TV Schedule: Saturday, Feb. 13, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Arena: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, S.C.
Tied for first place in the SEC, no one expected the South Carolina Gamecocks to be where they are now coming into the season. With a stunning 21-3 record that includes back-to-back wins over the No. 8 Texas A&M Aggies and Ben Simmons and the LSU Tigers in their last two outings, Frank Martin and Co. could run away with the SEC with a win on Saturday, as the No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats head to Columbia in a game that determines who leads the SEC moving forward.
Kentucky has looked absolutely fantastic at home this season but have struggled heavily on the road, losing to several teams that should not make the 2016 NCAA tournament, such as the Tennessee Volunteers, Auburn Tigers and UCLA Bruins. With their top of the SEC showdown with the Gamecocks coming in South Carolina, the Wildcats and their fans should be extremely nervous about losing yet again and dropping out of the top 25 rankings.
That being said, it has been Kentucky’s defense that fails to show up on the road and not their offense. The Gamecocks are ranked No. 108 in the country in terms of points allowed per game, so Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis should have a monster game. Likewise, South Carolina’s offense is only ranked No. 78 in terms of points per game, so Kentucky’s defense should be able to hold them under 80 points.
I love this South Carolina team and see them as a legitimate Elite Eight threat. However, Kentucky gets a massive win in a close one on the road to keep things interesting in the SEC.
Prediction: Kentucky 80, South Carolina 76