The annual Big 12/SEC Challenge has a bit of extra intrigue this season. For the first time since the latest wave of conference realignment over the summer, these two conferences will meet on the court. Eventually the movement among teams switching leagues will send Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12 to the SEC, where they'll compete on the opposite side of this annual college hoops showdown.
Perhaps it's only fitting, then, that the Sooners will travel to No. 1 Auburn as part of the festivities on Saturday. Welcome to the SEC, Sooners! As if life in the Big 12 hasn't been hard enough, good luck in one of the nation's toughest road environments against a team riding a 16-game winning streak.
Meanwhile, Big 12 squads left behind in the realignment such as TCU, Iowa State, Kansas and Texas Tech will get to welcome SEC foes to their home arenas and remind them that the Big 12 is no slouch of a basketball conference. Since the challenge began in the 2013-14 season, the Big 12 owns a 44-35 record. But the SEC squeaked out a 5-4 victory in last season's event and owns a 10-9 edge in games played over the last two seasons.
Ultimately, the national champion came from the Big 12 last season -- Baylor -- and the league is garnering acclaim as the nation's toughest conference this season. If the SEC can pick up some decisive wins on Saturday, perhaps that narrative begins to change.
Here are the breakdowns and expert picks for each game in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook | All times Eastern
6 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) -- The last five times these teams have met, the final margin of victory was eight points or less. Kentucky has been scratching to get a marquee road victory, and if guards Sahvir Wheeler and TyTy Washington can stay healthy for an entire game, the Wildcats will have a shot. But Kansas is proving adept at winning close games, and it has the ultimate trump card in Ochai Agbaji. The senior superstar will be a difficult matchup for UK and should help the Jayhawks win a close one. Prediction: Kansas 77, Kentucky 70
Mississippi State at No. 13 Texas Tech
6 p.m. | ESPN2, fuboTV (Try for free) -- Mississippi State began the week playing at No. 12 Kentucky and ends it by playing at No. 13 Texas Tech. This would be a season-changing victory for the Bulldogs, who are on the outside looking in at the NCAA Tournament picture because of two Quad 3 losses. But if anyone can slow down prolific MSU guard Iverson Molinar, it's the long, rangy, menacing defenders from Texas Tech. Look for the Red Raiders to bounce back from Monday's overtime loss at Kansas. Prediction: Texas Tech 65, Mississippi State 54
8 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) -- Rick Barnes will be coaching his first game at Texas since he and the Longhorns split after the 2014-15 season. Texas hasn't won an NCAA Tournament game since he left, while Barnes has won three with a Tennessee program that was floundering upon his arrival. This may be a cringeworthy offensive game decided by a single possession. If that's the case, home court advantage gives Texas a slight edge. Prediction: Texas 58, Tennessee 57
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12 p.m. | ESPN2, fuboTV (Try for free) -- The health of LSU starters Darius Days and Xavier Pinson looms large in this one. Pinson has missed five straight with a knee injury and Days missed LSU's 70-64 win over Texas A&M on Wednesday with an ankle injury. If either or both can't play, this is a great chance for TCU to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume. The Horned Frogs are 13-4 and would improve to 3-3 in Quad 1 games with a victory. Prediction: TCU 65, LSU 60
2 p.m. | ESPN2, fuboTV (Try for free) -- This one is a battle between teams trending opposite directions. The Razorbacks have won five straight to resurrect their NCAA Tournament hopes while the Mountaineers have dropped four in a row by an average of 14.5 points. Arkansas has only dropped one true home game this season, and West Virginia has lost its last three on the road. Look for Arkansas to dominate the boards and build a big lead in the second half. Prediction: Arkansas 80, West Virginia 70
2 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) -- Auburn played its worst game of the season Tuesday at Missouri with Jabari Smith going just 2 of 15. The Tigers shot only 30% as a team and still won 55-54. Oklahoma snapped a four-game losing streak on Wednesday by beating West Virginia 72-62. The Sooners are solid enough defensively to keep it close, but the Tigers are back at home and should ride the momentum of a raucous environment to victory. Prediction: Auburn 79, Oklahoma 71
Missouri at No. 23 Iowa State
2 p.m. | ESPNU, fuboTV (Try for free) -- Missouri has spent much of this season alternating between impressive and abysmal, with the Tigers' most-recent outing being an impressive one-point home loss against No. 1 Auburn. Iowa State is treading water in the Big 12 and can't afford what would amount to a Quad 3 loss. The Cyclones will ride home-court advantage to a victory, though it may be closer than preferred. Prediction: Iowa State 70, Missouri 66
4 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) -- If these teams had played in mid-December, it would have been No. 1 Baylor taking on No. 6 Alabama. Instead, it's No. 4 Baylor taking on unranked Alabama. The Crimson Tide are just 5-6 over their last 11 games since picking up three straight wins over Miami, Gonzaga and Houston. There may not be a more impressive three-game winning streak assembled by anyone in the nation this season, and that's what's makes the recent struggles so confounding. The Crimson Tide are unpredictable, so it only makes sense that they would follow a horrific loss at Georgia with a victory over the defending national champions. Prediction: Alabama 83, Baylor 80
4 p.m. | ESPN2, fuboTV (Try for free) -- With Florida on a two-game slide and on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, this is something close to a must win. Oklahoma State isn't the team you want to see under those circumstances. With no postseason to play for, the Cowboys have embraced a spoiler role by making life hard on everyone in their path. Wins over Texas and Baylor highlight their body of work, and show that Oklahoma State can match UF's tenacity. Prediction: Oklahoma State 69, Florida 67
4 p.m. | ESPNU, fuboTV (Try for free) -- Five of Kansas State's last seven losses have come by three points or less. By comparison, only one of Ole Miss' 10 losses this season has come by three points or less. The Rebels have looked really good at times -- see a 16-point win over Florida on Monday and a 10-point win over Mississippi State earlier this month -- but when they are bad, they are really bad. K-State still ranks 68th in the NET since seven of its nine losses are against Quad 1 teams. The Wildcats are better than their record suggests and should take care of business against the Rebels. Prediction: Kansas State 67, Ole Miss 60