For Pete's Sake

Ranking the Big 12/SEC Challenge games by watchability

LSU’s Ben Simmons will be a player to watch on Saturday.
LSU’s Ben Simmons will be a player to watch on Saturday. The Associated Press

Saturday is a big day for basketball fans.

It’s the Big 12/SEC Challenge, and games will be shown from 11 a.m. until at least 9 p.m.

ESPN’s “College GameDay” will broadcast from Allen Fieldhouse. The doors open at 6:30 a.m., with “SportsCenter” doing live shots leading to the show from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. That is free for fans who wish to attend, and I know clever signs are always welcome.

There will be 10 games on Saturday and here they are ranked on watchability:

10. Tennessee at TCU, 1 p.m. on ESPN2

The Horned Frogs are last in the Big 12 and have dropped five straight. The Vols are a middling 10-10 overall and 3-5 in SEC play. This will be an easy one to skip, unless you want to watch Tennessee’s Kevin Punter, who is averaging 22.9 points a game.

9. Oklahoma State at Auburn, 7 p.m. on ESPN2

Auburn has the 302nd-ranked scoring defense in the nation, allowing 78.2 points per game. But they like to chuck up the three-pointers (9.6 per game, 20th in the nation). The Cowboys have the Big 12’s second-worst scoring offense (70.8 points per game), but might be able to pick up that average. Auburn is 9-10, while Oklahoma State is 10-10. Not exactly a Bubble Watch type of game.

8. Mississippi at Kansas State, 1 p.m. on ESPNU

As strong as the Big 12 has been this season, it’s no stretch to think that seven teams might back the NCAA Tournament. Thing is, the Wildcats are currently the seventh-place team with an uninspiring 12-8 record. They are 53rd in the NCAA’s RPI. Ole Miss is 103rd in that RPI, so this won’t be a resume builder for the Wildcats, but it’s one they need to win if they harbor NCAA hopes. The Rebels’ Stefan Moody returned Wednesday after suffering a hamstring injury, and he is sixth in the nation in scoring (24.3 points a game).

7. Texas Tech at Arkansas, 3 p.m. on ESPNU

The Hogs are averaging 82.3 points per game but they are allowing 76.1 per contest. It’s all part of the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball” they play under coach Mike Anderson. Tech has lost six of seven and played just four true road games this season. There’s a good chance they’ll have trouble keeping up.

6. Georgia at No. 17 Baylor, 5 p.m. on ESPN2

The Bulldogs are 1-4 on the road and that victory was at Mizzou. They’ve lost at home to K-State in December and Chattanooga in November. Only Missouri and Alabama are scoring fewer points per game in the SEC. Meanwhile, the Bears are averaging 80.2 points per game and is solid on the boards, with a rebound margin of 10.3, the ninth-best in the nation. Rico Gathers is averaging 10.7 rebounds a game.

5. Vanderbilt at Texas, 11 a.m. on ESPN2

The Longhorns are 10-1 at home, having lost to UConn in December. This month, they’ve beaten West Virginia and Iowa State, and hung around at Kansas into the second half. Vandy is a 12-8, which includes a seven-point loss to KU in Hawaii and a two-point loss at Baylor. The Commodores could surprise the Longhorns or at the very least keep things interesting.

4. No. 9 West Virginia at Florida, 11 a.m. on ESPN

The Mountaineers rebound well (their 10.1 margin is 10th-best in the country), are 22nd in scoring defense (63.6 points per game) and have that press that can give teams fits. The Gators are allowing 64.7 points per game (37th in the country) and they will try to slow things down. While Florida is fifth in the SEC with a 5-3 record, they are 9-1 at home and have won four straight in Gainesville.

3. No. 14 Iowa State at No. 5 Texas A&M, 1 p.m. on ESPN

This is a contrast in styles. The Aggies are allowing just 63.8 points a game (24th fewest in the nation). The Cyclones are 12th in the country in scoring, averaging 84.4 points per game. Iowa State is coming off an emotional win over KU on “Big Monday,” and is 4-4 in games in Texas during the regular season over the last two seasons. Texas A&M is 13th in the nation, winning by an average of 14.6 points per game.

2. No. 20 Kentucky at No. 4 Kansas, 6 p.m. on ESPN

This is two of college basketball’s blue bloods. However, KU is in fourth place in the Big 12, while the Wildcats are the 20th-ranked team in the nation. Everyone settle down. I’m just having a little fun. This game will be a blast. A few weeks ago, it seemed like the Jayhawks would win this one easily. But since a loss to Auburn on Jan. 16, the Wildcats have won three straight by an average of 22.3 points. KU has struggled of late (by its standards), but both teams should bring out the best in the other.

1. No. 1 Oklahoma at LSU, 4 p.m. on ESPN

Perhaps this is a surprise, but two of the nation’s best players will be on display. The Sooners’ Buddy Hield is averaging 25.9 points a game (second in the nation) and his 79 three-pointers are the third-most in the country. LSU freshman Ben Simmons 19.8 points per game and is third in the nation, grabbing 12.7 rebounds per game. These guys are both going to be in the NBA soon, so enjoy watching them face off on Saturday.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff

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