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Breakdown: Was the ACC-SEC Challenge good or bad for Kentucky?

Travis Fannon
Kentucky guards Reed Sheppard (15) and Jordan Burks (23) high-five during the No. 12 Kentucky vs. No. 8 Miami mens basketball game on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 95-73. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff

The first edition of the ACC-SEC Challenge is in the books, but the question now remains: how did it affect its participants?

The challenge was created to replace both the Big 12-SEC Challenge and the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

With all SEC schools having an ACC counterpart, the conferences finished an even 7-7 against each other. With that in mind, let’s break down each game and if it was good or bad for the SEC and Kentucky in particular.

No. 12 Kentucky versus No. 8 Miami

Result: Kentucky won 95-73

Good or bad for Kentucky? VERY GOOD

This one is fairly self explanatory. The Cats decimated the Miami Hurricanes inside Rupp Arena in what is, without a doubt, their most convincing performance thus far.

Kentucky guard Rob Dillingham (12) controls the ball during the No. 12 Kentucky vs. No. 8 Miami mens basketball game on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 95-73. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff

Arguments can and will be made that Miami was severely overrated and, while that’s likely true, a 22-point win over a top 10 team can never be a bad thing.

Kentucky did suffer a minor setback when freshman point guard D.J. Wagner went down with an ankle injury, but in his absence Reed Sheppard stepped up and stepped up big.

Sheppard recorded 21 points with five rebounds and four assists, finishing with the highest +/- on the team at +35.

With Sheppard on the floor Kentucky is a force to be reckoned with, and that’s not even touching on strong showings from Antonio Reeves, Rob Dillingham, Adou Thiero and Tre Mitchell.

Kentucky genuinely may have one of the best offenses in the country and, if it’s hitting shots, can run almost anybody off the court.

Perhaps more encouraging though, Kentucky had a solid night defensively and showed promise on that side of the ball.

College basketball world beware, Kentucky may be one you want to avoid in March.

Miami is sure to drop in the rankings, but this win was extremely validating for the Wildcats.

Georgia Tech versus No. 21 Mississippi State

Result: Georgia Tech won 67-59

Good or bad for Kentucky? BAD

The first of several ranked SEC teams to lose to unranked competition in the challenge, Mississippi State did not impress.

Kentucky Wildcats guard Dontaie Allen (11) stares down a defender during the UK vs. Mississippi State basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 82-74. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

The Bulldogs have one of the better defenses in all of college basketball, but simply don’t have the offense to match up. This was evident against the Yellow Jackets.

Mississippi State held Georgia Tech to shooting just 34% from the field and 30% from beyond the arch, a figure that would be impressive if the Bulldogs themselves didn’t shoot 31% and 23% respectively.

Mississippi State had been flirting with danger already, having close games over the likes of Nicholls State (13 points), Northwestern (nine points) and Washington State (12 points), but losing to a Tech squad that suffered defeat against UMass Lowell and was blown out by Cincinnati (35 points) is not a good look.

To make matters worse, the Yellow Jackets were without a made field goal in the last nearly five minutes… and still won by eight points. Tech led by 13 at the break.

Josh Hubbard led the Bulldogs with 17 points off the bench, continuing his reputation as the team’s leading scorer, while Cameron Matthews, who started, gave State two points and fouled out. If I’m piling on, Matthews went 0-2 from the charity stripe.

Simply put, this is a loss that should drop Mississippi State out of the AP Poll come Monday and it doesn’t do much to pose Georgia Tech as a legitimate threat either.

No. 23 Alabama versus Clemson

Result: Clemson won 85-77

Good or bad for Kentucky? BAD

In a complete 180 from Mississippi State, No. 23 Alabama also lost to unranked competition, but did so with a strong offense and an abysmal defense.

Kentucky Wildcats guard Adou Thiero (3) dribbles the ball up the court during the Kentucky vs. No. 7 Alabama mens basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Alabama won 78-52. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

Alabama ranks top 10 in most advanced statistical websites in offensive efficiency, with KenPom even giving the Crimson Tide the No. 1 overall spot, but you’ll struggle to find any metric that puts it within the top 40 on defense.

