Auburn Tigers vs. Tennessee Volunteers Predictions 2/26/22
Auburn Tigers (25-3 SU, 18-10 ATS) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (20-7, 16-11 ATS)
When: Saturday, February 26, 4 p.m.
Where: Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn.
Point Spread: AUB +3.5/TENN -3.5
Moneyline: AUB +135/TENN -155
Last Time Out:
Auburn beat Mississippi 77-64; Tennessee beat Missouri 80-61.
About the Matchup:
This might be a preview of the SEC title game, although Kentucky might also have something to say about that. The Tigers look like they could make it two Final Fours in four years for Bruce Pearl, as they’ve been the best the SEC has to offer for the majority of the year. But there are two things the Tigers haven’t had to do in establishing themselves: go to Lexington and go to Knoxville.
Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee are all undefeated at home this season, which means the Tigers face perhaps their toughest test of the season and do so having lost back-to-back games away from Auburn Arena. In fact, Auburn has really been struggling to get the job done away from home for some time now, as it’s fallen to Florida and Arkansas and barely escaped against Missouri and Georgia, the two weakest sides in the SEC.
Tennessee amps up the difficulty in a big way, as the Volunteers have barely been scratched at home this season. Only Mississippi and Arizona have come within nine points of Tennessee in Knoxville this year, and a win here would go a long way toward strengthening the Tennessee case for a No. 3 seed or even higher. If Auburn can’t get things figured out on the road in a hurry, this is going to be a big opportunity for the Vols — if they can survive without John Fulkerson on the floor.
Scouting the Tigers:
Jabari Smith proved outstanding the last time the Tigers went on the road, but the rest of the Auburn roster was missing in action. Smith ended up with 28 points against Florida, but otherwise, only KD Johnson and Walker Kessler contributed much of anything to the stat sheet. Those three players combined to produce 51 of Auburn’s 62 points, and with the bench doing little to nothing, the Tigers simply allowed the Gators to hang around too long and let Florida emerge with the victory.
That’s been Auburn’s biggest flaw throughout the past month: for whatever reason, the Tigers have only done just enough to get the win when they go on the road, a sharp contrast from the dominant performances they usually give at home. Auburn’s past five home games have all been decided by double digits (in fact, Auburn has only played one home game all year that wasn’t by double digits), but catch the Tigers in a true road game, and something seems to go wrong. Only once, a trip to South Carolina in January, has seen Auburn manage to win by double digits on an opponent’s home floor. Nobody’s expecting a big win here, but the contrast does show how this appears to be a tale of two different teams depending on where the game is played. That said, this will be the first time Auburn has been an underdog since Jan. 11 against Alabama, so the lack of pressure might work in their favor.
Scouting the Volunteers:
The biggest question is the health of John Fulkerson, who played just six minutes against Missouri after getting injured in the Arkansas game. Fulkerson might have been able to play a little longer had the Volunteers actually needed him, but considering that Tennessee boatraced Missouri by 19 and never was threatened in the second half, the Volunteers were perfectly happy to let him rest.
But the Vols are likely to need Fulkerson this time around, because if they don’t have him on the floor, Jonas Aidoo will be the only option they have to bang around down low with Kessler, who could otherwise have an open lane to dominate. This looks like a situation in which the Tennessee guards of Kennedy Chandler and Santiago Vescovi will have to make up for what the Vols probably cannot do inside, either by forcing turnovers or by getting good looks and knocking them down. Given that Rick Barnes’ teams like to emphasize defense, the steal route is probably the way they’ll go, as Tennessee averages 9.6 steals per contest.
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Auburn will Cover If: Kessler is able to do what he wants in the paint. If Fulkerson plays, this won’t be anywhere near as easy for him, but if not, the center will likely be able to dominate from the opening minute. Auburn potentially has a big edge inside and must be ready to exploit it.
Tennessee will Cover If: The Volunteers can force some Auburn mistakes. Twelve turnovers a game on average means that it’s very possible for the Tigers to hand the Vols some free possessions, especially with how well Tennessee tends to steal the ball. The Volunteer guards have to be ready to go.
Dan’s Best Prop Bets
Auburn likes to push the ball, but Tennessee’s defense is likely to frustrate the Tigers, especially given Auburn’s history on the road this season. This will likely be a lower-scoring showing for the visitors, and I like Auburn under 68.5 points here.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
I can’t really decide this until I know whether or not Fulkerson will be able to play. If he plays, the Vols should be in pretty good shape. If he doesn’t, the Tigers will have a huge edge and should be able to land the cover on the road. Right now, I lean Tennessee, but I’d wait and see. Bet your college and pro basketball picks for FREE this weekend by scoring a massive 100% real cash bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $1000 at Betnow Sportsbook!
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