2021 NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks, Predictions: Oregon State vs. Tennessee (March 19)
Donald Page/Getty Images. Pictured: Tennessee Volunteers forward Yves Pons (35).
- Updated Tennessee vs. Oregon State odds list the Vols as an 8.5-point favorite in the 2021 NCAA Tournament first round.
- Rick Barnes’ Volunteers thrive defensively, with Yves Pons proving to be one of college basketball’s best defenders. But the offense has gone through plenty of struggles and might have a tough time with Oregon State's zone.
- Our staff breaks down both teams and delivers their Oregon State vs. Tennessee pick for bettors to close the early Friday slate of games.
Oregon State vs. Tennessee Odds
There may be no hotter shooting team in the nation than Oregon State. An overtime victory against UCLA to start the Pac-12 tournament was parlayed into a conference championship after they took down Oregon and Colorado. The Beavers shot a ridiculous 29-of-66 from long distance in Las Vegas after having a marginal 3-point shooting percentage most of the season. This is Wayne Tinkle’s second trip to the tournament with the Beavers after a first-round exit in 2016.
Tennessee led the SEC in Defensive Efficiency and ended the season ranked fourth in the nation. An opening victory over Florida eventually led to a semifinal loss against Alabama. Despite their high ranking in the advanced defensive statistics, there were lapses on the schedule against Auburn, Kentucky and Missouri. This is Rick Barnes’ third trip to the dance as the Tennessee head coach, making it to the Sweet 16 in 2019.
Collin Wilson: When it comes to Tennessee’s prospects of living up to its preseason expectations as a potential Final Four team, it will all come down to its ability to score. As expected, the defense is elite by almost every metric. The Volunteers feature one of the most suffocating on-ball defenses in all of college basketball led by Yves Pons, who seems to have a clone on the floor at all times. Pons, who is everywhere, is arguably the best defender in the entire country.
The problem for the Volunteers this year has been on the other side of the ball. Their offense is just way too stagnant in the half court, plus they suffer through devastating, prolonged scoring droughts.
Tennessee is actually fairly efficient in transition when it can leverage its elite athleticism. However, when forced to execute in the half court, it just hasn’t worked consistently enough. The Volunteers are 75th in perimeter defense, a number that got worse as SEC play continued.
Can head coach Rick Barnes come up with a solution? Can the freshman guards step up? If not, the Tennessee defense can only take it so far, as shown in the semifinal loss to Alabama in the conference tournament.
Oregon State Beavers
Mike Randle: There are few teams that have been hotter at season’s end than Oregon State.
After middling to a 10-10 overall record in mid-February, the Beavers started rolling. They won four of their last six Pac-12 games, including true road wins at California, Stanford and Utah. They subsequently ran roughshod over the conference in the tournament, defeating UCLA, Oregon and Colorado for their first-ever PAC-12 title.
Head coach Wayne Tinkle’s team has found success through three areas: A slow pace of play, 3-point defensive efficiency and a vastly-improved offense. Oregon State plays at one of the slowest paces in college basketball, ranking 315th in adjusted tempo per KenPom. The Beavers were the second-slowest team in the PAC-12, but balanced that pace of play with a stifling perimeter defense.
Tinkle mixes up defenses and his players have responded with remarkable flexibility. They have no trouble transitioning from man-to-man to an aggressive zone defense that allows fewer 3-point attempts than you would expect.
But the key to the Beavers’ magical PAC-12 run was a much-improved offense. Oregon State has size on the interior with 6-foot-7 Nicholls State transfer Warith Alatishe, 7-foot-1 center Roman Silva and 6-foot-10 Maurice Calloo.That’s balanced with a great senior leader in guard Ethan Thompson, who leads the team with 15.3 points per game, and scalding-hot sophomore Jarod Lucas (12.9 PPG). Lucas has scored double-digits in 10 of the last 11 games and is one of the best free-throw shooters in the country at 89.7%
The Beavers are tall across the board, ranking 23rd in the country in average height. The size of their guards on the perimeter is particularly problematic for opposing perimeter players. That should provide another challenge for an already limited offense in Tennessee.
Matchup & Betting Analysis
Collin Wilson: The biggest advantage on paper in this game comes in the form of free-throw rate. Oregon State has a defensive four rate of 304th in the country, which is terrible news when facing a Tennessee team that relies on whistles to get it to the charity stripe. Oregon State had three consecutive second-half comebacks in the Pac-12 tournament, a feat that is simply not sustainable in March Madness.
Pick: Tennessee -8.5