Gonzaga Bullodgs vs. Tennessee Volunteers Preview and Pick

Gonzaga Bulldogs +3 (8-4) 5-5 ATS, 4-6 O/U at No. 15 Tennessee Volunteers -3 (9-3) 7-3 ATS, 6-3 O/U Wednesday, January 07, 2009 Thompson-Boling Arena 9:00 p.m. EST

By Wilson of Predictem.com

Tonight’s matchup between Gonzaga and Tennessee will be nerve racking for both teams. Gonzaga beat Tennessee on November 30th of this season 83-74 in an unscheduled meeting during a tournament in Florida. But the tide has shifted on the Zags as they have dropped four of their last five games. Tennessee lost their last game at Kansas 92-85 over the weekend and now has 3 losses which do not sit well with the boosters or the coaches for that matter. I’m certain that both coaches will be anxious to get this win and hopefully get their guys back on track.

The Volunteers are averaging nearly 85 points per game which is exactly how many they put up in the loss to Kansas, but they will need to do it again as they were ten points under their average the first time against the Bulldogs and it cost them the game. Tennessee’s Ryan Childress is out indefinitely with a knee injury and Wayne Childress is listed day-to-day with a bum elbow.

Gonzaga is making their third trip across the country this season and will once again attempt to steal a tough win on the road. You can imagine how difficult it will be for a team to play in Thompson-Boling with 22 thousand screaming fans. Most wagering sites are giving the Volunteers the home court edge, but either way this game should be another great college hoop’s battle.

What happened to Gonzaga? In an interview with CBSsports.com, Zags head coach, Mark Few, mentioned how damaging the loss to the University of Connecticut was for his team. Few explained that one shot has apparently killed the confidence and swagger of the once 4th ranked Bulldogs who are now vacant from the top 25. I couldn’t agree more with Few’s explanation. It’s amazing what can turn a team upside down, and that’s what AJ Price’s last second 3-pointer in Seattle did to the Zags. Price forced an unlikely overtime with his ugly but effective shot and the Huskies went on to win the game 88-83.

Tennessee is only coming off of a 1-loss streak, and that was to Kansas, which is not shocking. On the other hand, Gonzaga is coming into this game with a 3-game losing streak and a total lack of confidence. It will be interesting to see who steps up for the Zags. Jeremy Pargo is supposed to be the leader who gets it going for the Bulldogs, and he usually does, but even he can be inconsistent and a bit over-the-top by forcing the ball or penetrating into trouble with no kick out.

Tennessee is 8-0 at home; that doesn’t help an opponent’s confidence. The Volunteers are also 5-0 SU in their last five games. Gonzaga is 15-8 SU in their last 23 games on the road. My heart is with Gonzaga but my money is on Tennessee as they have all the ingredients for the win tonight. The loss to Kansas will prove to be a great primer for this game. How can a team not be ready for anyone after running so close with the Jayhawks?

Gonzaga has incredible athletes but they are mental right now, and they are having trouble focusing on their game. I got a message for the Bulldog players- if you don’t believe in yourself you will not win. I’m sure most of the Zag players have confidence, but it takes team confidence to run with the big boys.

Wilson’s Pick: The Bulldogs will put it all together and win a ton of games but not by tonight. I like Tennessee to cover the 3 points at home. Luck to ya.