A dramatic home win over Arizona on Dec. 22 moved the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team to 9-2 overall as it prepared to embark on SEC play. Nearly three weeks later, the Volunteers are looking to regain their previous form.
Tennessee sits at 10-4 after losing two of its last three games, and its lone victory during that time was a 66-60 overtime win against Ole Miss. The Volunteers dealt with COVID-19 issues affecting two of their best players during the three-game span.
Point guard Kennedy Chandler and forward John Fulkerson missed the team’s matchup against Alabama on Dec. 29, a 5-point road loss to Alabama. That defeat wasn’t overly alarming, but Saturday’s 12-point loss to LSU had Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes frustrated.
He called for more from Fulkerson, whom Barnes hopes starts playing like he did against Arizona – Fulkerson had a 24-point, 10-rebound performance – sooner rather than later.
Rick Barnes: We need John Fulkerson to help us or step aside.
— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) January 9, 2022
Bounce-back spot for Tennessee
Tuesday night, Tennessee hosts an average South Carolina team in what figures to be a bounce-back spot for the Volunteers, who are just 1-2 in the SEC. Tennessee is a double-digit favorite at Tennessee’s sportsbooks, with Caesars, DraftKings, and TwinSpires listing the Volunteers as 15-point favorites. Meanwhile, BetMGM, FanDuel, and WynnBET have the Volunteers as 15.5-point faves.
As far as the moneyline, Tennessee fans can find their favorite team at -1000 at BetMGM, while FanDuel lists the Volunteers at -1700 and TwinSpires goes as high as -2000. Tennessee’s other sportsbooks fall in between with something around -1325 at most books.
South Carolina will be a double-digit underdog for the first time this season, although the Gamecocks are a solid 3-2 against the spread when not favored. South Carolina knocked off Vanderbilt on Saturday as an 8.5-point underdog, leaning on a team-wide effort to secure the win as 11 different Gamecocks scored in the game.
Expect a reasonably low-scoring affair Tuesday, as Tennessee and South Carolina are two of the better defensive teams in college basketball. According to analytics site KenPom.com, South Carolina ranks 40th nationally in defensive efficiency, while Tennessee checks in at No. 3. Neither side is dynamic offensively, with Tennessee being the 51st most efficient offense, and South Carolina ranking 190th nationally.
FanDuel lists a low total of 141, while DraftKings goes as high as 143 points. WynnBET has the total at 142, while BetMGM and Caesars have the over/under at 142.5. and TwinSpires lists 141.5. Three of Tennessee’s last four games have gone under the point total, but South Carolina is on a three-game streak of hitting overs.
Vanderbilt hosts Kentucky
After a mediocre 5-4 start to the season, Vanderbilt rattled off four consecutive wins. Despite a recent home loss to South Carolina, the Commodores seem like they could be trending in the right direction as they prepare to host Kentucky Tuesday night.
⚓️ The Brightest Stage in College Basketball takes center stage.
— Vanderbilt Men's Basketball (@VandyMBB) January 6, 2022
Vanderbilt is a 7-point underdog at DraftKings and WynnBET, while FanDuel and BetMGM have the Commodores as 7.5-point dogs. Those looking for the best line on Jerry Stackhouse’s team can find Vanderbilt as an 8-point underdog at Caesars. It’s a big opportunity for Vanderbilt, but the Commodores will need to play at their best to keep it close with one of the SEC’s best.
Assuming COVID-19 issues don’t lead to a postponement or cancellation, Tennessee and Kentucky will battle Saturday in Lexington. As of Tuesday, KenPom predicts a 74-69 Kentucky victory, meaning the Volunteers will likely be road underdogs this weekend.
Photo: Stephen Lew/USA TODAY