The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

January 24, 2014

Teams battling for No. 3 behind Florida, Kentucky

— A look at five things to watch in the Southeastern Conference this week:

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: Tennessee at No. 6 Florida. The Volunteers could use a quality road win to boost their NCAA tournament hopes. Although Florida has made back-to-back trips to the NCAA regional finals while Tennessee has failed to earn an NCAA bid each of the last two years, the Vols have dominated this series lately. Tennessee has won all three of its games with Florida during Cuonzo Martin's three-year tenure as the Vols' coach. The Vols now must try to end Florida's 25-game home winning streak.

LOOKING AHEAD: Florida and Kentucky are widely considered to be the top two teams in the Southeastern Conference, but there's a clump of programs behind them vying for national attention. Missouri and Georgia are both off to a 4-1 start in league play while LSU and Tennessee are among four teams at 3-2. Missouri — which jumped out to a 12-1 record during non-conference play — has had a slow 2-3 start against SEC foes.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kentucky hopes big man Willie Cauley-Stein can bounce back from his recent slide. The 7-foot sophomore has emerged as one of the nation's elite defensive players — while also showing progress on the offensive end — but has averaged just 1.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 0.7 blocks over the last three games while battling foul trouble and ineffective play.

KEY STATS: Arkansas is now 45-6 at home and 2-21 in true road games during coach Mike Anderson's tenure. The Razorbacks were expected to be a factor in the SEC this season, but still haven't shown they can break through on the road. ... Georgia and South Carolina combined for 86 free throws in the Bulldogs' 97-76 victory on Wednesday. Georgia tied a school record with 50 free-throw attempts. ... Auburn has lost 15 straight games against SEC competition dating back to last season.

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