Last week, Tennessee basketball had to hold off the Ole Miss Rebels on the road 63-59. The struggles caused the AP Poll to overreact, and the Vols fell one spot to No. 8. To be fair, they rose one spot to No. 9 in the Coaches Poll.
There’s probably a reason for that. If you followed what I wrote last week, you would know that the Vols were naturally going to struggle with that game. Coaches probably know it better.
Kermit Davis and Ole Miss run a matchup zone that’s hard to prepare for when you’re playing a different type of defense night in and night out the rest of the year. As a result, media voters are shocked while people who study the game expected it.
Vegas was also shocked. Tennessee basketball was a 7.5-point favorite in that one. Now, because they didn’t cover, the oddsmakers don’t seem as high on them.
As the Vols get set for their home opener against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, FanDuel only has them as a 9.5-point favorite. The over/under is set at 122.5, and the moneyline is Tennessee -550 and Mississippi State +400.
Sure, Mississippi State is 11-2 and flirting with the top 25. However, they haven’t beaten any ranked teams, and they lost their last two to the Drake Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama was a double-digit loss at home.
Given those stats, you would think UT should be a double-digit favorite at home, especially since they have won every home game by at least 30 points. Well, they aren’t, and this is an overreaction by Vegas to what happened at Ole Miss last week.
As a result, the Vols are a great bet in this one. Take Tennessee -9.5. They should easily cover at home and coast to a victory over a team that clearly has promise but is still under the leadership of a first year head coach right now in Chris Jans.
The over/under is a bit trickier. Jans plays a lot of up-tempo defense which creates a lot of possessions. However, his team has significant issues offensively, including shooting just 31.1 percent from three, so they are only averaging 68 points a game.
Meanwhile, the Vols are elite on defense, but it’s not clear if they will have an easy time handling MSU’s defense. Although they’ll cover, right now that’s just because they’ll shut down MSU’s offense.
Rick Barnes probably has a solid plan for Tennessee basketball to break Mississippi State’s aggressive defense. It may take some time, but they’ll eventually get going. As a result, the Vols will score enough to hit the over. You might be looking at a 20-point win for them.