College Basketball Odds & Picks for Tennessee vs. Arkansas: Back Vols on Road in SEC Affair
Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Rick Barnes & Santiago Vescovi (Tennessee)
- No. 16 Tennessee takes on No. 23 Arkansas on the road in an SEC affair.
- The Vols have won five straight games -- including a massive victory over Kentucky last time out -- while the Razorbacks have won 10 of their last 11.
- Anthony Dabbundo dives into this clash and explains why this isn't a typical letdown spot for Tennessee.
Tennessee vs. Arkansas Odds
-105o / -115u
-105o / -115u
Tennessee earned its biggest win of the season, defending home court on Tuesday night against Kentucky.
The Volunteers zoomed to an early lead and never looked back against one of the nation’s elite teams, but Saturday will present a different challenge on the road at Bud Walton Arena in Arkansas.
Arkansas recently pulled off an upset at home against then-No. 1 Auburn and then lost that same weekend at Alabama by a single point. Eric Musselman’s Hogs have won nine of 10 games since beginning conference play 0-3 in January.
While the Volunteers are known for their elite defense, it’s actually Arkansas that comes into this game as No. 1 in adjusted defensive efficiency in the SEC, per KenPom.
Both teams like to get out and run-and-gun in transition whenever possible, but both clubs are also elite on the defensive end and occasionally struggle to score offensively.
Even though Tennessee is in a flat spot on the road here after the biggest win of its season, the recent improvements of the offense creates a more reliable source for scoring against an Arkansas team that can be prone to large in-game swings.
The improvements of Kennedy Chandler and Zakai Zeigler in the Tennessee backcourt dramatically raises the ceiling of the Volunteers come March. They’re always going to play defense at an elite level and just need a consistent offense that doesn’t go into a ton of scoring droughts.
The Volunteers are turning the ball over less often, are making a few more jump shots and continue to be a solid team crashing the offensive glass.
Tennessee’s offense primarily runs through mid-range looks, catch-and-shoot 3s and ball screens to generate open shooters in the half-court. At times, the Vols struggle in the half-court, but that’s happened less and less in the last few weeks, as Chandler and Ziegler continue to take steps forward.
Arkansas will allow open looks from the perimeter, even though the Hogs defend in transition at an elite rate. The Razorbacks are just 145th nationally in 3-point defense and while that’s improved in conference play, the numbers suggest they’ve been a bit lucky from beyond the arc.
Tennessee should be able to follow the Alabama blueprint and use dribble drive and ball screens from Chandler to find open looks for Ziegler and Santiago Vescovi, two guys hitting north of 37% from beyond the arc.
It’s easier to see how the Volunteers generate easy offense from the perimeter against an otherwise elite Razorbacks defense, but the matchup is less simple for JD Notae and Arkansas offensively.
The Muss Bus is back on the road after a midseason blip saw the Hogs sitting at 10-5 overall and 0-3 in SEC play. The Razorbacks have gotten healthier, they’ve started to turn the corner and are competitive against second-tier SEC squads that could make a tournament run.
Arkansas wins with defense and attacking the rim on offense, as the Razorbacks really struggle to shoot consistently from the perimeter.
Arkansas is outside the top 150 in mid-range, post-up, and 3-point ShotQuality on offense. The Razorbacks aren’t a good jump shooting team, but when Notae is able to get downhill and get to the rim off ball screens, or the Hogs are able to run in transition, they can be lethal.
The problem with the matchup on Saturday is that Tennessee has done a much better job of protecting the ball on offense and is unlikely to turn the ball over like Alabama did (24 times) last Saturday.
If the Razorbacks are forced to operate in the half-court, it usually means a lot of isolation and pick-and-roll, two areas where Tennessee is among the best in the country defensively.
Notae and Jaylin Williams have the ability to score in the paint and draw a bunch of fouls, as Arkansas relies heavily on the charity stripe to get some free points. Tennessee will send teams to the line, but that’s the only clear matchup advantage for the Hogs’ offense.
The pace won’t bother the Vols, who will run with anyone up-and-down the court.
Tennessee vs. Arkansas Betting Pick
This generally would be an easy sell high spot on Tennessee after its biggest win of the season, but I like the matchup for the Vols and really think that their offense has taken a step forward in recent weeks.
Arkansas has played well of late too, but it was a bit fortunate to beat Auburn in overtime and needed a late Alabama collapse to make that game competitive.
Arkansas’ offense doesn’t have enough consistency or shooting to expose the elite Vols defense. If Barnes can keep the Hogs out of transition enough, Arkansas’ mediocre half-court offense won’t be able to keep up, even in a hype home spot.
Tennessee already has three away conference wins, including a big road win at Mississippi State that was also a home-run spot for the Bulldogs. I’m backing the Volunteers, even on the road.
Pick: Tennessee PK or better
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