Alabama vs. Tennessee
Line: Tennessee -1.5
Where: Bridgestone Arena
When: Thursday, 3/12, at 1:00 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
No. 8 Tennessee and No. 9 Alabama will be looking to keep their slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive when they square off Thursday afternoon in the second round of the SEC Tournament.
The Volunteers had inched their way closer to the bubble conversation with consecutive wins against Florida and Kentucky, but they played themselves right out of that conversation in Saturday’s blowout loss to Auburn at home.
Alabama lost three of its final four regular-season games to finish at 16-15.
Tennessee opened as 1.5-point favorite at BetOnline on Tuesday afternoon, with the offshore betting shop sending the total out at 148.5. The Vols should have a decent home court advantage in this game, as their fan base fills up Bridgestone Arena more than any SEC school outside of Kentucky.
Alabama is listed with 25/1 odds to win the SEC Tournament, while Tennessee is 12/1 at BetOnline. The winner of Thursday’s game will face top-seeded Kentucky on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals.
The Crimson Tide lost by nine in Lexington earlier this season, covering the spread as a 10-point underdog. Tennessee lost to the Wildcats at home by 13 points, but it picked up an improbable comeback win at Kentucky last Tuesday as an 8.5-point ‘dog.
Speaking of improbable, Tennessee rallied from a 15-point deficit in Tuscaloosa on Feb. 4 to pull off a shocking win against the Crimson Tide. Alabama, which was favored by 4.5 points, had all three big men foul out in the final five minutes.
Neither team enters the SEC Tournament in great form. Tennessee has gone 2-4 ATS in its last six games, getting blown out by Auburn twice during that stretch.
Alabama is 1-5 ATS in its last six games, but has covered at an 8-4 clip in its last 12 games against the Vols.
Junior forward John Fulkerson has been Tennessee’s catalyst over the last few weeks. He scored a career-high 27 points in the comeback win at Kentucky and has notched at least 15 points in each of the last four games. Fulkerson poured in a game-high 22 points in the win at Alabama in February.
UT senior guard Jordan Bowden is tied with Fulkerson for a team-high 13.7 points per game. Bowden scored 20 points and grabbed seven boards in Tuscaloosa.
Junior wing Yves Pons is adding 10.8 PPG and 5.4 RPG. He was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
Alabama is coming off back-to-back losses against Vanderbilt and Missouri. The Crimson Tide have not covered the spread since a Feb. 22 win against Ole Miss.
They were 12-point favorites in the 87-79 home loss to Vanderbilt last Tuesday.
Junior guard John Petty Jr. returned from an injury in the setback against Missouri in the regular-season finale. Petty, who is averaging 14.5 PPG, was held to just one point in 34 minutes.
Sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. scored a game-high 18 points, which put him right at his season average of 18.5 PPG.
Freshman guard Jaden Shackelford is second on the team in scoring with 15.0 PPG and has made 84 3-pointers at a 35.7 percent clip. Petty leads the team with 85 triples on 193 attempts (44.0%).
Both teams have struggled in the month of March over the last few years. Alabama is 1-8 SU in its last nine games played in March, while Tennessee is 1-5 ATS in its last six March contests.
The last six head-to-head meetings between these teams have gone ‘under’ the total.
The Pick: Tennessee -1.5
Petty’s return against Missouri was troublesome. He was ineffective all night and did not look like the player has is capable of being. Tennessee plays a similar style to Missouri and is at the top of the defensive rankings among SEC teams. The Vols certainly laid an egg Saturday vs. Auburn, but their recent form has still been better than Alabama’s.
Defense wins games at this time of year. Alabama relies on its up-tempo offense and is No. 113 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings. Tennessee is No. 61 on defense and looks to slow the ball down. The Vols also have a little more experience than this Crimson Tide team and will have more fans in the building on Thursday afternoon, which can be hard to quantify for oddsmakers.