Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Tennessee Volunteers Preview and Pick – Men’s NCAA Tournament Game

Oklahoma State (22-11) +2, 157.5 O/U vs. Tennessee Volunteers (21-12)
-2, 157.5 O/U, East Region Opening Round, UD Arena, Dayton, Ohio,
Friday March 20, 12:25 PM EST, CBS

by Badger of Predictem.com

Make sure to set your alarms and rise early on Friday as what could prove to be the most compelling game in the East Region of the NCAA
Mens Basketball Tournament will tip off early when the 8th-seeded
Tennessee Volunteers from the SEC battle the 9th-seeded Oklahoma
State Cowboys of the Big 12 in the UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio.

Both teams enter the NCAA tourney off of successful runs in their
respective conference tournaments this past weekend, as both teams
made it into the championship game before being beaten. The Cowboys
upset their in-state rival Oklahoma Sooners in the semifinals of the
Big 12 tourney, 71-70, before dropping the title game to Missouri,
67-59. While the Volunteers beat up on the state of Alabama in the
SEC tourney, eliminating both the Crimson Tide (86-62) and Auburn
(94-85) before dropping the title game to Mississippi State, 64-61.

Like most of the evenly matched 8/9-seed matchups in the tourney,
oddsmakers expect a tight one as they opened the game with Tennessee
as slim 2-point favorites on the neutral floor in Dayton. The number
has moved up to Tennessee minus -3 at some offshore sportsbooks as the
early money has been on the Volunteers. The over/under total opened
at 156.5 and has moved up a modest point to the current total of
157.5 at most books.

Oklahoma State fans have to like their chances, as it seems the
Cowboys are peaking at the right time. The Cowboys went on a solid
six-game winning streak at the end of February, including a signature
upset win over Texas 68-59, before losing to the Sooners in a tough
82-78 loss in the regular season finale in Norman. They redeemed that
loss by turning the tables on the Sooners in the semifinals of the
Big 12 tourney, then they gave Missouri a good game before fading in
the final minutes of that 8-point loss.

The Cowboys offense finished ranked 6th in the country at 81.1 points
per game, shooting 45.7 percent from the floor. They are a guard-
heavy team with James Anderson (18.6 ppg), Byron Eaton (14.1), Terrel
Harris (13.8) and Obi Muonelo (5.5 apg) leading the way, although
forward Marshall Moses has stepped up his game in the Big 12 tourney.
Oklahoma States main downfall is defense, as they allow 74.2 points
per game (316th) and opponents shoot 44.3 percent from the floor.

Tennessee fans on the other hand have to wonder which team they will
get in the opening round, as the Volunteers have been one of the most
inconsistent teams in the country this season. Theres no doubting
the talent on the Vols roster, it seems to be a matter of emotion for
head coach Bruce Pearl and his squad.

Will the team that pounded Vanderbilt by 19 points show up, or the
team that lost to Ole Miss by 16 points just four nights later? Will
it be the team that lost to Bama at home by 3 points to end the
regular season, or the team that destroyed the same Bama team by 24
points in the opening round of the SEC tourney? The Vols have been so
inconsistent that besides their 5-0 start at the beginning of the
season, the longest win streak they have been able to put together is
a modest three games.

Tennessee also features a potent offense, as they finished 18th in
the country at 78.5 points per game (45.5 % from the floor). They
like to play transition basketball, but they will pound the ball
inside to forwards Tyler Smith (17.2 ppg) and Wayne Chism (13.8).
Again, defense will be hard to find Friday as the Vols allow 72.4
points per game and opponents shoot 44 percent against them.

These two teams havent met in head-to-head action on the court since
December of 2006, in a 79-77 game won by Tennessee on its home floor.
They also played in 2005 in an 89-73 victory by Oklahoma State played
on the Cowboys home floor. The Cowboys covered both games, one as a
favorite (-3 at home) and one as an underdog (+4 in Knoxville). Both
games went over the total.

They have had two common opponents this season, as both teams played
Siena and Gonzaga, two teams that also made the NCAA tourney. Both
teams beat Siena (Cowboys 77-68; Vols 78-64), while both also lost to
Gonzaga (Cowboys 83-71; Vols 89-79).

Neither team helped bettors out much this season, as Oklahoma State was slightly better (14-12-1 ATS) than Tennessee (14-16-1 ATS) versus the number. Both teams played under the total a majority of the time
as well, as Tennessee was 13-18 versus the total while Oklahoma State
was 12-14 on over/under bets.

Badgers Pick: I expect some tightness early on in this game, so it may be hard for both teams to score enough points to cover the 157.5 total. I like the under. I also like the guard-heavy Cowboys to be
able to run with the Vols transition game, so I also like the Cowboys
to cover here. Take the under of 157.5 and/or Oklahoma State plus 2