Kansas Jayhawks vs. Tennessee Volunteers Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Kansas Jayhawks (14-0 SU, 6-5 ATS) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (11-2 SU, 5-4-1 ATS), 4:30 p.m. EST, Sunday, January 10, 2009, Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn. TV: CBS
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Kansas -5.5/Tennessee +5.5
Over/Under: 150.5

The Tennessee Volunteers have had some serious issues to deal with over the past couple weeks. Add one more issue they have to deal with – facing the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks.

After Tennessee’s 66-59 victory at rival Memphis on December 31, four Vols players were arrested late that night on gun and drug charges. Three of them – Cameron Tatum, Melvin Goins and Brian Williams – remain suspended indefinitely, while one of them – senior forward Tyler Smith – was dismissed from the team. Losing all four of them is a big blow to Tennessee’s season, but losing Smith is especially tough since he was arguably the team’s best player.

Now, the Vols are left with only six scholarship players – Scotty Hopson, Wayne Chism, Bobby Maze, J.P. Prince, Skylar McBee and Renaldo Woolridge. Each of those six really have to step up for the rest of the season for the Vols to sustain the success they’ve already had this season.

Tennessee’s only two losses this season came to Purdue (by one point) on a neutral court and at USC (by 22 points). The Vols hadn’t had any quality wins before the Memphis win. In their only game since the incident, they beat a solid Charlotte team on Wednesday at home by 17 points. That win was particularly impressive playing for the first time without the four players and winning by that much. The Vols jumped out to a big lead and then saw the lead get to cut to six in the second half before they eventually put Charlotte away.

Kansas is undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country, and the Jayhawks deserve the ranking without a doubt. Their best wins thus far have come over UCLA (road), Michigan, California, Temple (road) and Cornell. After playing close with California for most of the game before winning by 15, many people thought Kansas would possibly lose at nationally ranked Temple. But the Jayhawks answered the call and blew out the Owls by 32 points. Perhaps enjoying that result too much and looking ahead to the Tennessee game, the Jayhawks almost lost at home to Cornell. They were down by eight early in the second half before battling back and getting the lead in the final two minutes on a layup by Sherron Collins. Cornell had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds but Ryan Wittman’s 3-point attempt missed. The last two wins have been extremely impressive by the Jayhawks in that they totally destroyed a top 25 team and then were on the ropes the whole game against Cornell and still found a way to win.

Tennessee’s biggest strength is its ability to create turnovers, as the Vols are forcing 20.1 per game while turning it over 13.6 times per game themselves. The Vols are shooting 48.3 percent from the field and they are holding opponents to 38.7 percent shooting from the field and 28.9 percent from 3-point range. Kansas is turning the ball over 12.4 times per game and forcing 15.9 per game. The Jayhawks are shooting 51.3 percent from the field and holding opponents to 34.4 percent. They are shooting 43.1 percent from beyond the arc and allowing their opponents to make 27.3 percent of their 3-point attempts.

Kansas won at Tennessee last season, 92-85.

The total has gone under in four of Kansas’s last five games and in six of Tennessee’s last eight games. Kansas is 7-0 ATS in its last seven games following an ATS loss. The Jayhawks are 7-2 ATS in their last nine games as a road favorite and 8-3 ATS in its last 11 road games overall. The Vols are 3-0-1 ATS in their last four games as an underdog and 16-5 ATS in their last 21 games as a home underdog.

Ryno’s Pick: Sure, Tennessee is the No. 16 team in the country and
is a very good team at home. But this Kansas team is incredible. The Jayhawks
played at Temple against a top 25 team that defeated Tennessee last season
and the Jayhawks left with a 32-point victory. They got caught in a tough
spot against a very good Cornell team and they were able to still find a
way to win despite trailing almost the whole game. Tennessee is down to
six scholarship players, while Kansas is loaded with talent. Without Smith,
Hopson is Tennessee’s best player. Collins, Cole Aldrich
and Xavier Henry are all easily better than Hopson, and the Morris twins
and Brady Morningstar may be better than him as well. Kansas
has too much size, too much talent, and too much depth for the Vols to hang
with them. Take Kansas -5.5.