As such, it was somewhat surprising to see the Tide come out flat on offense, shooting just 34% from the field and 31% from beyond the arch, though it wasn’t surprising at all to see it give up 85 points on defense.

In fact, Alabama has only kept two of its opponents, South Alabama and Mercer, below 70 points.

Morehead State (73), Indiana State (80) and Oregon (91!) all managed to have stronger offensive nights in defeat. Both of the Tide’s losses, Ohio State and now Clemson, also scored 92 and 85 respectively.

Mark Sears had a strong night with 23 points, just narrowly over his season average of 20.7 points per game, but several other members of the Tide struggled. Jarin Stevenson, who averages 7.1 per game, came up completely dry with zero points on only one shot attempt.

Alabama will likely be fine long term, with few teams able to keep up offensively, but the loss against Clemson only further validated that this is a very flawed Tide team that may take some questionable losses thanks to defensive collapses.

To its credit, Clemson is a solid basketball team at 6-0 and could be ranked in the next AP Poll barring disaster against Pittsburgh on Sunday, but even then the Tigers have narrow victories over UAB (one point) and Davidson (three points). Not great.

South Carolina versus Notre Dame

Result: South Carolina won 65-53

Good or bad for Kentucky? GOOD

What a fun surprise South Carolina has been this season so far.

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari stands on the sideline during the Kentucky vs. South Carolina mens basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. South Carolina won 71-68, ending Kentucky’s 28-game home winning streak. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

The Gamecocks did not have a ton of hype going into the season after finishing the 2022-23 campaign 11-21, but they currently stand 6-0 on the year and have received votes in the AP Poll.

South Carolina still doesn’t rank particularly well in advanced metrics, ranking 108 and 97 in offense and defense per BartTorvik and 70 and 75 per KenPom, but it has done all it can so far: win games.

The wins are usually not very pretty, but they’re wins regardless and they are slowly but surely building South Carolina into a resume-building opportunity that, for lack of a better term, isn’t worthless. Alternatively, a loss to the Gamecocks may not be as bad as it would have been last year, though the Cats will still look to not suffer defeat at their hands.

Both teams were abysmal from the field in this matchup, with Notre Dame shooting 33% and South Carolina shooting 38% from the field. Neither team shot better than 29% from beyond the arch either.

With that said, Meechie Johnson went off for Carolina, scoring 29 points, a great game even for the Cocks’ leading scorer. B.J. Mack also had a strong showing with 17 points, just narrowly surpassing his average of 16.2 points per game.

Notre Dame is not a very good squad by any stretch, getting run off the court by Auburn and suffering a double-digit loss against Western Carolina, but all that really means for Carolina is that it couldn’t lose this game, and it didn’t.

Especially in a challenge that saw so many of the more “legit” SEC squads suffer defeat, South Carolina slowly building a resume can only mean good things for Kentucky as it gets closer to conference play.

Syracuse versus LSU

Result: Syracuse won 80-57

Good or bad for Kentucky? VERY BAD

This one was ugly for the SEC. Nobody was arguing LSU was going to be even remotely good this year, but losing to Syracuse by 23 is bleak.

Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) attempts to block a shot during the Kentucky vs. LSU mens basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 74-71. Photo by Isabel McSwain | Staff (Isabel McSwain)

LSU has struggled immensely since parting ways with Will Wade and former Murray State head coach Matt McMahon has had difficulty steering the ship.

The Tigers finished the 2022-23 season 14-19 and currently stand at 4-3 with losses against Nicholls State, Dayton and now Syracuse.

LSU’s offense is quite poor, ranking 103 per BartTorvik and 120 per KenPom, which was on full display in the loss, scoring just 57 points.

Leading scorer Will Baker, who averages 14.4 points per game, scored just three points in 16 minutes, going 1-5 from the field, with Carlos Stewart only adding two points himself.

