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No. 1 Kentucky meets No. 18 Arkansas; SEC eyes more teams in NCAA tournament

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A few things to watch in Southeastern Conference basketball this week:

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 18 Arkansas at No. 1 Kentucky: The top-ranked Wildcats (28-0, 15-0 SEC) continue to roll and now have their second-longest winning streak in school history. They haven't even been challenged over the past two weeks, winning their past four games by an average of more than 26 points. Arkansas might be Kentucky's most formidable opponent left on the regular-season schedule. The Razorbacks (23-5, 12-3) have won seven straight and 6-foot-11 forward Bobby Portis is one of the few players in the SEC that has a chance to do some damage against the Wildcats' formidable frontcourt.

LOOKING AHEAD: After earning only three bids each of the last two years, the SEC should have a bigger NCAA tournament presence this year. But it remains uncertain just how many SEC schools will go dancing. Kentucky and Arkansas look like sure bets. Ole Miss, LSU, Georgia and Texas A&M also have reasonable shots at getting to the NCAA tournament, but they likely still have more work to do. The SEC hasn't sent as many as six teams to the NCAA tournament since 2008.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Kentucky's Trey Lyles scored a career-high 18 points in Wednesday's 74-56 victory over Mississippi State. The 6-foot-10 freshman has sometimes gone unnoticed on a roster full of superstars, but coach John Calipari said Lyles could be the "X factor" during the Wildcats' quest for an undefeated season and a national championship. ... LSU forward Jarell Martin averaged 26.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in recent victories over Auburn and Florida. The 6-foot-10 Martin is shooting nearly 51 percent from the field this season.

NUMBERS GAME: Arkansas has won seven straight conference games, which represents its longest SEC streak since its 1993-94 national championship season. The Razorbacks have won 12 SEC games for the first time since 1994-95, when they finished as the NCAA runner-up. Arkansas' 81-75 victory over Texas A&M on Tuesday marked the first time the Razorbacks ever had both 12 steals and 12 blocks in an SEC game. ... LSU's 84-61 triumph at Auburn on Tuesday was its most one-sided road victory since an 83-51 blowout at Ole Miss on Jan. 17, 2009.

ON THE WOMEN'S SIDE: No. 2 South Carolina's 71-66 victory over No. 6 Tennessee on Monday gave the Gamecocks their first win over the Lady Vols in Columbia since 1980. Tennessee leads the all-time series 47-4. ... No. 11 Mississippi State is putting together one of its best seasons in school history while relying heavily on youth. Underclassmen account for over 70 percent of the team's minutes played and points scored. The youth movement is led by freshman Victoria Vivians, a four-time SEC freshman of the week.


Compiled by AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Jackson, Mississippi.

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