Kentucky vs. Kansas showdown highlights SEC/Big 12 Challenge

Here are some things to watch in Southeastern Conference basketball this week:


No. 9 Kansas at No. 8 Kentucky: This matchup of two top-10 teams is the headline attraction in Saturday’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Kentucky (15-3) has won five straight, beating No. 16 Auburn (No. 14 at the time) and No. 22 Mississippi State in its last two games. Kansas (16-3) has won four of its last five. Kentucky owns a perfect 11-0 home record, while Kansas is 1-3 in true road games.


Can the SEC get the best of the Big 12? The Big 12 dominated the early years of its annual challenge matchup with the SEC, but the SEC has rallied lately. The SEC went 6-4 in this event last year, marking the first time it had ever won the majority of games. The two conferences split the 10 matchups in 2017. The Big 12 owns a 29-21 overall record in this event thanks to its 20-10 edge in its first three seasons. The bad news for the SEC is that three of its ranked teams won’t be playing in this event. No. 16 Auburn and No. 22 Mississippi State are facing each other instead while No. 25 LSU visits Missouri.


The SEC has six teams in the Top 25 for the first time since January 2003. The SEC’s six ranked teams are No. 1 Tennessee, No. 8 Kentucky, No. 16 Auburn, No. 20 Mississippi, No. 22 Mississippi State and No. 25 LSU. … Tennessee has 13 straight victories for its longest winning streak since the 1922-23 season. … Tennessee’s Grant Williams went 23 of 23 on free throws Wednesday in an 88-83 overtime victory over Vanderbilt . He was one off the NCAA Division I single-game record of 24 consecutive made free throws, set by Oklahoma State’s Arlen Clark on March 7, 1959. … LSU is 5-0 in SEC competition for the first time since 2006. … South Carolina is 5-1 in SEC competition and 5-7 in nonconference games. … Alabama has won eight of its last 12 games against ranked teams, including a 74-53 blowout of Ole Miss on Tuesday.


South Carolina forward Chris Silva showed Tuesday what he’s capable of doing when he avoids foul trouble. Silva shot 11 of 12 from the field and had 32 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in an 80-77 victory over Auburn . Silva delivered that big performance after fouling out in consecutive games against Vanderbilt and LSU. He played just 13 minutes against Vanderbilt and eight minutes against LSU.


No. 7 Mississippi State is the only SEC program ranked among the nation’s top 14 teams this week. The other ranked SEC teams are No. 15 Kentucky, No. 19 South Carolina, No. 24 Texas A&M and No. 25 Missouri. Mississippi State will be playing the rest of the season without forward Chloe Bibby, who injured her knee last week in a victory over South Carolina . The 6-foot-1 Australian was averaging 12.6 points.


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