SEC Pick: South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Tennessee Volunteers
South Carolina Gamecocks (12-11 SU, 9-13 ATS) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (22-1 SU, 13-8-1 ATS)
When: Wednesday, February 13, 2019 – 6:30 PM ET
Where: Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn.
TV: SEC Network
Point Spread: SCAR +15.5/TENN -15.5 (GTBets)
Total: O/U 154.5
Last Time Out: South Carolina beat Arkansas 77-65; Tennessee beat Florida 73-61
Scouting the Gamecocks:
It’s a shame that South Carolina spent so much time getting beaten up in the nonconference because the Gamecocks have actually made a credible show of things in the SEC. Despite going 5-8 in the nonconference portion of the schedule, South Carolina sits in fourth place in the SEC and has bested the likes of Auburn and Mississippi State at home this season. But the Gamecocks haven’t shown the same kind of fight against the better teams in the league, which is why this is a squad that will struggle to make the NIT. Chris Silva is doing all he can for South Carolina, but he doesn’t have enough help here. South Carolina needs to develop one more scorer to really be a threat.
Scouting the Volunteers:
It hasn’t always been pretty, but it’s usually been effective. Tennessee enters this game having won 18 in a row and hasn’t lost either a home game or a true road game this year, as the Vols’ only defeat came on a neutral floor to Kansas. Grant Williams continues to be a special talent for Rick Barnes’ crew, and what makes Tennessee so dangerous is that the Volunteers have the ability to bury teams with their offense and wear them down on defense. Against Florida, for example, Tennessee held the Gators to three points in a nine-minute stretch, a key part of the Vols’ victory.
Kentucky. There’s no doubt that the Volunteers’ fan base is firmly focused on the Wildcats and establishing themselves as the favorites to claim the SEC title by beating Kentucky on Saturday. But before it can get to Kentucky, Tennessee has to do what Kentucky could not: win its midweek game. Granted, the Wildcats played LSU, a much tougher foe than South Carolina, but there’s still the chance that Tennessee could fall into the same trap if the Volunteers aren’t ready to go from the beginning. Tennessee needs to forget about Kentucky and focus on South Carolina until the final whistle.
South Carolina will Cover if:
The Gamecocks are able to catch the Volunteers asleep at the wheel in the opening minutes. Tennessee has said all of the right things about South Carolina, but it’s only human nature for the Vols to look past this game and put their minds on the challenge of Kentucky. If the Volunteers aren’t ready for a challenge from the moment the game starts, they’ll find themselves in a hole that might be too deep for them to dig their way out of with the large point spread.
Tennessee will Cover if:
The Volunteers adjust on the fly to South Carolina’s desire to push the tempo. The Gamecocks love to push the ball and create as many possessions as possible, and while Tennessee isn’t Virginia or Michigan, it’s nowhere near as fast as South Carolina likes to play. However, Tennessee isn’t a team that beats itself with mistakes, and the Volunteers have played fast teams before, such as when they met Arkansas. Tennessee won that game by 19 points, proving that it has the ability to be comfortable against a team that pushes the tempo. The Vols have to keep their heads in the game and make the right decisions.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
On one hand, Tennessee concerns me because the high spread leaves open the possibility of a backdoor cover and the Volunteers haven’t always been the most consistent team on the road. Earlier this year, Tennessee nearly found a way to lose to a Vanderbilt squad that hasn’t beaten anyone in the SEC, before surviving in overtime.
But when the Volunteers are playing their game, there are few teams who are better. Tennessee is a team with genuine stars and great coaching, and that’s all that you really need for success in the SEC. South Carolina might be playing much better since the start of the SEC season, but the Gamecocks still haven’t proven themselves against the likes of Tennessee or Kentucky, nor have they shown they can win against good teams when they get out of the Palmetto State.
Throw in that Tennessee has already won by 22 against South Carolina in Columbia this season, and I think we’ve got a pretty good idea of how the return game will go. I’m taking the Vols here.