- Associated Press - Friday, February 21, 2014

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

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: LSU at No. 18 Kentucky. LSU has been one of the most inconsistent teams in the league this season, with some impressive victories (Missouri, Kentucky) mixed with a few head-scratching losses (Texas A&M;, Rhode Island). Now the Tigers (16-9, 7-6 SEC) have a chance to knock off the Wildcats (20-6, 10-3) for a second time on Saturday, though it will be much more difficult in Rupp Arena. Kentucky has won five of its past six games and freshman Julius Randle has posted three straight double-doubles.

LOOKING AHEAD: No. 2 Florida (24-2, 13-0) has a great chance at being the No. 1 team in the nation next week if it can win at Ole Miss (16-10, 7-6) on Saturday. The current No. 1 team Syracuse lost to Boston College on Wednesday. Florida has been unstoppable over the past two months, winning a school-record 18 straight games. The Gators haven’t lost since falling 65-64 at Connecticut on Dec. 2 and have a good shot at finishing league play undefeated. They have road games against Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Their two toughest remaining opponents - Kentucky and LSU - must come to Gainesville.

PLAYER TO WATCH: After Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes didn’t attempt a shot in the final 17 ½ minutes of a 75-70 loss at Missouri on Saturday, Volunteers coach Cuonzo Martin emphasized the importance of getting the ball to the 6-foot-8 forward as much as possible. Martin responded with 20 points and 11 rebounds Tuesday in a 67-48 rout of Georgia. Tennessee needs Stokes to maintain that dominant pace as it strives for an NCAA tournament bid.

KEY STATS: Florida’s Casey Prather continues to have a fantastic senior season after spending most of his college career as a role player. The 6-foot-6 forward is averaging a team-high 15.7 points per game and is one of the league’s most efficient players, shooting nearly 63 percent from the field. … Georgia is alone at third place in the SEC with an 8-5 record and the Bulldogs are winning with defense and rebounding. They’re allowing opponents to shoot just 40 percent from the field in league games, which ranks second in the SEC, and they’re outrebounding league opponents by nearly seven per game.

ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: No. 16 Texas A&M; has emerged as No. 4 South Carolina’s biggest challenger for the SEC title by winning four straight games. South Carolina is a game ahead of Texas A&M; in the SEC standings, but the Aggies own the tiebreaker advantage by virtue of their 67-65 overtime victory over the Gamecocks in their only regular-season meeting. … Georgia’s Shacobia Barbee headed into Thursday’s action as one of only six Division I players leading their teams in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game.


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



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