It’s not every day you see one of the best power rated teams as a fifth seed in their respective conference tournament, but that’s the case for the Tennessee Volunteers. They now battle it out against four seed Missouri as a -6 favorite, looking to remind the nation they are one of the best teams in the league. Backed behind an elite defense, my prediction is that Tennessee covers the spread and cruises past the Missouri Tigers.
Tennessee Vs. Missouri Prediction
The term elite almost sounds like a dig at Tennessee as their defense has been generationally great. They ranked number one in the nation in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency throughout the full course of the season, suffocating opposing offenses night in and night out. They specialize in smothering opposing shooters, holding opponents to an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 41.7% per TeamRankings. Like their AdjD, that eFG% is good for first in the nation.
They will need to once again be locked in on defense over the course of forty minutes as Missouri is one of the most lethal offenses in the nation. They finished the season top-10 in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, burning opponents with lethal jump shooters spread throughout the floor. They mimic Xavier’s offensive approach, running at a quick pace and filling the gaps with shooters for high quality looks at the rim.
Though a major issue resides in that style of play as they do not ramp up the pace fast enough to get Tennessee reeling. Especially after showing their defense can stump Alabama, a team that runs at the fastest pace in the nation. When Missouri is slogged down by the Vols defenders cutting off their lanes, they are forced to play in a halfcourt set. That spells doom for the Tigers as Tennessee in the halfcourt is where they thrive on defense.
Another potential issue for Missouri is that they lack versatility in their scoring. Kobe Brown and D’Moi Hodge contribute a majority of their points, averaging a combined 30.2 points per game. That’s 37.7% of their total points with their next best scorer clocking in at 10.5 points per game. Tennessee will zero in on this, negating Brown and Hodge and forcing a secondary scorer to beat them. Tennessee can make up for the help defense on the Tigers star players by dragging down into the interior and flying back out towards the perimeter as an elite shifting unit.
Tennessee Vs. Missouri Prediction: Tennessee -6
Tennessee Vs. Missouri Odds
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Their free fall from the top of the SEC has been an unfortunate one as the Vols rank 315th in Luck per Kenpom. Just because they are the fifth seed doesn’t mean that they are still one of the best units in the nation and oddsmakers know this. They opened the Vols as a -6 favorite, with bettors backing them up to -6.5 in some shops as of writing. They handled Ole Miss with ease in their first game out, now looking to make a late run to improve their seeding.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a quick pace as oddsmakers opened the number at 141.5. Bettors have yet to take a firm stand on either side of the total, keeping the number the same as the opener. With Missouri playing as two extremes when comparing their AdjO and AdjD, this is an immediate pass for me. The Over is worth a look should the number tick down as Tennessee’s anemic offense should find life against this Tigers defense.
Tennessee Vs. Missouri Key Matchups
Vols secondary scorer’s vs Missouri perimeter defense
Speaking of the Vols back Luck rating, they recently saw their second leading scorer go down with a torn ACL in Zakai Zeigler at the end of the season. This has formed a gap in scoring, needing others to step up in scoring production.
While the Vols tinker with their lineups, they are gifted a weak Missouri defense in the meantime. Because of the Tigers inability to cover looks at the rim, I believe the Vols secondary scorers step up in cashing the spread in my Tennessee Vs. Missouri prediction.
Missouri possesses an eFG% of 52.5%, good for 274th in the nation per TeamRankings. That means they allow high quality looks at the rim at a dangerous rate, giving the Vols’ anemic offense an ability to generate a faster scoring pace.
Back the Vols at no higher than -6 as they should shut down the high-powered Tigers offense while also finding scoring consistency from their guard play.