Third-seeded Tennessee will open up the action in the South Bracket and face Horizon League champion Wright State. Defense is expected to rule in this matchup with these two squads.
The college basketball odds opened with Tennessee as a 13-point favorite and they will have a significant physical advantage by their style of play. However, in making college basketball picks, it is not unusual to see chalky favorites be uninterested in early start times and Wright State would have strong value as a first half wager.
The one constant all year for coach Rick Barnes team has been defense. This team only permitted opposing teams to connect on 41 percent of attempts and according to Synergy Sports Technology, the Vols were in the Top 4 percent of all college basketball teams in halfcourt defense. They will switch on ball screens but are quick to switch back, but will get beat for easy baskets on occasion by alert opponents on switch-backs when out of position.
Offensively, Barnes realized early the shortcomings of his team on offense. This led to offense running through powerful Grant Williams (15.6 PPG), whose wide body allows him to set up on the blocks and he can score or find the open man when double-teamed. If Admiral Schofield (13.5 PPG) and someone is making shots, that forces defenses to extend, which frees up Williams in the paint.
Tennessee was the best team in the SEC from start to finish, but when they were not ready to play mentally, they lack overwhelming talent and can be exposed.
The Raiders are back in the tournament for the first time in 11 years and are making their third-ever appearance. Wright State’s only chance to win and cover is keeping this contest in the 115 to 125 range for total points. They are built to compete in this game because they are excellent defenders in the two-point area, which is where Tennessee’s offense is most effective. The Raiders have size inside with 6’9 freshman Loudon Love and 6’11 junior Parker Ernsthausen.
On offense, the Raiders lack enough weapons to likely pull the off the outright upset. All-Horizon choice Grant Benzinger is Wright State’s top scorer at 14.5 PPG, but he’s lacking in teammates that get hot and fill the basket from deep which is usually the recipe to make March Madness, just that. Wright State ranks 226th nationally in offensive efficiency.
Tennessee Wins But Does Not Cover
Neither team will come close to season scoring average in the low 70’s in this defensive-minded tilt. Coming off a loss in SEC title game, this is not much time for Tennessee to regroup while Wright State is more rested and excited to be back in the Big Dance.
Advance to Tennessee to next round as a 65-55 winner, but they come up short against the oddsmaker.
Doug Upstone wrote this for SportsBookReview.com