Tennessee Volunteers (14-2 SU, 7-5-1 ATS) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-6 SU, 7-7 ATS), 7:00 p.m. EST, Tuesday, January 19, 2009, Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Ala. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Tennessee -2.5/Alabama +2.5
After four Tennessee Volunteers players were suspended for gun and drug charges after a win over Memphis on December 31, including one of the four players - Tyler Smith - being dismissed from the team, most people expected the Volunteers to lose some games and drop in the rankings. After all, there are now only a total of six scholarship players on the Tennessee roster. Instead, the Vols have taken a step forward and gotten four quality wins, all of which were quite impressive.
The Vols haven’t played a road game since the incident that has left them with a short roster. Now, they will finally have to go on the road to Tuscaloosa to face the Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday.
The Vols are now ranked No. 8 in the country with a 14-2 overall record and a 2-0 start in SEC play. In their first game after the incident, the Vols son 88-71 at home over Charlotte. Tennessee jumped out to a big lead, the 49ers cut the lead to six in the second half, but the Vols held on for a convincing victory. Next, they hosted No. 1 Kansas with the odds against them. And the Vols and their six scholarship players came together to pull off the upset, 76-68.
That win over Kansas proved they were for real, but still many people thought one of their next two games would certainly be a let-down game. But instead, they dominated Auburn at home last Thursday, 81-55.
In a huge conference game between two of the best teams in the SEC, the Vols defeated Ole Miss on Saturday in overtime, 71-69. Wayne Chism, who has had to step up more than ever since the dismissal of Smith, had 26 points and 12 rebounds. J.P. Prince had an excellent all-around game with 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, really showing the versatility of the 6-foot-7 guard. Scotty Hopson, Tennessee’s leading scorer this season, had just eight points on 4-of-15 shooting. Renaldo Woolridge went scoreless and point guard Bobby Maze didn’t even have an assist. The Vols shot 35 percent from the field and 6-for-23 from 3-point range. It’s hard to say they played well, but they still found a way to win a big game. They did so mostly by doing what they do best - forcing turnovers and playing solid defense. Ole Miss committed 21 turnovers and shot just 34 percent from the field and 9-for-27 from beyond the arc.
Tennessee has played three road games this season, winning at Middle Tennessee State and Memphis, and losing at USC.
Alabama is led by head coach Anthony Grant, who is in his first year with the Crimson Tide after previously running the show at Virginia Commonwealth. They didn’t open their season well, losing at home in overtime to Cornell. But in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, the Crimson Tide came away with a couple of quality wins over Baylor and Michigan and a competitive loss to Florida State. On December 12, Alabama had a 16-point lead in the second half at home over Purdue, but the Boilermakers battled back with a furious comeback for a 73-65 win. The Crimson Tide also lost to Kansas State, 87-74, on a neutral court in Mobile. Certainly, Cornell, Purdue and Kansas State have all proved to be very good teams this season, so those losses don’t look too bad right now.
In SEC play, the Crimson Tide opened up with a 66-49 road win at LSU. But their last two games were losses to Vanderbilt at home, 65-64, and at Arkansas, 71-59. In the loss to Vanderbilt, the Commodores made a free throw to break a tie with six seconds remaining and the Crimson Tide couldn’t score in the final seconds. In the loss at Arkansas on Saturday, the Crimson Tide shot 45 percent from the field and 28 percent from 3-point range, both close to the same as Arkansas, but the Razorbacks out-rebounded them by 13 and got to the free throw line 10 more times than them. If the Crimson Tide are going to beat Tennessee, they must be tougher. That means JaMychal Green, who had 13 points and eight boards against Arkansas, has to dominate down low, and Justin Knox has to produce much more than the zero points and one rebound he had against Arkansas.
Alabama is 9-2 ATS in its last 11 games against Tennessee and 6-1 ATS in its last seven games against the Vols in Tuscaloosa. The over is 5-1 in the last six games between these teams at Alabama.
Ryno’s Pick: Tennessee has been absolutely incredible over the past three weeks with its wins over Memphis, Kansas and Ole Miss. But the short-handed Vols have to lose at some point. They have only played three road games, so their first road SEC game will be much different than all of the home games they’ve had lately. Alabama hasn’t been dominant at home but the Crimson Tide will be very excited for this game. Grant will have his team prepared and the Crimson Tide will pull off the upset. Take Alabama +2.5.