Alabama vs. Tennessee Odds & Pick: Lay the Big Number, Back the Volunteers’ Strong Defense

Alabama vs. Tennessee Odds & Pick: Lay the Big Number, Back the Volunteers’ Strong Defense article feature image
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Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Josiah-Jordan-James.

  • Having opened SEC play successfully, Alabama looks for a statement win on Saturday over Tennessee.
  • Crimson Tide Head coach Nate Oats has four players averaging double-digit points, which be valuable against a stout defensive team in the Vols.
  • Check out Mike Randle's betting guide below, including odds, picks & comprehensive analysis for Alabama vs. Tennessee.

Alabama vs. Tennessee Odds

Alabama Odds +10.5 (-115) [BET NOW]
Tennessee Odds -10.5 (-105) [BET NOW]
Moneyline +480 / -650 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 144.5 (-114 / -106) [BET NOW]
Time 6 p.m. ET
TV ESPN2
Odds updated Saturday afternoon and via FanDuel. Get up to a $1,000 risk-free bet at FanDuel today.

No. 7 Tennessee is undefeated and coming off an impressive 73-53 road win over Missouri. The Volunteers host an Alabama team on Saturday that has struggled with consistency, having entered the season with high expectations.

The Vols are almost 10-point favorites against a Crimson Tide team that has lost by four combined points in their past two meetings. Are the Volunteers that much better than Alabama, or will the Tide provide a bigger test than the books are predicting?

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The Matchup

The most impressive unit in this game is the Tennessee defense. The Volunteers might just play the best team defense of any team in the nation. Their KenPom rankings are staggering:

  • Adjusted-Defensive Efficiency (second)
  • Effective Field Goal Percentage Allowed (12th)
  • Defensive Turnover Percentage (12th)
  • 3-point% Allowed (28th)
  • 2-point% Allowed (29th)
  • Block Percentage (fifth)

Head coach Rick Barnes preaches intense on-ball defense, and Tennessee has six different players who average more than one steal per game. The Volunteers are a team full of long, athletic defenders who can guard multiple positions.

Senior John Fulkerson (11.7 points per game, 6.3 rebounds), sophomore Josiah-Jordan James (8.9 points, 6.1 rebounds), and senior Yves Pons (8.3 points, 6.0 rebounds) all average more than six rebounds per game. It will require a true team effort by Alabama to limit the Volunteers from dominating the glass.

The Volunteers’ 3-point defense will be a problem for an Alabama team that generates 37% of their points (46th most in the country) from beyond the arc. While the Crimson Tide rely on the deep ball for points, they do not shoot it with great consistency, ranking 245th in 3-point percentage.

In Alabama’s most recent home win against Mississippi, the Tide again relied on volume from long distance, going 12-for-37 (32.4%) from beyond the arc. However, they forced Ole Miss into 17 turnovers and out-rebounded the Rebels, 32-28. Both of those things are unlikely to occur against a disciplined Barnes team that ranks 22nd with only 10.7 turnovers per game.

The Volunteers’ sophomore point guard Santiago Vescovi controls the pace for Tennessee, which ranks just 281st in tempo. Alabama will want to run and will likely get frustrated against the difficult Volunteers.

The Crimson Tide will desperately need senior guard John Petty (12.1 points, 39% field goal, 30.2% 3-point) to get going. He is well below his normal shooting percentages and hopes to build off his 3 for 7 3-point shooting performance against Ole Miss.

The last huge discrepancy between these two teams is at the free-throw line. Alabama has shot just 67.5%, while Tennessee ranks 33rd in the country at 76.3%.

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Betting Analysis & Pick 

Pons was quoted as saying the Volunteers have a strong desire to “be great.” They looked that way against No. 12 Missouri and have another chance to make a statement against Alabama.

The Volunteers are a perfect 5-0 against the spread at home this season and 6-1 overall. Alabama is playing its first true road game of the season. If the Tide are playing well and shooting well, they could keep this game competitive.

However, Alabama needs to follow the script set forth by Cincinnati on Dec. 12 and match the Volunteers’ defensive intensity. The Crimson Tide, though, simply aren’t ready for that challenge.

I’m laying the big number with the Volunteers at home. I expect them to open up a double-digit lead in the second half and cruise to their eighth straight win to move to 2-0 in SEC conference play.

Pick: Tennessee -9.5 (up to -10.5).

[Bet Tennessee now at FanDuel and get a $1,000 risk-free bet.]
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