Jordan Wright and Jalen Reed did their best, combining for 29 points, but even then the duo went a combined 12-25 from the field.

If that isn’t bad enough, LSU went 9% from beyond the arch. Nine. This was accomplished by making just two of 22 attempted 3-pointers.

Having a poor offense isn’t a death sentence on its own, but LSU simply doesn’t have any kind of formidable defense to make up for it.

The Tigers gave up 80 points to a poor Syracuse team that is struggling to adjust in a post Jim Boeheim world and one that has a sub-100 offense itself per many advanced metrics.

LSU may compare to last year’s South Carolina squad in how pivotal it will be for any SEC contender to ensure it doesn’t lose to this squad.

Pittsburgh versus Missouri

Result: Missouri won 71-64

Good or bad for Kentucky? GOOD

Missouri needed to ensure it didn’t lose this game and it did just that. Not a half bad win, either.

Missouri Tigers forward Noah Carter (35) hypes up the crowd during the No. 19 Kentucky vs. Missouri mens basketball game on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri. Missouri won 89-75. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

The Tigers have a very questionable loss to Jackson State – at home to make matters worse – that put a serious damper on their resume, which they have struggled to build since news came out that Kaleb Brown, dubbed the most-improved player in the offseason, was ruled out for the year with a stress fracture in his shin.

With that said, despite holding Pittsburgh to just 64 points, Missouri’s defense is not well regarded by advanced stats sites, with BartTorvik rating it 106 and KenPom rating it 91.

While not as obvious as Alabama’s flawed defense, Missouri has still struggled on that side of the ball, giving up 79 against Arkansas Pine Bluff, 73 against Jackson State and 70 against Loyola Maryland.

Looking at the offensive side of the ball, the sites have some disagreement. Torvik ranks Missouri 41 in the country while KenPom ranks it 77.

At the very least it’s been inconsistent.

55 points against Memphis reflected some of the worst of the Tigers while 101 against UAPB and 82 against South Carolina State showed the upside.

Against the Panthers it was leading scorer Sean East II, who averages 16.1 points per game, who dropped 21 to lead the Tigers while Noah Carter met his average of 13 points per game and Tamar Bates surpassed his average of 7.9 points with 12.

Missouri was 45% from the field and scored 30 points in the paint, some figures that just might be enough to make up for the fact that it shot 64% from the free-throw line. Gotta work on that, Mizzou.

This was a solid resume-building win for Missouri and means good things for the SEC and Kentucky. The Cats still won’t want to lose to Missouri, but a win will be much better if the Tigers keep this up.

Ole Miss versus NC State

Result: Ole Miss won 72-52

Good or bad for Kentucky? VERY GOOD

Chris Beard has Ole Miss moving in the right direction quickly.

Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) boxes out Mississippi Rebels forward Luis Rodriguez (15) during the UK vs. Ole Miss mens basketball game on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 83-72. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Beard’s hiring, after his firing from Texas, brought plenty of attention to Oxford, Mississippi, for the potential it had — and off the court reasons as well — but few could have expected things to be this good this quickly.

The Rebels currently stand at 6-0 on the season and handily defeated NC State by 20 points in a performance that may not see them break into the AP Poll but will certainly get them votes.

Advanced metrics still aren’t sold on the Rebels just yet, with KenPom ranking them 103rd and BartTorvik putting them at 67, but, similar to South Carolina, they’ve done all they can: win games.

Ole Miss isn’t known for its elite offense, with it ranking 85 or lower in both metrics. The 72 points marked the third most the Revels have scored all season, with the high being 77 against Temple, but it was enough.

Jaemyn Brakefield, who typically only averages 8.3 points per game, erupted for 25 points, going 8-12 from the field, while leading scorer Allen Flanigan added 15 and Jaylen Murray and Matthew Murrell both added 12.

The Rebels shot 41% from the field and 35% from beyond the arch, which hardly set the world on fire but, again, was enough.

On defense the Rebels have a lot of dissent in where they stack up. Torvik has them as high as 58 while KenPom ranked them 115.

