Wednesday’s college basketball slate features just one game between Top 25 teams, and that showdown takes place in the Volunteer State. No. 19 Tennessee, a Top 10 team in KenPom, hosts No. 6 Arizona at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2.
It’s a marquee matchup for the Volunteers, who saw an in-state rivalry postponed over the weekend when COVID-19 issues within the Memphis program kept the two sides from competing in Nashville. Tennessee and Arizona appear healthy heading into Wednesday’s game, making for an exciting midweek clash.
🚨 NET UPDATE
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) December 17, 2021
Tennessee (8-2) is a 2-point home favorite at Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel, while BetMGM, TwinSpires, and WynnBET list the Volunteers as 1.5-point favorites. Tennessee’s moneyline sits at -125 at WynnBet, -128 at FanDuel, -130 at Caesars and TwinSpires, and -135 at DraftKings, as every Tennessee sportsbook favored the Volunteers as of Wednesday morning.
Beating Arizona won’t be easy, however, as the Wildcats are a perfect 11-0 this season, and they’ve fared well away from home. Arizona’s resume includes a road win at Illinois and an 18-point neutral site win over Michigan. Arizona is an impressive 9-2 against the spread this season, and it’s 1-0 as an underdog, as it was a 3.5-point dog to the Wolverines.
Arizona is led by a group of underclassmen, as each of the team’s top four scorers are either freshmen or sophomores. Freshman guard Bennedict Mathurin leads the charge by scoring 17.4 points per contest, while fellow freshman Azoulas Tubelis, a 6-foot-11-inch forward, averages 16.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Tubelis teams up with 7-foot sophomore Christian Koloko to form a fearsome frontcourt.
The total for the game is listed at 149.5 at most Tennessee sportsbooks, although FanDuel has the total at 150.
Elsewhere among Tennessee programs in power conferences, Vanderbilt plays at Hawaii as part of a multi-day tournament. The game tips off at 11 p.m. CT, and the Commodores are widely considered favorites, although the spread varies noticeably. Vanderbilt is only a 6-point favorite at DraftKings, but it’s up to a 7.5-point favorite at BetMGM. Other sportsbooks have the line somewhere around 6.5 or 7 points.
Mid-major action heats up
Murray State (10-1), which defeated Memphis earlier this season, has another shot to take down a name brand program Wednesday at No. 12 Auburn. The Racers, 12.5-point underdogs at most Tennessee sportsbooks, are 6-2 ATS this season, having played a few games that didn’t have point spreads against non-Division I programs.
— Murray State MBB (@RacersHoops) December 19, 2021
For fans of the Racers feeling like playing the moneyline, Murray State’s can be found as high as +650 at DraftKings.
Chattanooga (9-3), which is coming off consecutive losses to Belmont (10-3) and Murray State, faces Middle Tennessee Wednesday. The Mocs are 8.5-point favorites at most Tennessee sportsbooks, although Middle Tennessee has been one of the best ATS teams (9-1 ATS) in college basketball. TwinSpires has Middle Tennessee as a 9-point underdog.
East Tennessee State (7-5) is another notable Tennessee program taking the court Wednesday, as the Buccaneers play at Georgia (5-6). It’s a winnable game for ETSU, as Georgia has struggled to play consistent basketball this season. ETSU is a slight underdog, with the spread around 4 points at most sportsbooks. BetMGM has the Bucs as 4.5-point underdogs, which could be a tempting line for some bettors, as Georgia is just 3-7-1 ATS this year.
COVID-19 impacts local teams
One of the most anticipated college basketball matchups of the week had Louisville and Kentucky scheduled to meet at Rupp Arena on Wednesday, but COVID-19 issues within the Louisville program caused the game to be postponed.
Instead, Kentucky will host Western Kentucky on Wednesday night in a game for a good cause. Kentucky is running a toy drive at the game, aiming to give back to children who were impacted by a devastating tornado that recently hit the area.
Reminder: We will have a toy drive tomorrow night to help children who were affected by the western Kentucky tornadoes have a wonderful holiday season.
You can bring new, unwrapped toys, books or $25 VISA/Mastercard gift cards to our next home games to participate! pic.twitter.com/wtLXzC5SOp
— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) December 21, 2021
As for the game itself, Kentucky is about an 11-point favorite over the Hilltoppers. FanDuel has Western Kentucky as a 10-point underdog, while BetMGM has WKU as an 11.5-point underdog going into the in-state battle.
Another team in the area affected by COVID-19 has been the Memphis Tigers. After smoking Alabama in a recent matchup, the Tigers were unable to play Tennessee last weekend due to COVID-19 concerns. Memphis hopes to resume basketball activities on Dec. 27, according to a statement from the school.
Photo: Caitie McMekin/USA TODAY