Memphis Tigers at Tennessee Volunteers
Line: Tennessee -6
Where: Thompson-Boling Arena
When: Saturday, 12/14, at 3:00 p.m. ET
To say there was some bad blood involved in last season’s rivalry game between Tennessee and Memphis would be an understatement.
The Vols went west and picked up a 102-92 win as eight-point road favorites, covering the spread and completing the first of three scheduled games between the two teams. A scuffle near the end of the game and accusations of Tennessee’s fists being “balled up” from Tigers’ head coach Penny Hardaway has the future of the series in doubt.
There are two certainties left, though. The Vols host Memphis on Saturday afternoon and the two sides will meet in Nashville to conclude the three-game series next season. After that, the future of the rivalry is cloudy.
BetOnline had Tennessee listed as a six-point home favorite early Friday evening. The total was 139 points.
It will be the first sellout of the season at Thompson-Boling Arena and could be one of the best atmospheres in the history of the ‘Tommy Bowl.’
The Vols find themselves ranked No. 19 in the country, having started the season 7-1 straight up and 4-4 against the spread. Memphis is ranked No. 13 in the nation, going 8-1 SU and 5-3-1 ATS through nine games.
Tennessee’s lone loss came against Florida State at the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, FLA., but the Vols bounced back with a win against then-No. 20 VCU the following day. Memphis lost a road game to No. 10 Oregon in its third game of the season and survived a scare from UAB last weekend.
Prior to the season starting, fans of both teams were looking forward to watching the Tigers’ heralded freshman center James Wiseman face a thin Tennessee frontcourt. However, Wiseman is currently in the midst of serving a 12-game suspension and will not be eligible until mid-January. He scored 19.7 points per game in the three games before starting to serve the suspension.
Freshman forward Precious Achiuwa is scoring 13.9 PPG to lead the Tigers in Wiseman’s absence. Achiuwa, who was part of a top-ranked recruiting class, is also leading the team with 9.6 rebounds per game.
Freshman forward D.J. Jeffries is adding 12.0 points and 4.4 RGP, while freshman guard Lester Quinones is contributing 10.3 points, 3.0 assists and 3.5 RPG. However, Quinones is ‘out’ of Saturday’s game at UT with a broken hand.
While the Tigers are led by freshmen, Tennessee boasts a pair of experienced guards in the backcourt. Senior Jordan Bowden leads the Vols in scoring (13.9 PPG) and has drained 16-of-38 attempts from 3-point land.
UT senior Lamonte Turner is dealing with a nagging shoulder injury, but he’s still scoring 13.8 PPG and dishing out 7.6 APG. Junior wing Yves Pons has developed into a legitimate scoring threat for Tennessee, averaging 12.6 points and 5.5 RPG. Junior forward John Fulkerson leads a thin frontcourt, averaging 11.4 points and 5.8 RPG.
Tennessee has been excellent at covering the spread in this rivalry’s recent history. The Vols are 8-3 ATS in the last 11 head-to-head meetings with Memphis. Tennessee is 11-6 ATS in the all-time series in games with a Vegas line.
The total has gone ‘over’ the number in four of the last five games between the two sides.
Saturday’s game will be a clash in pace of play, as the Vols are No. 303 in KenPom’s adjusted tempo ratings, and Memphis is one of the fastest teams at No. 10.
The Pick: Tennessee -6
Tennessee is riding the nation’s longest home winning streak, winning 31 games in a row at Thompson-Boling Arena. Memphis has played two road games this season. One of those games was the Tigers’ lone loss. The other one came against UAB last Saturday, when Memphis trailed by 20 points in the first half.
Hardaway has one of the most talented rosters in college basketball, but his team is young and inexperienced. Tennessee has the veteran poise to feed off the energy of the home crowd and extend its winning streak. Look for the Vols to collect another spread cover against Memphis.