Tennessee went from a potential contender for a No. 1 seed to not even finishing top-four in the SEC. Does that mean an Ole Miss team that already fired its coach can give the Vols a challenge? Tennessee enters as an 11.5-point favorite with the over/under at 128.5 points.
Let’s make predictions for Thursday afternoon’s matchup and take a look at why the Rebels can stay within range of Tennessee.
Ole Miss vs. Tennessee Prediction
Tennessee should definitely win this game. While the Vols are still adjusting to the loss of PG Zakai Zeigler, it didn’t look like it made a massive impact in the team’s final two games and Ole Miss is flawed enough to mask the issue.
Without Zeigler, though, it’s getting harder to tell how much Tennessee can do offensively. This is a Vols team that has had to rely on its defense too often this season, and Santiago Vescovi is suddenly one of the only reliable scorers on the team.
The Rebels do plenty of losing, but they’ve only lost by double-digits once in their last 10 games. That includes strong efforts against Texas A&M and Missouri plus a win over LSU after the firing of Kermit Davis. Ole Miss doesn’t regularly get blown out, and Tennessee isn’t the type of team that hangs a bunch of points on even some of its weaker opponents.
Both of these teams have played low-scoring games all season and finished within four points of each other back in December. As Tennessee reconfigures itself without Zeigler, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a closer than expected matchup on Thursday.
Ole Miss vs. Tennessee Prediction: Ole Miss +11.5
Ole Miss vs. Tennessee Odds
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Tennessee enters as an 11.5-point favorite with the over/under 128.5 points. The Vols are -800 on the moneyline.
The Volunteers are still reeling from the loss of Zeigler. Oddsmakers don’t believe the injury will affect them in this one, and that may be fair with the season Ole Miss has had.
Ole Miss vs. Tennessee Key Matchups
Here are some key matchups that could decide Ole Miss vs. Tennessee.
Ole Miss Shooters vs. Tennessee Three-Point Defense
The essential question in this game is where the points are going to come from for Ole Miss. The Rebels shoot just 29.7% from three-point range, while Tennessee holds opponents to just 25.5% from deep. That’s the best mark in the country. With that being said, Zeigler was a big part of the Vols’ defense and his absence could open some things up for teams like the Rebels.
Time will tell if Ole Miss can give Tennessee any kind of scare with its shooting. The Rebels have one regular who shoots better than 35% from deep, and leading scorer Matthew Murrell struggled mightily when he faced Tennessee in December.
Ole Miss needs to find offense from somewhere. On Wednesday, Amaree Abram and Jaemyn Brakefield shot a combined 7-of-13 from three, so there’s some momentum here.
Santiago Vescovi vs. Ole Miss Defense
Santiago Vescovi is the one player who needs to step up with Zeigler out. He slid over to the point guard role and has taken on more of a passing role while remaining the most important scorer for this Tennessee team. Vescovi is averaging 5.0 assists over his last four games after averaging only 1.3 in his previous six games.
The new role didn’t look like it affected him in last weekend’s loss to Auburn, as he scored 21 points om 8-of-13 from the field, but the fact Tennessee still scored just 70 points and lost outlines how critical he is to a very shaky offense.
Tennessee will go as far as Vescovi goes. If he doesn’t perform on the offensive end, it’s tough to see where else the offense will come from – that’s a big reason for my Ole Miss vs. Tennessee prediction. Fortunately for the Vols, Ole Miss’ defense – while not terrible – doesn’t excel in any particular area.