Rick Barnes wanted his team to raise its game following a 107-79 loss to Kentucky on Jan. 15. It’s fair to say the Tennessee Volunteers have answered the call, winning five consecutive SEC games since the blowout road loss, thrusting themselves toward the top of the conference standings.
To keep the SEC winning streak going, the Volunteers need to play well Wednesday night in a challenging road environment. Tennessee is a small favorite on the road against a Mississippi State squad that’s 12-1 overall at home and a perfect 5-0 against the spread in home SEC games.
Tennessee is a 1-point favorite at DraftKings and FanDuel, while BetMGM, Caesars, and TwinSpires list the Volunteers as 1.5-point favorites. The Tennessee moneyline ranges from -118 at at FanDuel to -125 at BetMGM.
Keeping pace at the top
While catching 10-1 Auburn at the top of the SEC standings might be a longshot this late in the season, the Volunteers are certainly in a strong position to earn a top-4 seed in the SEC Tournament, guaranteeing the team a double bye. Tennessee sits at 7-3 in conference play, trailing only Auburn, Kentucky (9-2), and Arkansas (8-3). Mississippi State is 5-4 in league action, and every other SEC team has at least five conference losses.
After the dust settled over night, Kentucky is back to #2 in the KenPom rankings…just narrowly squeaking ahead of Arizona.
Interestingly, they are now also projected to lose at Tennessee next Tuesday night 72-71. The Volunteers have a big game @ Mississippi State tonight.
— Brandon Ramsey (@BRamseyKSR) February 9, 2022
A win would build Tennessee’s NCAA Tournament resume, which includes a few impressive home wins (Arizona and LSU come to mind) but a lack of noteworthy road triumphs. Taking down Mississippi State in Starkville is no small feat and could impress the NCAA Selection Committee.
Tennessee’s top tier defense — 5th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric — will be tested against Mississippi State’s solid offense, which ranks 28th nationally in KenPom’s efficiency ratings. The total for the game is 135 points at FanDuel, but 136 at a few other major Tennessee sportsbooks. BetMGM lists the total at 136.5 points.
Later this week, Vanderbilt visits Tennessee on Saturday, giving fans a chance to watch a matchup between in-state SEC foes. The Commodores have won three of their last four games with the only defeat coming by 7 points against Kentucky.
Chattanooga hits 20 wins
A 3-pointer at the buzzer gave Chattanooga a 74-72 overtime win over Mercer on Monday. The victory made the Mocs 20-5 overall this year.
— Chattanooga Basketball (@GoMocsMBB) February 8, 2022
Most Tennessee sportsbooks list Chattanooga as a 17.5-point favorite to earn its 21st win when hosting Western Carolina Wednesday night. Given its consistent success this season, Chattanooga could become a trendy NCAA Tournament upset pick, should the Mocs qualify for the event.
Elsewhere in Tennessee, Memphis has reeled off three consecutive wins to improve to 12-8 overall after a three-game losing streak. The Tigers are 10-point home favorites Wednesday night against Tulane, but during American Athletic Conference action, the Tigers are just 3-6-1 ATS. It’s a big number to cover for a team that lacks consistency, but when Memphis plays to its potential, it’s a scary foe.
Photo: Jeff Blake/USA TODAY