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Kansas vs. Tennessee College Basketball Odds & Pick: Bet the Under for Jayhawks vs. Volunteers

Kansas vs. Tennessee College Basketball Odds & Pick: Bet the Under for Jayhawks vs. Volunteers article feature image

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Josiah-Jordan James.

  • A big game will take place in Knoxville, TN on Saturday night as the Tennessee Volunteers host the Kansas Jayhawks.
  • The under cashes quite often when Bill Self hits the road for a non-conference game, but will that be the case tonight?
  • Mike Randle thinks so, and he explains why below.

Kansas vs. Tennessee Odds

Kansas Odds
+3.5 (-114)
Tennessee Odds
-3.5 (-106)
+140 / -166
Time | TV
Saturday, 6 p.m. ET | ESPN
Odds updated Saturday at 3:50 p.m. ET and via FanDuel. Get up to a $1,000 risk-free bet at FanDuel today.

Kansas and Tennessee are both trying to redirect disappointing seasons. 

The Jayhawks ended a three-game Big 12 losing streak with a 59-51 comeback win over TCU at home. Kansas is currently at a surprising fifth-place in the conference with a 5-4 record. 

Tennessee also stopped the bleeding on a shorter two-game losing streak with a 56-53 home win over Mississippi State. The Volunteers are in fourth place in the SEC, a daunting 3.5 games back of Alabama, which is undefeated in the conference. 

With both teams in pressing need of positive momentum, how will this SEC/Big 12 showdown play out on Saturday night in Knoxville?

The Matchup

These teams are mirror images of each other. Both Kansas and Tennessee have strong defenses with inconsistent offensive output. 

The Jayhawks rank 11th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency and first in Big 12 play in 2-point percentage allowed at 45%, per KenPom.

They have been surprisingly vulnerable from beyond the arc, allowing conference opponents to hit at a 38.3% rate. During their recent three-game losing streak, Kansas allowed each of its three opponents (Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oklahoma) to make nine 3-pointers at a combined accuracy of 42.2%. 

Kansas has struggled to adjust to life without a dominant post player. The departure of former Big 12 Player of the Year Udoka Azubuike has allowed teams to increase pressure on the Jayhawks perimeter players.

Talented wing players such as Ochai Agbaji (14.4 ppg), Jalen Wilson (12.3 ppg), and Marcus Garrett (9.9 ppg) have all struggled with weekly consistency. 

The Jayhawks are at their best when they receive big contributions from 6-foot-10 big man David McCormack. When the junior forward avoids foul trouble and contributes efficiently, the Jayhawks’ offense becomes much improved.

In their two recent losses to Baylor and Oklahoma, McCormack was limited to just 7.5 points and two rebounds per game. 

Kansas has tried to control the game with a much slower pace than past years. The Jayhawks rank dead last in conference play in adjusted tempo, per KenPom.

They have posted big point totals in road matchups but only when they have been able to shoot well from deep. In their three wins over Creighton, TCU, and West Virginia, Kansas averaged 81.7 ppg while shooting a blistering 43% (34-of-79) from beyond the arc. 

However, they are unlikely to repeat that efficiency against the Volunteers. 

Tennessee still possesses one of the strongest collections of defensive metrics of any team in the country.

The Volunteers rank second among all teams in overall defensive efficiency. They are holding opponents to an average of 30.8% from 3-point range and 44.9% from inside the arc. Within SEC play, they have excelled at forcing turnovers, sitting first overall in defensive turnover percentage. 

The Volunteers boast a balanced offensive attack but lack that true alpha scorer.

Senior forward John Fulkerson (11.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg) leads the team in scoring and is an excellent free-throw shooter (77.6%). Junior guard Victor Bailey (10.9 ppg) is an exceptionally streaky scorer. He has three games of 11 or more points and three games of four points or fewer in the past six Tennessee contests.

The rest of the core Tennessee offense includes five players who average around nine points per game. Jaden Springer (9.9 ppg), Santiago Vescovi (9.2 ppg), Keon Johnson (8.9 ppg), Yves Pons (8.6 ppg), and Josiah-Jordan James (8.1 ppg) are athletic complementary players that excel on the defensive end.

The Volunteers rely on their scoring inside the arc to generate the majority of their points. Only 24.5% of their scoring has come from beyond the arc, 304th in the nation.

Betting Analysis & Pick

Every signal in this game points to a defensive struggle. Neither team features the offensive talent to overcome the strong opposing defenses.

In a game in which both teams are desperate to win, I expect a low-scoring battle.

Under Bill Self, the Jayhawks are 27-18 (60%) to the under in non-conference games.

I’m projecting that at least one team fails to reach 60 points and will take the under 130.5 in what should be a great game between two top programs in college basketball.

Pick: Under 130.5 (down to 130).

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