Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#663 Tennessee 123.5 vs.
#664 Kansas -13
Saturday, January 25, 2020 at 4:00pm EST
Written by Benjamin Hayes

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#663 University of Tennessee
#664 University of Kansas
12-6
15-3
8-10
11-7
7-10-1
5-13
66
76
58
60

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Kansas (No. 3 Net Rankings) takes on Tennessee (58 Net Rankings) in a Big 12/SEC Challenge matchup on Saturday from Lawrence at 4pmET. These teams last faced each other on Nov. 23, 2018 with the Jayhawks winning 87-81 in overtime from Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Vols have won four of their last five games, including beating up on Ole Miss at home 73-48 on Jan. 21. KU has won three straight games and six of seven.

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Starting to gell

Tennessee had some terrible losses early on, falling to Wisconsin by 20 at home on Dec. 29 and LSU by 14 at home. Since then, they've won four of their last five, with the only defeat coming at Georgia (80-63). Part of the problem has been dealing with the loss of Lamonte Turner (12.3ppg) due to a shoulder injury. The good news is that Santiago Vescovi (6-3, 188) from Uruguay, enrolled as a mid-year enrollee and became eligible on Jan. 4. He scored 18 points and dished out four assists in the game, but also had nine turnovers. So the point guard has shown potential averaging 9.7ppg and 3.0 assists, but also has 30 turnovers in six games.

The Vols beat up on Ole Miss in their last game on Tuesday 73-47. John Fulkerson led the way with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Tennessee shot 49% from the floor and held the Rebels to just 30% shooting (5-25 3pt).

According to KenPom, Tennessee is ranked 50th overall, 138th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 21st in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Vols are one of the best defensive teams in the nation, holding opponents to just 59 points per game (7th) on 37.7% field goal shooting (15th) and 30.8% from long distance. They outrebound teams by 3.1 per game. On offense, they are averaging just 66.5 points per game on 42.9% shooting (30.5% 3pt).

A costly win

Kansas crushed Kansas State 81-60 on Tuesday at home, but nobody will remember how either team performed. In the closing seconds, KU forward Silvio De Sousa was trying to dribble the clock out and was stripped. He recovered to block a layup attempt by Kansas State's DaJuan Gordon, then stood over him and the benches emptied. Punches were thrown and the scrum spilled into the crowd. De Sousa was suspended by 12 games by the league office, while David McCormack was suspended for two games.

The good news is that De Sousa (6-9, 245) was averaging just 2.6 points and 2.8 rebounds. He was never a major contributor, while McCormack (6-10, 265) provided some size and 7.5 points with 4.7 rebounds per game.

Defense is the name of the game for the Jayhawks, who allow just 60.6 points per game on 37.5% shooting (29.7% 3pt). Kansas averages 76.7 points per game on 49.5% shooting (36% 3pt). KenPom has Kansas ranked first in the nation overall, 11th in adjusted offensive efficiency and first in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Devon Dotson leads the Jayhawks with 18.2 points per game on 45.7% shooting (30.6% 3pt).

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Full-Game Side Bet

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I like Tennessee to cover here for several reasons. The aftermath of the brawl could damage the team's psyche and the two suspensions will at least hurt the depth for two games. The Vols are also starting to step up and while the Georgia loss hurt, they took care of business in their other two recent road games by 20 at Vanderbilt and by 10 at Missouri. Both teams are outstanding defensively and I see Kansas struggling to win this game, but not covering.

Prediction: Tennessee +13.5

Full-Game Total Pick

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These are two of the top defensive teams in the nation. KenPom has Kansas at first in adjusted defensive efficiency and Tennessee at 21st. The Vols are also seventh in points allowed per game. Kansas wins games with their defense. They've gone under in seven straight games before the Kansas State win, But their offense has been just average. The Vols have gone under in two straight and three of their last four.

Prediction: Under 125.5
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Written By Benjamin Hayes

Ben has been a sports writer for over 30 years, dabbling in college and pro basketball, college and pro football, baseball, college lacrosse, minor league baseball and even college gymnastics. He's also been involved in the gaming industry for over 25 years and has been looking to beat the books since he was 13!