Regardless of which you believe, they held a Wolfpack squad that had averaged 82.6 points per game to just 52 points. Granted, NC State made just three of its 25 threes, but the point stands.

The Wolfpack are hardly an elite team by any stretch, but its far from a pushover either, ranking 63rd per Torvik and 74th per KenPom.

Overall, the win was a big one for the Rebels’ resume and greatly validated what Beard is building in Oxford. As such, similar to Missouri, Kentucky still won’t want to lose to Ole Miss, but will benefit more from a win than it otherwise would.

Vanderbilt versus Boston College

Result: Boston College won 80-62

Good or bad for Kentucky? VERY BAD

Keeping my Boston College bias in check, Vanderbilt is in trouble this year.

Kentucky Wildcats guard Antonio Reeves (12) guards Vanderbilt Commodores guard Tyrin Lawrence (0) during the No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 6 Vanderbilt mens basketball game in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals on Friday, March 10, 2023, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt won 80-73. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

While Boston College has looked better this year than it has in years prior, it still ranks sub 100 in both offense and defense per BartTorvik and sub 100 on defense per KenPom with the No. 86 offense.

The Eagles also have a puzzling loss against Loyola Chicago, a team that KenPom clocks in at No. 128. Explaining that a bit easier, Boston College just barely clocks in the top 100 college basketball teams in the country.

If that isn’t bad enough, that’s not even close to the Commodores’ worst loss this season, with their fumbling against Presbyterian, a team that ranks 290 in the country, taking that cake.

Vanderbilt is not a good basketball team and head coach Jerry Stackhouse is in trouble.

KenPom gives the Commodores the No. 122 offense in the country and the unfathomable No. 286 defense. Torvik is a tad kinder, ranking Vanderbilt 98 on offense and 202 on defense.

The 62 points scored by the Commodores tied the lowest all season with the aforementioned Presbyterian loss.

Ezra Manjon led the Commodores with 16 points, a figure that comes up short of his season average, while guys like Tyrin Lawrence, Evan Taylor and Ven-Allen Lubin, who all average double digit point totals on their own, combined for just 14 points.

On defense the Commodores allowed Boston College to crack the 80 point mark for just the second time all season, a feat it first recorded in a win over Fairfield, a team struggling to stay within the top 300 teams in the country per KenPom.

Things are very bad in Nashville and, unless something drastic happens, Vanderbilt will be on the list of teams you simply can’t lose to.

Arkansas versus No. 7 Duke

Result: Arkansas won 80-75

Good or bad for Kentucky? VERY GOOD

Putting aside judgment at the decision of Arkansas fans to storm the court, this was a massive win for the SEC when it really needed it.

Arkansas entered the season with some doubts from numerous outlets and metrics, with some lacking confidence in Eric Musselman to be able to repeat the success of last season.

Kentucky Wildcats gaurd Cason Wallace (22) drives the ball during the Kentucky vs. Arkansas mens basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

While the Razorbacks have a questionable loss against UNC Greensboro, they’ve mostly looked the part this season and that was only further validated with the win over the Blue Devils.

Not all top 10 teams are created equal, Miami proved that, and the Blue Devils are not top 10 in most advanced metrics, but they are top 15 and that counts for something.

BartTorvik ranks Duke No. 15 in the country with the No. 16 offense and No. 25 defense while KenPom gives the Blue Devils the No. 13 slot with the No. 14 offense and No. 26 defense.

As for Arkansas, both metrics have the Hogs in the exact same slot: No. 47.

Interestingly, they’re fairly equal on both sides of the ball with the offense being graded No. 45 by both sources and the defense being ranked 47 and 42 respectively.

Perhaps what makes the win more impressive for Arkansas, overlooking that Duke shot just 36% from the field and 27% from beyond the arch, is that it got it without its leading scorer Tramon Mark, who gave the Hogs an average of 18.4 points per game before suffering an injury during the Battle 4 Atlantis.

