Tennessee Volunteers vs. Florida Gators Odds & Picks
Tennessee Volunteers (10-1 SU, 8-3 ATS) vs. Florida Gators (6-4 SU, 5-5 ATS)
When: Saturday, January 19, 7 p.m.
Where: Stephen C. O’Connell Center, Gainesville, Fla.
Point Spread: TENN -6.5/FLA +6.5 (Get the best lines >>>)
Last Time Out:
Tennessee routed Vanderbilt 81-61; Florida lost 72-69 to Mississippi State.
About the Matchup:
With Kentucky struggling to get on the same page, Tennessee has emerged as the premier pro-gram in the SEC, with the Volunteers hot on Alabama’s heels for first place in the league. The Crimson Tide are the only team to get the better of Tennessee all season, and the Volunteers have won three straight since that defeat to put themselves in a solid second place in the con-ference.
On the other hand, Florida is trying to figure out how to play without Keyontae Johnson and re-ally struggling to make the adjustment. The Gators have dropped three of their past four, with the lone exception being a win over Mississippi. Nobody expected the Gators to be anywhere close to the same team in terms of talent or emotions, but Florida has fallen pretty far in a hurry since it got into SEC play. With Tennessee coming to town and Rick Barnes sporting a 6-1 record against the Gators, can the Orange and Blue find a way to pull the upset and get the season back on track?
Scouting the Volunteers:
What Rick Barnes has built-in Knoxville has been nothing short of impressive. Tennessee has long been a sleeping giant, but Barnes has awoken the Volunteers and turned this program into a national power that’s built on depth and defense. Tennessee has seven players who they can count on to contribute 20 minutes a night, and all seven score 7.5 points per game or more.
That’s a major departure from most Power 6 schools, which usually have one or two guys they depend on more than anyone else. Tennessee is more of a team where the whole is a lot great-er than the sum of its parts, as Victor Bailey is the leading scorer with just 12.3 points per game. But the reason it works is that Tennessee’s defense has been far and away the best the SEC has to offer. Only Baylor has a more efficient defense nationwide, and at 57.2 points per game, it’s pretty rare to see teams break 65 points against the Volunteers. Only Alabama and Arkansas have done it, while Tennessee has held Colorado, Cincinnati, Missouri, and Texas A&M to 56 points or less.
Scouting the Gators:
Ten days ago, when Florida was about to host Kentucky, I said that the Gators would likely be-come a guard-heavy team because Colin Castleton simply was not going to replace Keyontae Johnson inside, and the Gators would likely instead choose to amplify their guards.After losses to Kentucky and Mississippi State, it’s become relatively clear that that didn’t work. It didn’t come close to working, as Florida has proven that its best strategy is actually to go to Castleton as often as possible. The Gators have played six games in the SEC this season, and they’re 3-0 when Castleton is the leading scorer and 0-3 when someone else is. The loss to Mis-sissippi State was the same story, as Castleton scored 16 points, but Florida got beat again be-cause the trio of Tre Mann, Noah Locke, and Tyree Appleby shot a combined 4-for-14 from be-hind the arc, leading the Gators to shoot just 41 percent for the game. Against Tennessee, Castleton will be the tallest man on the court, as only John Funkhouser gives the Volunteers any kind of bulk to match his size. Funkhouser’s defense will be critical in this game, and if Florida can exploit the height advantage, this could be closer than expected.