The University of Tennessee men’s basketball program is arguably the best in the nation, boasting a 16-1 record as they prepare for their SEC rivals, Vanderbilt, on Wednesday night. But it wasn’t all that long ago that the best online sportsbooks, found over at Sportsbook Review, installed the Volunteers as 50-1 longshots to win the national championship this season. That, of course, was before the season began, but if you were to jump on the Tennessee bandwagon at this point in their dynamic season the odds would be far less generous as the Vols are potentially poised to earn a No. 1 seed when the band begins playing at the Big Dance.
Tennessee will look to improve upon a lackluster performance this past Saturday when they watched a 15-point lead dissipate and had to rally past an Alabama team that had no business giving them a scare. The best online sportsbooks, located at Sportsbook Review, were dealing the Vols as 13-point home chalk, but those who decided the Vols were worth an investment discovered in the second half that they had two chances of cashing that ticket – slim and none – and Slim just left town. Tennessee woke up and went ahead with a little over two minutes to play and eventually defeated Alabama 71-68, but it was not the dominating effort we have come to expect, night in and night out, from the boys from Knoxville. Nevertheless, it was Tennessee’s 12th straight win, the first time since the ’76-’77 season that they’ve reeled off a dozen in a row.
There’s a very good chance by the time you read this the Vols will be the No. 1 team in the nation after Virginia saw their undefeated season come to a halt on Saturday night against Duke, while Michigan was stunned by Wisconsin tarnishing their perfect record. Speaking of Duke, the Blue Devils were shocked 95-91 on their own home court by Syracuse last Monday night with the Orange cashing as 17-point road underdogs! All of these recent machinations have left the door wide open for the Vols to take their rightful spot as the top team in college hoops when they travel to Nashville.
The Vols and Commodores have not met this season but a date on Wednesday night will be the first of two regular-season meetings. The last time these schools met was exactly one year ago when Tennessee claimed a 67-62 victory but failed to cover the number as 11½-point home favorites. The Vols had also defeated the Commodores a few weeks earlier, 92-84, at Vanderbilt. But this season there is much more of a talent disparity than last as we’ve got a matchup of the penthouse versus the outhouse. The Commodores are 0-5 in conference play, 9-8 overall and 6-11 against the spread. Conversely, the Volunteers are 5-0 in SEC play, 16-1 overall and 9-6 against the number.
Despite the venue being hospitable to the Commodores, there is little doubt the Vols will be substantial favorites in this one. But when you think about the matchups, Tennessee is deeper and more talented with significant edges in all the major categories. Let’s take a look:
Points Scored: Tennessee (86.1 PPG) – Vanderbilt (76.6 PPG)
Points Allowed: Tennessee (66.6 PPG) – Vanderbilt (71.0 PPG)
Assists: Tennessee (20.1) – Vanderbilt (12.7)
Rebounds: Tennessee (39.7) – Vanderbilt (37.6)
The Vols should roll over these SEC cellar dwellers but once they do, their schedule is replete with conference opponents in all but one of their remaining 13 games. Two games against No. 12 Kentucky along with challenging games against LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn will tell the tale of whether these Vols are a championship contender or simply another SEC pretender.