In Mark’s absence it was Khalif Battle and Trevon Brazile, a duo that usually combines for an average of 26.9 points per game, that stepped up and combined for 40 points.

The Razorbacks shot 49% on offense and dominated Duke on the defensive boards 35-23.

Arkansas is going to be a tough team to face, especially when the Cats travel to Fayetteville in late January, but the win over Duke only serves to make it a stronger resume-building opportunity if they were to win.

No. 17 North Carolina versus No. 10 Tennessee

Result: North Carolina won 100-92

Good or bad for Kentucky? BAD

This one is a bit tougher to grade due to the flow of the game. The final score certainty does not reflect the entirety of the matchup or its potential implications.

Under 10 minutes into the game North Carolina led Tennessee by 16 points, a figure that got up to as high as 23 points before UNC entered halftime with a 22-point lead over the Vols with the score at 61-39.

Tennessee looked dead in the water.

Kentucky Wildcats guard Antonio Reeves (12) looks to pass the ball during the Kentucky vs. No. 10 Tennessee mens basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 66-54. Photo by Brady Saylor | Staff (Brady Saylor)

Then, in the second half, it was as though a switch flipped as Tennessee out-scored North Carolina 53-39 to make it a game late.

Revisionist historians one day may even argue that the Volunteers go on to win this game if it isn’t for the injury to Tennessee star Dalton Knecht with roughly 1:39 left on the clock and the score at 92-84.

Knecht erupted in this game, scoring 37 points and shooting 13-17 from the field. Losing him was a crippling blow to the UT morale late in the game, despite the fact that the Tar Heels had to record their final eight points from the charity stripe, ending the game with a nearly seven minute live-ball scoring drought.

Josiah-Jordan James had a strong showing in the game as well for UT, dropping 20 points, nearly double his season average.

This was quite promising for a Tennessee team who, while solid on offense, tends to not jump off the charts, ranking No. 34 in KenPom and No. 59 in BartTorvik.

What wasn’t promising was Tennessee’s defense, one of the best in the country – ranked No. 3 by KenPom and No. 2 by Torvik – giving up 100 points.

Arguments can be made that this had far more to do with UNC, which had three players score 20 or more and shot 43% from beyond the arch and 46% from the field, and, sure, but the fact of the matter remains that the loss to the Heels was the third straight for Tennessee.

Sure, those losses came against then No. 2 Purdue (71-67), then No. 1 Kansas (69-60) and No. 17 UNC, but it may be somewhat alarming that, with Purdue being the highest ranked of those teams now and UNC the lowest, the losses have seemed to get worse with chronology.

The strength of Tennessee is going to depend on the severity of the injury to Knecht, but Kentucky fans should hope for resume’s sake that UT is able to right the ship and regain some momentum this season.

Virginia versus No. 14 Texas A&M

Result: Virginia won 59-47

Good or bad for Kentucky? BAD

Another puzzling one for the SEC, this game marked the third time in the challenge that a ranked SEC squad lost to an unranked ACC team.

It also marked the second loss in three games for Buzz Williams and Texas A&M.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: 47 points.

Kentucky Wildcats guard Cason Wallace (22) passes the ball during the Kentucky vs. Texas A&M mens basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 76-67. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

This was a staggering figure for a Texas A&M squad that ranks top 10 in both KenPom and BartTorvik in offensive efficiency, and especially for an Aggie team that had never scored less than 73 in a game up to that point.

Credit is due to Virginia, which ranks top 10 in defensive efficiency in both metrics, with KenPom even ranking it as high as No. 6, but questions need to be asked of an Aggie squad that shot just 30% from the field and made just four of its 23 attempted 3-pointers.

The Aggies’ leading scorer, Wade Taylor IV, who averages 18.6 points per game, scored just nine while a guy like Tyrece Radford, who missed the game with injury, was sorely missed.

Really the only A&M player with a solid offensive showing was Henry Coleman III, who dropped 16 points to go along with 14 rebounds, meaning Coleman III scored 34% of the Aggies’ total number of points while only surpassing his season average by roughly two points.

