The Daily Sweat: Alabama-Arkansas shows the fantastic depth of SEC basketball

The SEC is a football league and always will be. But the league has found that being good at basketball is pretty cool too.

The SEC has three teams in the KenPom top 10, and Kentucky isn't one of them. Two of the better teams in college basketball face off Wednesday when Alabama plays at Arkansas. Alabama is seventh in KenPom's rankings and Arkansas is 10th. Tennessee is better than them both at No. 2.

The SEC has multiple Final Four contenders this season. Alabama is clearly one. Arkansas can be, though there are more questions with the Razorbacks due to injuries. Arkansas is a 1.5-point home underdog at BetMGM against Alabama on Wednesday night.

Alabama was really good two seasons ago, just OK last season and is back among the sport's elite this season. The Crimson Tide play fast and are good on offense and defense for coach Nate Oats. They shoot a lot of 3s and are good at forcing missed shots on defense. Freshman Brandon Miller has been great for the Crimson Tide and he has a lot of help. Alabama is 13-2 and the only losses were to UConn and Gonzaga. The Crimson Tide just beat Kentucky by 26 points last weekend.

Alabama is very good. Arkansas is too but the Razorbacks' story is a little more complicated.

Freshman Nick Smith Jr., projected as a top-five NBA draft pick, has been out with "knee management." Arkansas has said he probably won't be back in January. Trevon Brazile, an athletic 6-10 sophomore, tore his ACL earlier this season. And Arkansas has still been very good despite key injuries. The Razorbacks still haven't lost at home this season. There's a big upside lingering if Smith can get healthy before March.

For many years, the SEC was mostly Kentucky and nothing else. Other schools were worried about football. Then there were some great coaching hires in the conference and the SEC has raised its profile. Wednesday night is a good example of how far the league has come.

Alabama guard Mark Sears (1) celebrates a 3-point shot against Kentucky. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
Alabama guard Mark Sears (1) celebrates a 3-point shot against Kentucky. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Here's a first look at the sports betting slate for Wednesday:

More college hoops

With football winding down, it's not too long until March Madness is here. Wednesday's huge college basketball slate is a good time to get acquainted with some future tournament teams.

One team that has become a surprise national championship contender is UConn, and on Wednesday they have a tough road match at Marquette. UConn is a 2.5-point favorite. Marquette is 13-4 and the four close losses were to Purdue on the road, Mississippi State, Wisconsin in overtime and Providence in double overtime. UConn lost road games to Xavier and Providence but bounced back to beat Creighton at home. Marquette will be a tough out at home, and the way for UConn to further its case as a title contender is winning road games like this one.

Another game worth tracking is TCU at Texas. The Big 12 is awesome this season.TCU has played very well since an unimpressive start and Texas has continued to win after coach Chris Beard was suspended and fired after an arrest for domestic violence. Texas is a 5.5-point favorite.

NBA has 8 games

It's a good night in the NBA as well. The ESPN doubleheader starts with the Milwaukee Bucks, who have been struggling a bit lately without Khris Middleton, at the Atlanta Hawks. The Bucks are favored by 2.5. The second game of the doubleheader is the Phoenix Suns against the red-hot Denver Nuggets, which is a good chance to watch Nikola Jokic, who is making a push for his third straight MVP. Denver is a big 12.5-point favorite. That seems high even against a shorthanded Suns team, though the Nuggets have been blowing teams out at home lately.

Some hockey as well

There are four games on the ice. The game to keep an eye on is the San Jose Sharks at the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings have been good to bettors lately, though they are a -200 favorite. Perhaps the Sharks are the value.

What's the best bet?

I don't love going with small road favorites in college basketball. Home court advantage is hard to overcome. But I still lean toward Alabama. However, I feel a little bit better about taking Marquette as a home underdog for the best bet.