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Tennessee Preview

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NCAA Basketball: Mississippi State at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The Jayhawks travel to Knoxville for the Big 12/SEC challenge in a rematch of last year’s victory over Tennessee at Allen Fieldhouse. This year’s Tennessee team, however, is much improved whereas Kansas has gone from the best team in the country to... not that.

Offensively, Tennessee isn’t great. Most importantly, the Vols don’t shoot or make a ton of threes, and they rank 9th in the SEC in 2-point offense and 14th in offensive rebounding. They don’t commit a ton of turnovers, but if the Jayhawks can pressure them and force a few, they could keep them to a pretty low point total. (KU may be able to regardless.)

Defensively, though, the Vols rank 2nd nationally in KenPom, allowing an adjusted 87.5 points per 100 possessions. It’s maybe fair to say they have gotten a little lucky as they’re a bit below average at allowing 3-point attempts but teams are shooting just 30ish percent from three against them. But they’re good at pretty much everything else. Teams shoot under 45 percent from two against them and they force turnovers on almost a fourth of their opponents’ possessions. It’s easy to see that Kansas is going to have to have a pretty lights out day from three in order to score enough.

Players to Watch

Yves Pons, 6-6 senior wing

Tennessee’s answer to Marcus Garrett, Pons is an incredibly versatile defender and one of the best athletes in the country. Not only can he take his man out of the matchup, he is a great help defender as well.

John Fulkerson, 6-9 senior forward

Fulkerson had 15 points and 12 rebounds in the matchup last season, and can score both inside and outside. He’s also a good passer and reliable ball handler, and will be a difficult matchup for David McCormack.

Santiago Vescovi, 6-3 sophomore guard

A native of Uruguay, Vescovi is the best deep shooter on the team, making 39 percent of his attempts. He is also a good passer, but has had some issues with turnovers in both of his first two seasons in Knoxville.

The Pick

After the issues scoring against TCU, it’s tough to see the Jayhawks scoring enough to win in this one. It’s worth noting the Vols have struggled a bit defensively lately, allowing over a point per possession in 4 of their last 7 games, but with Pons patrolling the perimeter and the rim protection inside, the Jayhawks are going to have to take and make quite a few threes. I’ll take the Vols in an unwatchable rock fight, 61-54.

2021 record ATS: 12-3.