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College Basketball Odds, Picks for Tennessee vs. LSU (Saturday, Jan. 8)

College Basketball Odds, Picks for Tennessee vs. LSU (Saturday, Jan. 8) article feature image

Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Kennedy Chandler & Rick Barnes (Tennessee)

  • Tennessee faces LSU Saturday in SEC college basketball action.
  • Odds have been moving, as the Tigers now stand as -2 favorites, according to updated odds from PointsBet.
  • However, Anthony Dabbundo is betting the underdog and explains why in his full preview below.

Tennessee vs. LSU Odds

Saturday, Jan. 8
6 p.m. ET
Tennessee Odds
-110o / -110u
LSU Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

The two best defenses in college basketball, per KenPom, are set to face off in Baton Rouge on Saturday, as Tennessee travels to take on LSU.

The Tigers rebounded from their first loss of the season against Auburn with a dominant second half defensive performance and home win against Kentucky.

LSU enters this game off of the high of that victory, while Tennessee barely snuck by Ole Miss in overtime. Despite closing as 17-point favorites, the Volunteers struggled to beat an Ole Miss team that hadn’t played in multiple weeks, and was without one of its players.

It was a sandwich spot for Tennessee, which had just finished back-to-back games against Arizona and Alabama. Now, the Vols have a tricky road game on Saturday.

The matchup is clear in this one. Both teams want to apply a ton of ball pressure, turn over opponents and create offense in transition off of their defenses.

But the LSU defense has some concerning regression indicators in field goal defense and has had a lot of teams miss open looks against it this season.

Tennessee is the sturdier and more consistent defense in a game that projects out to be a tossup.

Despite the strength of the SEC home court, LSU shouldn’t be favored by multiple possessions here, even at home.

Tennessee Volunteers

While it can be debated whether the LSU defense is really a top-five unit, the Volunteers once again find themselves in the top five of adjusted defensive efficiency for the second consecutive year.

Tennessee is deep and has a lot of returning wing and interior defenders who generate steals and alter shots. The Vols are clearly elite by any metric you look at.

The biggest difference — compared to LSU — is that UT isn’t reliant on teams shooting unsustainably poorly from long range against it.

The Vols bring a top-20 defense by block and steal rate with them on the road and sit just 54th in effective field goal percentage defense. It’s much more sustainable statistically when your opponent adjusted ShotQuality is the worst in the entire country against your defense, too.

Tennessee controlled the entire game against both Alabama and Arizona, two consensus top-10 teams. The Alabama game was not only on the road, but the Vols were down multiple starters due to COVID issues in that game. They may have collapsed late, but they forced Alabama to take some terrible shots the entire night.

The Volunteers may have been caught in a flat spot against Ole Miss and barely escaped with a win, but that only makes the number better in this scenario on Saturday against LSU.

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LSU Tigers

LSU had an impressive win against Kentucky, but ShotQuality suggested the Tigers yet again rode their defensive luck a bit.

It’s not that the defense isn’t good, the Tigers are very good — they turn teams over at the sixth-best rate in the country. The question is whether or not the metrics that suggest they have one of the best perimeter defenses in the country is true.

According to KenPom, LSU has the fourth-best defense by effective field goal percentage and 10th-best by 3-point field goal percentage. But based on the number and quality of 3s allowed this year, both are not going to remain where they currently sit forever.

Kentucky had a lot of missed open looks in its game, while Auburn exploited the Tigers’ defense just as recently as last week.

The Tigers now have a third consecutive game against a top-15 quality opponent, and they were really pretty fortunate to escape the first two with a 1-1 record.

Turnovers could be a major issue for them, as they were against Auburn when LSU trailed 18-1 early. Shots in the half court weren’t falling, the defense couldn’t force enough turnovers and the Tigers failed to end enough of their possessions with shot attempts.

Given how aggressive both defenses like to play, fouls can also become a concern in this game. Tennessee has a significantly deeper bench than LSU.

Tennessee vs. LSU Betting Pick

Two of the nation’s most elite defenses — that love to force turnovers and generate offense off of them — should make for a really fun SEC tilt in Baton Rouge on Saturday.

Both offenses have had periods where they have struggled in the half court, but Tennessee is in a great spot here following an overtime wake-up call against Ole Miss and a previous loss to Alabama.

While LSU has the home-court edge, the main difference between these two teams is how well Tennessee takes care of the ball offensively. The Volunteers rank 38th in turnover rate offensively, while LSU is outside the top 200.

Whichever team controls the turnovers will control the pace and flow of the game. Given that the Volunteers have the edge there, it’s hard to see how LSU is able to get margin. Throw in some negative defensive regression for LSU’s perimeter defense, and this game is a tossup at best.

I’ll take the Vols at anything more than a full possession to take this game down to the wire in Baton Rouge. If they protect the ball, turn over LSU and make the Tigers play in the half court, the Vols are a live underdog in this road spot.

Pick: Tennessee +3 or better

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