College Basketball Odds & Picks for LSU vs. Tennessee: Why to Back the Vols

College Basketball Odds & Picks for LSU vs. Tennessee: Why to Back the Vols article feature image

Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Rick Barnes (Tennessee)

  • LSU takes on Tennessee in a SEC showdown in Knoxville.
  • The Tigers and Vols are both elite defensive teams, but LSU has had a lot of luck this season.
  • Charlie Disturco breaks down the matchup and offers up his best bet.

LSU vs. Tennessee Odds

Saturday, Jan. 22
6 p.m. ET
LSU Odds
-106o / -114u
Tennessee Odds
-106o / -114u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

The Tennessee Volunteers have a chance at revenge on Saturday night as they welcome LSU to Thompson Boling Arena.

The last time these two teams faced off, it was the Tigers who controlled the game from start to finish on their home floor, eventually winning 79-67. Xavier Pinson left that game with a knee injury and has yet to return to action.

Tennessee enters fresh off a win against Vanderbilt and will look to jump above .500 in the SEC for the first time this season.

Both teams boast top-10 defenses in terms of adjusted efficiency, setting up for what should be a defensive slugfest.

Can the Vols get revenge against their conference foe? Or will the Tigers prove to be too much once again?

LSU Tigers

If there's one way to describe this LSU team, it's that it always sticks around. Even in their losses, when trailing by double digits, the Tigers clawed their way back and gave themselves an opportunity to win the game.

LSU enters this matchup on a two-game losing streak, falling at home to Arkansas before heading into Tuscaloosa and losing by three to Alabama. I want to focus on that latter loss against the Tide.

There's positives and negatives to take from the game. On the bright side, LSU remained competitive despite falling behind by double digits all without Pinson, who missed his third straight, and Darius Days, who left early with an ankle injury.

Efton Reid battled foul trouble — which has become a constant in LSU games — and a one-man band performance from Tari Eason (26 points) is the reason this game remained close.

But, Alabama plagued itself and failed to pull away when it had the opportunity. The Crimson Tide finished 0-for-15 in the second half from the perimeter and missed crucial free throws down the stretch.

ShotQuality had this game as a 13-point Alabama victory, proving yet again the Tigers received a stroke of luck.


Bama missed open 3 after open 3…. Based on the quality of possessions taken by both teams:

🔺Expected to win the game by 12
🔺Win 83% of the time

— ShotQuality (@Shot_Quality) January 20, 2022

Teams are getting so many open looks because of LSU's triple-switch defense. It causes havoc and leads to plenty of turnovers — the Tigers are fifth in turnover rate — but also often leads to a shooter leaking out on the perimeter.

So far this season, teams have been unable to fully take advantage of these open looks.

Pinson is doubtful ahead of Saturday's bout while Days is questionable. Head coach Will Wade did mention it wasn't a severe ankle sprain, but the Tigers could keep Days out for precautionary reasons.

Pinson and Days are two of LSU's three leading scorers and both play vital roles in this Tigers rotation. Their status will definitely shift the line as news becomes available.

If they miss Saturday, Eric Gaines will continue to run the offense at point guard while Alex Fudge and Shareef O'Neal should see extended runs to replace Days. Keep an eye on their statuses as game time nears.

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Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee is one of the more interesting teams in the SEC. Their offense has its moments but for the most part, elite defense reigns supreme.

This is a Vols squad that ranks sixth in adjusted defensive efficiency and seventh in turnover rate.

They're able to suffocate average conference opponents — in wins, they've given up 60 points or less — but haven't fully been able to shut down the bigger and better teams. Think: Kentucky's 107-point eruption.

You normally won't beat Tennessee by attacking the interior, which is what LSU does best. The Vols rank 55th in 2-point defense, as opposed to 187th defending the perimeter.

Offensively, this isn't a team that will wow you. They struggle to shoot the ball, but are physical and often create second-chance opportunities. Think of their win against Arizona: 16 offensive rebounds, including five from John Fulkerson.

Tennessee loves the grind-it-out defensive games and has the strength and athleticism to compete with the NCAA's best. And that's exactly what Saturday night should be.

The Volunteers could be without Josiah-Jordan James, who is considered a game-time decision after suffering a cut above his eye against Vanderbilt. A strong defender, James has struggled offensively this season.

If James misses time, Justin Powell should see more playing time. Zakai Zeigler could also be given a larger workload if the Vols choose to play small ball.

LSU vs. Tennessee Betting Pick

To me, this is the perfect revenge spot for Tennessee. The players know the importance of Saturday and have mentioned it in interviews leading up to the bout.

This game sets up similarly to LSU's previous game against Alabama. The Tigers' triple-switch defense leads to opponents shooting 3s at one of the highest rates in the country. Tennessee shoots 43% of all shots from beyond the arc.

While the Vols have not shot the ball particularly well from 3 this season, Santiago Vescovi has been brilliant. He's shooting 37.7% from the perimeter and will likely be tagged with the primary workload on Saturday.

The Tigers will also likely be without primary ball handler Pinson, which means the Vols' ball pressure should disrupt an LSU offense that ranks 278th in turnover rate.

To make matters worse, LSU's best player in limiting turnovers on the offensive end — Days — could also miss Saturday night, setting up for what could be a dominant defensive performance from Tennessee.

The only way LSU pulls this out is another repeat performance from Eason, who has been one of the biggest surprises this season. He torched Tennessee in the last game and will be the primary scorer again on Saturday night.

One may look at the previous matchup between the two and think LSU is going to win handedly. But they're wrong. There's too many problems for the Tigers to neutralize this Tennessee team hungry for revenge.

The line currently sits around 3.5 and 4 at most shops. If Darius Days is out, I love this number. But if he is confirmed active, then I would look to play live at (-2) or better, or parlay moneyline with a heavier favorite on Saturday's slate.

Back the Vols to get the job done in Knoxville.

Pick: Tennessee -3.5 if Days is out (Live -2 or better, or ML parlay if in)

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Nick Sterling
Jul 21, 2024 UTC