Tennessee Volunteers, (25-2), -2, o/u @ Vanderbilt Commodores (23-4), +2, o/u Memorial Gymnasium, Nashville, Tenn., 9 p.m. Eastern, Tuesday
by Oracle of Predictem.com
For the first time in its storied history, the Tennessee Volunteers men’s basketball team is the top college program in the country. Now comes the hard part fending everyone off.
Although it was a dogfight to get there, the colossal target on their backs won’t compare to how they got to the top of the mountain. Every time they step out on the floor, their opponents will know they have a shot to knock off the best team in the land.
The first team to take that opportunity? 14th ranked Vanderbilt.
After beating the previously undefeated Memphis Tigers, 66-62, in a highly publicized contest, Tennessee will have to once again travel in-state; this time to Nashville.
The Commodores will take on all comers, especially when they play at Memorial Gymnasium, boasting an unblemished 17-0 mark. Besides losing 4 out of 5 games toward the end of January, Vanderbilt has opened plenty of eyes around the nation. They started the year 16-0, and won all six of their games this month.
The Vandy offense is a fun one to watch, as they put up 81 points per game 15th overall in the country. They also shoot an astounding 40.6% from beyond the arc, which is 10th best. Shon Foster has continued his torrid pace by lighting it up for 29 points in Vandy’s most recent 86-74 win against Georgia on Saturday. He’s been held to single digits only once all year (7 points against Florida) and averages 19.2 points per game.
The Commodores aren’t a one man show, though. Andrew Ogilvy, a 6-foot 10-inch center, is shooting a ridiculous 58.7% from the field this year and averages over 17 points and nearly 7 boards per game. The inside-outside threat of Ogilvy and Foster has given teams fits all season long. Factor in Jermaine McBeal’s startling 3/1 assist to turnover ratio and Alex Gordon’s 11.1 points per game, you have a more-than potent Vanderbilt team. You could even say they’re a team that can keep pace as far as scoring goes with the Volunteers.
Tennessee took it to Vanderbilt in January, winning 80-60. In that contest, Ogilvy and Foster combined for just 26 points, with Foster going 1-11 from three-point range. It’s hard to see that happening to Foster again.
On the other side, Tennessee had their normal box score with four players in double figures, and also getting 17 more points from its bench.
Although Tennessee is coming off a huge win, and is the best team in the nation, another game like the one in January is highly unlikely especially with the game being in Nashville this time around.
Tennessee is 6th in the nation in scoring (83.3 ppg). One of the big reasons why is because of their ability to get to the offensive glass (13.8 offensive rebounds; 6th in the country). They more often than not get off more shots than their opponents.
The Volunteers have a pretty deep team, too. They’re led by different individuals in many categories, such as Chris Lofton (15.1 ppg), Tyler Smith (3.6 assists, 6.5 rebounds), JaJuan Smith (1.8 steals) and Wayne Chism (1.3 blocks). Along with role players J.P. Prince, Ramar Smith and Jordan Howell, Tennessee may be the deepest team in the country. Although the Volunteers’ tallest player (at least the one who gets significant playing time) is Wayne Chism at 6-9, they outrebound their opponents with heart and determination, which is a perfect representation of head coach Bruce Pearl.
Looking at the opening line for this game, bettors may find it astonishing that the #1 team in the country are just 2-point favorites, according to most books.
The fact that Vandy is undefeated at Memorial Gymnasium plays a big factor in the spread. Tennessee has a good record ATS (14-9), including a 7-2 mark in its past 9 games and a 9-4-1 mark in its past 14 road games.
Vandy is 4-1 ATS in their past 5 Tuesday games, but a telling trend is a 2-9 record ATS in home games against an opponent with a winning record on the road.
To top it all off, in their last 7 meetings, the Volunteers are 6-1 ATS versus Vanderbilt.
The outlook for bettors can be broken down in a simple fashion: Either Tennessee will have a complete meltdown after beating the nation’s only undefeated team, or, they won’t let anyone knock them off the top of that mountain.
Oracle’s Pick: Take Vanderbilt +2.