COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A look at weekend action around the Southeastern Conference:
It could be a preview of the SEC Tournament semifinals when the top four teams in the conference square off in a pair of high-profile matchups Saturday. League leader No. 3 Auburn is at No. 17 Tennessee, and No. 6 Kentucky goes to No. 18 Arkansas. The four teams, each with double-digit SEC wins, are a near lock for the top four seeds at the SEC tournament in Tampa Bay, Florida, in two weeks. What happens this week will impact the race for a regular-season title. Auburn bounced back from a loss at Florida last Saturday by beating Ole Miss 77-64 on Wednesday. Jabari Smith had 15 points and Walker Kessler racked up another double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. The Vols also rebounded this week after a loss, defeating Missouri on Tuesday. Kentucky has won its past two, while Arkansas is one of the hottest teams in the league with wins in 12 of its past 13 games. The Wildcats may not be at full strength for the matchup, with coach John Calipari saying injured guards Sahvir Wheeler and TyTy Washington, who missed the LSU win earlier this week, could be out against the Razorbacks.
PLAYER TO WATCH
South Carolina guard Jermaine Couisnard has had back-to-back games with 20-plus points for the first time in his career and has been instrumental in the Gamecocks' four consecutive victories. Couisnard, a 6-foot-4 junior from East Chicago, Indiana, went for a career-best 33 points last Saturday in a win over LSU. He followed that up with 22 points in South Carolina's victory over Mississippi State this past Wednesday. Couisnard and the Gamecocks head to face No. 24 Alabama on Saturday night.
TEAM TO WATCH
Arkansas has won 12 of its past 13 games since mid-January, the lone loss coming to Alabama 68-67 two weeks ago. The Razorbacks have wins over three ranked opponents in that stretch, including an 80-76 victory over then-top-ranked Auburn. JD Notae has led the charge for Arkansas Notae is second in SEC scoring at 18.7 points a game while adding more than four rebounds, three assists and two steals per contest. Jaylin Williams, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, is averaging 10.4 points and 9.6 rebounds a game. The Razorbacks can make an even bigger statement this weekend when they play No. 6 Kentucky at home, where they are 15-1 this season.
The SEC Tournament starts March 9 with the four highest seeds squaring off. The top four seeds — right now, Auburn, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee — have double byes into Friday's quarterfinals. The finals are Sunday, March 13, just a few hours before the NCAA Tournament selections are announced.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Vanderbilt guard Scotty Pippen Jr., the league's top scorer, was named co-player of the week as he averaged 26.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.5 in two games. ... Entering the week, the SEC had 96 Quad 1 or 2 victories, the most of any league in the nation. ... Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe is leading the SEC in both defensive rebounds (9.9 per game) and offensive boards (5.3 per game). ... South Carolina's Jermaine Couisnard had 33 points in beating LSU, tying Vanderbilt's Scotty Pippen Jr. and Ole Miss' Jarkel Joiner for most in a game this season. ... Auburn's Walker Kessler leads the SEC with a .703 shooting percentage. If that holds, it would rank third all-time in SEC history.
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE
Top-ranked South Carolina wrapped up its second regular-season SEC crown in three years with a 89-48 victory at Texas A&M on Thursday night. Gamecocks' All-American Aliyah Boston also had her 20th straight game with double figure points and rebounds to surpass the previous best of 19 straight set by LSU great Sylvia Fowles in 2006-07. The Gamecocks close the season at Ole Miss on Sunday and will enter the SEC Tournament as the No. 1 seed and the heavy favorite to win their seventh tournament title in the past eight seasons.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/College-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/Womenscollegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25