This is made even more perplexing when it’s taken into account that Virginia recorded a staggering zero points from its bench. Sure, A&M only got seven from its non-starters, but zero points is zero points.

Texas A&M’s defense ranks sub 60 in both ranking systems, but that hardly mattered when the winning team only needed at least 48 points to secure victory. Virginia, with its elite defense, has only held one other opponent to less than 50 points and that was Texas Southern, which scored 33 and currently ranks 240 in KenPom.

It’s fun to think that North Carolina A&T (No. 360 [!] in the country per KenPom) and Tarleton State (No. 157) scored more points than the No. 14 team in the country against Virginia.

Virginia will likely be a solid squad this season so the loss isn’t entirely damning, nor will the FAU loss be, but this game represented the worst of what Texas A&M could be and it wasn’t pretty.

Wake Forest versus Florida

Result: Wake Forest won 82-71

Good or bad for Kentucky? BAD

Not a great result for the Gators here.

Neither BartTorvik nor KenPom have Wake Forest ranked any higher than 70th in the country, with the former having it as low as No. 88.

Looking more at the Gators, both systems have come to a relative consensus regarding the offense of Florida, ranking it No. 25 and No. 24 respectively.

Florida Gators guard Kyle Lofton (11) shoots the ball during the Kentucky vs. Florida mens basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 72-67. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

With that in mind, the 71 points marked the second lowest scored all season, second to only UF’s 73-70 loss against – you wouldn’t believe it – Virginia. Still 23 more than Texas A&M, though.

What was interesting was that Florida didn’t have an atrocious night from the field, either, shooting 40% in the game and 33% from beyond the arch, but yet finished the game on a four-minute field goal drought, going 2-10 from the field in its final attempts.

That’s even with leading scorer Riley Kugel surpassing his average points per game by nine points, dropping 24 over the Demon Deacons. Sure, Walter Clayton Jr., Zyon Pullin and Tyrese Samuel didn’t quite meet their season averages, but all three still gave double digits in the points category.

Looking more on the defensive side of the ball, this is where the advanced metrics disagree. Torvik ranked Florida No. 33 in the country in defensive efficiency, but KenPom has the Gators as low as No. 63. Not picking a side but, using a one game sample size, Pomeroy seems more accurate.

The 82 points allowed was the second worst defensive showing of the year for the Gators, only standing better than the 95 points allowed against No. 9 Baylor, but at least in that game UF scored 91.

Credit to Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons haven’t scored below 70 in any game this season – though they did score 71 on two occasions and 70 once – but discredit the Demon Deacons for losing to LSU and Georgia.

Overall, this may have been a game many fans of the sport didn’t pay much attention to, but it wasn’t a great loss for Florida, which is now on a two-game skid.

Florida State versus Georgia

Result: Georgia won 68-66

Good or bad for Kentucky? GOOD

Give a little bit of credit back to Wake Forest now, it’s earned it. Then revoke all that credit again for that LSU loss.

Focusing on the actual game at hand, Georgia knew how to manufacture the drama in this one.

Kentucky Wildcats guard Cason Wallace (22) attempts a shot during the Kentucky vs. Georgia mens basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia. UK lost 68-75. Photo by Isabel McSwain | Staff (Isabel McSwain)

The Bulldogs finished the game on an 18-3 run before recording a buzzer-beating game winner.

UGA had four players scoring in double figures, all of which were led by Silas Demary Jr., who usually scored eight points per game but instead dropped 15 against the Seminoles. Justin Hill added 13 while Jabri Abdur-Rahim and RJ Melendez both provided 12. Leading scorer Noah Thomasson, who usually provides 13.4 points per game, scored just eight points.

It was a decent performance for a UGA offense that ranks No. 136 and No. 137 by KenPom and BartTorvik respectively, even if it was only 68 points.

On the defensive side of the ball, Georgia held the ‘Noles to just 66 points, the second lowest point total it held any team to all season. The only team who scored less was NC Central (ranked No. 277 by KenPom), which dropped a cool 54.

