Battle 4 Atlantis Championship Odds, Picks for Kansas vs. Tennessee
Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images. Pictured: Julian Phillips (Tennessee)
Kansas vs. Tennessee Odds
Battle 4 Atlantis Championship
Kansas is coming off of an all-time semifinal game against Wisconsin.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE[ pic.twitter.com/rK8V7c1NPa
— Kansas Men’s Basketball (@KUHoops) November 24, 2022
The Jayhawks were able to outlast Wisconsin in overtime due to another stellar performance from Jalen Wilson.
Wilson dominated on both ends of the floor, finishing with 29 points and 14 rebounds. It's safe to say that Wilson has cemented himself as the go-to-guy for Bill Self this season.
Similarly, Tennessee was taken to overtime by USC before it came out on top 73-66.
Freshman forward Julian Phillips led the way for the Volunteers with 25 points, eight rebounds and two steals.
Phillips recently won a starting position over sophomore Zakai Zeigler, and the improvement for Tennessee offensively has been significant.
Julian Phillips is starting to find his spots. He looked efficient today, the mid-range jumpers & the three are a welcomed sight.
W vs. USC
Now Tennessee gets their first major test of the season with Kansas tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/rvgP92NXyb
— On The Clock (@OnThe_ClockBB) November 25, 2022
Will Phillips' play continue to elevate the ceiling for this Tennessee team? Can Wilson continue to carry the load for the Jayhawks?
Let's dive in.
Self and the Kansas Jayhawks have started out their 2022-23 season right where they left off after last season's national title.
The Jayhawks are a perfect 6-0, with three impressive neutral-court wins against Duke, NC State and Wisconsin.
You can't talk about the Jayhawks without first talking about the sensational play of Wilson.
Wilson has come out of the gates swinging, averaging 23.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
What has been important to note for this Kansas team is how Self has utilized Wilson. On 52% of possessions, Self has implemented Wilson as a small-ball center alongside either KJ Adams Jr. or Kevin McCullar Jr. at the power forward spot.
This is significant for Friday's matchup with a Tennessee team that will have a distinct size advantage in the frontcourt.
The Volunteers rotate 6-foot-11 Jonas Aidoo with 7-foot-1 Uros Plavsic at the center position, and both own a noticeable height advantage over Wilson.
The contrast in styles of Kansas' small-ball lineup vs. Tennessee's height is a crucial dynamic to this matchup.
Wilson proved in Thursday's contest with Wisconsin that he had no issue matching up against 6-foot-9 Tyler Wahl and 7-foot-0 Steven Crowl. Wilson repeatedly required these larger defenders to guard him beyond the 3-point line, spreading the floor for the entire Kansas offense.
Still waiting to see the lottery agenda for Jalen Wilson…
He had another big game in a win against a relentless Wisconsin team.
9-20 FG pic.twitter.com/mOlpZdjp8w
— On The Clock (@OnThe_ClockBB) November 25, 2022
A huge benefactor of Wilson's ability to spread the floor has been McCullar. In his last two games, McCullar has posted an offensive rating over 100 due to his ability to contribute through points, assists and rebounds.
Against the Volunteers, McCuller will need to take advantage when matched up against undersized Santiago Vescovi.
A huge key to Kansas' success against Tennessee will be the play of Gradey Dick. The 6-foot-8 freshman sharp-shooter made his ability known by going for 25 points on 6-of-12 shooting from 3 against NC State.
Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, 18 of these points came in the first half against the Wolfpack, and Dick was held to just nine points on 3-of-8 shooting against Wisconsin's top-10 defense in the semifinal.
Although his play has been promising, the Jayhawks will need Dick to return to the form he had in the first half against NC State to separate themselves in the championship.
The most vulnerable area for a Kansas offense that ranks 27th nationally in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (111.4) is in the post.
Self brought in two highly-touted freshmen in Zuby Ejiofor and Ernest Udeh Jr. to fill the void left by David McCormack down-low.
The transition to the college game has taken some time for the freshmen duo, as neither has been used in more than 18% of possessions this season.
Kansas' small-ball lineup has been more than effective at spreading out opposing defenses so far this season, but it has shown an Achilles heel in its post play on both offense and defense.
After Tennessee's 78-66 home loss to Colorado, Rick Barnes demoted starting point guard Zeigler to a bench role. Zeigler made way for Phillips, who has gotten better with each start.
Phillips' improvement culminated with a 25-point explosion against USC on Thursday.
In addition to Phillips' improved play in his starting role, Zeigler has provided a much needed spark off the bench in each of Tennessee's three victories since its loss to Colorado.
Tennessee HC Rick Barnes raves about Zakai Zeigler’s performance and response after being removed from the starting lineup on Wednesday night. ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/9gfLOxXP9i
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) November 17, 2022
This spark off the bench has resulted in Tennessee's offense ranking 29th nationally in Adjusted Efficiency (111.1), right on par with the No. 3 Jayhawks.
An improved offensive flow for Tennessee is so crucial for a team that can match up with anyone defensively.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Volunteers have been smothering, allowing no more than 66 points all season and holding half of their opponents to 50 points or less.
The Volunteers' defense is bolstered by their ability to create havoc for opposing offenses. Tennessee ranks fifth in the country in Turnover% and third in Steal%.
These are two areas where the Jayhawks have been less than perfect on offense so far in the Battle 4 Atlantis. NC State was able to force nine steals against the Jayhawks, while Wisconsin added eight of its own.
These extra possessions will be crucial for the Volunteers in what is sure to be a highly-contested championship bout.
The second key storyline for Tennessee, has been the health of senior forward Josiah-Jordan James. At the time of writing, there is no update on James since he was listed as "day-to-day" by Barnes before Thursday's semifinal.
If James is able to suit up against the Jayhawks, he could present a huge mismatch for a Kansas lineup that is already outmatched from a height perspective.
Regardless of his status, a mismatch that the Volunteers will surely have the upper hand in is down-low.
Plavsic will have a significant size advantage for most of Friday afternoon. Plavsic is already being used on 21.1% of possessions (third on the team), a number that Barnes will look to increase against a small-ball Kansas lineup.
In a game that will be defined by defense and a contrast in lineups, Tennessee is primed to exploit Kansas' weakness in the post.
Kansas vs. Tennessee Betting Pick
Friday's Battle 4 Atlantis Championship will feature two top-15 defenses in terms of Adjusted Efficiency.
Due to this level of defensive play, this matchup will come down to which team can make the most of their advantages on the offensive end.
Since adding Phillips to the starting lineup, Tennessee has found a heightened offensive identity that matches up well against an undersized Jayhawks unit.
Look for the Volunteers to expose Kansas' shortcomings in the post and create enough extra possessions to bring home the championship and end Kansas' six-game winning streak.