NCAA Tournament: Tennessee Volunteers (25-8 SU, 13-16-1 ATS) vs. San Diego State Aztecs (25-8 SU, 18-13 ATS), 9:55 p.m. EST, Thursday, March 18, 2010, Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Providence, R.I. TV: CBS
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Tennessee -3/San Diego State +3
The first round matchup in the NCAA tournament between the Tennessee Volunteers and San Diego State Aztecs will be an intriguing matchup between two teams with athletic, quick frontcourts. The Aztecs have skilled post players Billy White, Malcolm Thomas and Kawhi Leonard, while Tennessee features talented big man Wayne Chism and a few athletic reserve forwards in Renaldo Woolridge and Kenny Hall.
The Aztecs reached the NCAA tournament by winning the Mountain West tournament, not an easy task at all. They had to defeat top-10-ranked New Mexico and UNLV, the team hosting the tournament on its own court, to capture the title.
Tennessee got to the semifinals of the SEC tournament before getting blown out by Kentucky by 29 points.
Tennessee has the advantage in guard play in this game with Bobby Maze, Scotty Hopson, J.P. Prince and Cameron Tatum. Hopson and Chism lead the team in scoring with 12.5 points per game each. But San Diego State has the advantage down low with so many talented big men, as opposed to Tennessee, which really just has Chism. The Aztecs will look to pound the ball inside and score easy baskets, while the Vols will look to penetrate and kick for open outside jumpers.
Tennessee didn’t defeat a lot of great competition this season, other than its two incredible victories over No. 1 seeds Kansas and Kentucky. But those games were on the Vols’ home court, while this game will be played in Providence. Other than those two elite home victories for the Vols, these two teams have similar resumes and San Diego State may even have better wins. But those two wins are why Tennessee is a No. 6 seed.
Tennessee is the more experienced team, with an average of more than two years of experience per minute played as compared to about 1.8 years of experience per minute played for the Aztecs. San Diego State has 11 road/neutral victories this season, while Tennessee has 10.
Both teams turn the ball over about 13 times per game, but Tennessee is forcing more than three turnovers more per game than the Aztecs. Tennessee is slightly out-rebounding its opponents, while San Diego State averages about six more rebounds per game than its opponents. Both teams struggle from 3-point range around 32 percent, but Tennessee is better at defending the 3-point line, as the Vols are holding opponents to under 30 percent. San Diego State is shooting 48 percent from the field as compared to 46 percent for Tennessee, but the Vols defense is slightly better, holding opponents to 39 percent shooting from the field as compared to 41 percent for San Diego State.
As far as common opponents are concerned, Tennessee defeated Wyoming at home, 77-58, while San Diego State split with Wyoming, losing 85-83 on the road and winning 88-57 at home.
The Aztecs have won five games in a row and nine of their last 10, with their only loss in that span coming at BYU, a place where not many teams come away with victories. They’ve defeated UNLV twice during that span. They’ve held their opponents to 61 or fewer points in seven of those 10 games, including a 55-45 win over UNLV in the MWC championship game.
Tennessee has won five of its last six games and seven of its last nine, with the only losses in that span coming to Kentucky and Florida. Included in that span was a 74-65 home victory over Kentucky.
San Diego State is 5-1 ATS in its last six games after allowing less than 50 points in the previous game. The Aztecs are 4-1 ATS in their last five neutral site games as an underdog and 6-2 ATS in their last eight games following an ATS win. They are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games overall and 5-12 ATS in their last 17 neutral site games.
Tennessee is 4-0 ATS in its last four games following an ATS loss, 5-11 ATS in its last 16 games overall, and 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games as a favorite. The Vols are 3-7-1 ATS in their last 11 NCAA tournament games and 2-7-1 ATS in their last 10 NCAA tournament games as a favorite.
Ryno’s Pick: I like San Diego State to win straight up.