- Associated Press - Friday, January 29, 2016

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

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 1 Oklahoma at LSU: The Tigers get a tough home matchup in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, hosting the top-ranked Sooners and guard Buddy Hield. LSU will counter with impressive freshman forward Ben Simmons. LSU has won four of its past five games and could go a long way toward cementing itself as an NCAA Tournament team with a victory over the Sooners. Honorable mention: No. 20 Kentucky travels to No. 4 Kansas.

LOOKING AHEAD: The SEC will look to boost its NCAA Tournament credentials in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Saturday’s event gives Florida, LSU and Vanderbilt opportunities to help themselves. Florida hosts No. 9 West Virginia, LSU hosts No. 1 Oklahoma and Vanderbilt visits Texas. No. 5 Texas A&M;, No. 20 Kentucky and South Carolina all should make the NCAA Tournament, but everyone else in the conference still has plenty of work to do.

PLAYER TO WATCH: South Carolina’s Michael Carrera has been fantastic over his past three games, averaging 25 points to help the Gamecocks go 2-1 over that span. The 6-foot-5 Carrera’s best game was his most recent - a 34-point, 15-rebound performance in a win against Mississippi State. The senior is averaging 16 points per game in conference play while shooting nearly 51 percent from the field.

NUMBERS GAME: The SEC has gone 4-5 against the Big 12 this season heading into the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The SEC also is 8-11 against the Atlantic Coast Conference, 0-7 against the Big Ten and 1-6 against the Pac-12. … Tennessee’s 63-57 loss at Alabama on Tuesday marked the second time this season the Volunteers lost an SEC game after leading by at least 13 points in the second half. … Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis has combined at least 20 points and five assists in eight games this season. No Kentucky player has done that since at least 1972-73, the earliest season the school has assist statistics available. Kyle Macy did it seven times in 1979-80 and Jamal Mashburn matched that in 1992-93.

ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: No. 13 Mississippi State beat Tennessee for the first time Wednesday when it rallied from a double-digit deficit to beat the 19th-ranked Lady Vols 65-63 in overtime. Mississippi State had lost its first 36 meetings with the Lady Vols. … No. 22 Missouri has been in ranked for six straight weeks, its longest streak of consecutive Top 25 appearances since 1984.

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AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this story.

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