Challenge 12/SEC big picks, Jermaine Burton drama and second-best SEC men’s hoops team

Adam Spencer | 2 hours ago

I know not everyone agrees with me, but I love this part of the college football/NFL calendar. Yes, I prefer when there are games, but the pre-NFL Draft season is so interesting for me.

This is where it all pays off for these outstanding students. Yes, they can make money with NIL rules now, but the real money is in the NFL.

The NFL Combine is the most engaging week-long job interview in the world. Fictional drafts are fun to browse and not accept. Pro Days help increase draft stock. Then the draft itself is compelling for TV.

Count me in for all the pre-draft stuff over the next few weeks! Now on to your questions for this week’s Mailbag:


The Big 12/SEC Challenge is Saturday. Who do you think wins?

The Big 12/SEC Challenge is always a welcome break from conference play. Last year, the SEC won the event 5-4, with the Kentucky-Texas game canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. This year, assuming all 10 games can be played, here’s a look at who I think will win:

The SEC wins:

  • No. 1 Auburn over Oklahoma
  • No. 19 LSU on TCU
  • Ole Miss on Kansas State
  • Arkansas over West Virginia
  • Florida over Oklahoma State

The big 12 win:

  • No. 4 Baylor over Alabama
  • No. 5 Kansas over No. 12 Kentucky
  • Texas Tech No. 13 on Mississippi State
  • No. 23 Iowa State on Mizzou
  • Texas on No. 18 Tennessee

If Kentucky were 100% healthy and the game was at Rupp Arena, I would definitely pick the Wildcats to upset Kansas. If Tennessee were hosting Texas, I would choose the Flights. But, this year, the SEC had a tough draw. Still, give me a hard-fought tie this year, with both conferences winning 5 games.


Clearly, even after a narrow win at Mizzou, Auburn is the best men’s basketball team in the SEC. Which team is second? Is it Kentucky, even after an OT win over Mississippi State?

It’s a tricky question at this stage of the season. I agree that Auburn is league class, but let’s not forget that Kentucky had a big lead at Auburn Arena last weekend before TyTy Washington was injured and Sahvir Wheeler was crushed by another screen.

You could argue that Kentucky didn’t lose an SEC game this year while at full strength. But, arguably the Wildcats’ 2 toughest games (and their 2 SEC losses) — at LSU and Auburn — were the games they got the most beat up.

Similarly, LSU was without point guard Xavier Pinson during its recent losing streak. There’s a case to be made for either of these teams as the second-best team in the SEC behind Auburn.

Also, I have to mention that Alabama and Arkansas playing their best basketball are very scary teams. Alabama can beat anyone any night. The Tide can also lose to anyone on any night, as evidenced by losses to Mizzou and Georgia this year.

If I had to pick the No. 2 team in the SEC right now, I’d say Kentucky. But it’s a close race.


Did Jermaine Burton make the right choice by transferring from Georgia to Alabama?

There’s been a lot of debate on this topic this week, and I understand why it pisses people off. Have you just won a title with a team and are now heading towards their (current) biggest rival? This will ruffle some feathers.

NFL teams will also be asking Burton about this decision during his time at the NFL Combine, but I have no problem with that. We’ve had this discussion before and I’m sure it will continue, but coaches can leave the programs whenever they want. Players can transfer more freely than ever. If he thinks it will help his career, more power for him.

I totally agree that Alabama could provide him with the goals he needs to become a star. The Tide replace Jameson Williams, John Metchie III, Slade Bolden and Jahleel Billingsley this offseason and need a veteran to lead a unit with young but inconsistent talent at Agiye Hall, JoJo Earle, Ja’Corey Brooks and more.

Burton fits this bill. Pair him with Heisman-winning QB Bryce Young and big numbers should follow if Burton stays healthy.


What is the best gift at basketball games? T-shirts ? Foam fingers? Souvenir cups? Something different?

I’m not a fan of t-shirt giveaways. Unless teams give specific sizes, it’s always an XL.

My first thought was that I love small commemorative basketball replicas. But I could understand why schools were hesitant to give them away. A call in a clutch situation goes against your team and those things are thrown at the referees.

So I will leave with food. Free popcorn? Sign me up. The popcorn is great. It’s also cheap for teams. I’ll appreciate that much more than an oversized shirt that I might wear twice and then keep in the back of my closet for the next 10 years.

Free food (or free beer) is never a bad way to go.

Do you have a question for next week’s Mailbag? Tweet us using #SDSMailbag or email me at [email protected]