South Carolina (21-3) vs. No. 22 Kentucky (18-6)
WATCH: 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
The two teams tied atop the SEC standings meet Saturday afternoon at Colonial Life Arena - and only one of them is ranked.
South Carolina head coach Frank Martin was fired up about neither teams being ranked when his Gamecocks took on then-first place LSU on Wednesday night. USC hopped to the front of the conference by defeating the Tigers, 94-83. In the post-game press conference, Martin was open about the ridiculous fact that not just his team, but LSU, was unranked entering Wednesday's match-up.
Despite upsetting No. 8 Texas A&M last Saturday, South Carolina fell out of the Associated Press Top 25, thanks to a loss earlier in the week to unranked Georgia. They remain the 20th ranked team in the country, according to the USA Today Coaches Poll.
Another meeting of the SEC's top contenders occurs this week as the Gamecocks welcome No. 22 Kentucky for an ESPN tip Saturday afternoon.
UK played Georgia exactly a week after the Bulldogs upset South Carolina in Athens. On Tuesday, in Lexington, the Wildcats handled UGA, 82-48. Kentucky is led by a dynamic backcourt that features two of the most talented players in the entire country. Point guard Tyler Ulis is the most important player UK has, he sets up all his teammates and can take a game over if he needs to. Freshman Jamal Murray leads Kentucky in scoring, averaging 18.5 points. He averages 20.9 PPG in strictly conference games, ranking third in the league. The Canadian is a future lottery pick in this June's NBA Draft.
Like last year's team, Kentucky usually holds a distinct size advantage over their opponents. That's led to a +6.2 rebound margin, second only to South Carolina's +8.6 in the SEC. They also average 5.8 blocks per game, which ranks 11th nationally.
Making three-pointers and guarding the three-point line will be critical in today's game. Kentucky is a different team if they are able to hit shots from behind the arc, much in the same way USC is. The Gamecocks benefited from four Duane Notice treys against LSU. His first big three-point effort in almost a month. Mindaugas Kacinas made one three in the first nine SEC games but made two in South Carolina's upset of the Aggies.
USC last defeated Kentucky in 2014, a close win inside a raucous Colonial Life Arena. The court was rushed. I was there. That UK team was the National Runner-up. This 2016 Wildcat team is having a similar regular season to that team but their ceiling doesn't seem as high. Kentucky should be considered a tiny favorite, and if the game was in Rupp Arena, they would likely be large favorites. But the Gamecocks are a completely different team at home. With a win, they would go 3-0 against their toughest stretch of the season, and that would certainly deserve a ranking.