The 66 points by the Seminoles also marked the lowest they have scored all season long, just behind the 68 it scored against Florida. Florida State is 4-2 on the season, 0-2 versus the SEC.

The ‘Noles are hardly a team one goes crazy for defeating, but they certainly rank higher than Georgia. Torvik has them at No. 77 in the nation while KenPom has them No. 73, both of which are higher than Georgia’s rankings of No. 105 and No. 78 respectively.

It’s not a jaw-dropping result, but it’s a good result for the Bulldogs and one the team needed as it searches for some semblance of legitimacy after starting the season 2-3.

When it comes to building a resume for the NCAA Tournament every win counts so the better Georgia can be, the more it could benefit Kentucky.

Auburn versus Virginia Tech

Result: Auburn won 74-57

Good or bad for Kentucky? GOOD

Game number 14, we’ve finally reached the end.

For all the interesting upsets and crazy score lines seen throughout the challenge, it feels as though this one went exactly as it was supposed to.

Both KenPom and BartTorvik rank Auburn within the top 15 in the country at No. 15 and No. 14 respectively. Virginia Tech ranks No. 69 and No. 64 respectively.

Kentucky Wildcats guard Antonio Reeves (12) celebrates after hitting a 3-pointer during the Kentucky vs. Auburn mens basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 86-54. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

Since losing to current No. 9 Baylor to start the season, Auburn has rattled off six straight wins and, while there were no massive games in that span, it did so convincingly.

Auburn hasn’t been known as an elite offensive team this season, ranking No. 29 and No. 33 by KenPom and Torvik respectively in offensive efficiency, but the 74 points scored was the least it had recorded all season thus far. Prior to the win, the Tigers averaged 82.4 points per game.

Leading scorer Johni Broome erupted in the win, dropping 30 points by himself while Chad Baker-Mazara added 15 points. Broome also added 13 rebounds to complete his double double.

Virginia Tech is hardly known for defensive excellence but as it stands its three losses are against undefeated South Carolina, No. 13 FAU and now Auburn, making it a solid win to have on a resume.

On the defensive side of the ball is where Auburn thrives, being ranked No. 11 in both KenPom and Torvik in defensive efficiency.

In fact, the win marked the third time all season the Tigers have held an opponent to under 60 points and that’s not counting when St. Bonaventure scored exactly 60.

With that said, the Tigers will need more of their pieces to get going consistently, with starter Aden Holloway, who usually averages 11 points per game, coming up dry with zero points and going 0-7 from the field.

Regardless, it was a solid win for Auburn and a solid win for the SEC overall.


After breaking down all 14 basketball games in the ACC-SEC Challenge, three results, including Kentucky’s own, were very good for the SEC, with Ole Miss gaining legitimacy, Arkansas recording a massive win and Kentucky blowing out Miami.

Four results were a normal good where nothing crazy happened, but the SEC school came out on top to further build a resume, or rather become a better building block to potentially be on Kentucky’s resume.

Five results were normal bad, where, again, nothing crazy happened, but the SEC seemed out of its depth and potentially took some less-than-ideal losses that may not necessarily hurt their resumes come March, but likely won’t do much to help them either.

Finally, two matches were very bad for the SEC with both LSU and Vanderbilt getting handily defeated by less than stellar competition and further proving how dire the situations are in those respective programs.

If you were to assign a numerical figure to each result, with very good being worth +2, good being worth +1, bad being worth -1 and very bad being worth -2, the ACC-SEC Challenge came out to a +1 in favor of the SEC.

The event, while some may not have held it in as high regard as the two challenges that preceded it, produced some fun results and was quite evenly matched for the most part, and excitement will surely be high when the challenge returns in 2024.

In the meantime Kentucky basketball will return to action on Saturday, Dec. 2, against the Seahawks of UNC Wilmington. That contest is scheduled to tipoff at 4 p.m. ET and will air live on the SEC Network.

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