conference championship, they’re dangerous enough to impact the race for the SEC and still have two matchups against Kentucky and a home date against LSU remaining on their schedule.
Given their presence on the bubble, the Gators should not be taken lightly at all.
Frank Martin’s South Carolina Gamecocks (13-8, 5-3 SEC) are very similar to the Gators.
Just like Florida, South Carolina has some great wins on their resume but also has a few really ugly losses that has their NCAA Tournament status in question.
However, they too are dangerous enough to shake things up in the race to win the SEC – and a future date with LSU looms down the road that could be enough to take South Carolina off the bubble and put them in the field of 68.
Their prospects to rally and win the SEC seem much more daunting however, as oddsmakers have the Gamecocks SEC Odds at +5000.
Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi State are all also teams with NCAA Tournament aspirations, but like Florida and South Carolina they have work to do in order to get off the bubble.