Tennessee vs Alabama betting odds
The opening night of the SEC game is marked by this massive battle between two ranked teams.
# 14 Tennessee enters the game at 9-2 and comes off a win over Arizona. The Vols have a case as the best defense in college basketball.
Meanwhile, # 19 Alabama enters this game at 9-3, but with a more mixed resume. The Crimson Tide had wins against Gonzaga and Houston and losses against Memphis and Davidson.
This is a monster game that could have ramifications for the SEC tournament in March. But which team has the advantage?
Tennessee Volunteer Ratings
I have long been a Tennessee disbeliever. I thought their defense was overrated and the team easily fell back in times of crisis.
This recent stretch made me rethink that hypothesis.
Tennessee has won and covered in four of its last five games. Flights’ loss to Texas Tech was bad, but it beat Colorado on the road and handed Arizona their first loss of the season.
The victory over the Wildcats was no accident. Tennessee took a 26-11 lead and never gave up that lead, winning end to end. Arizona closed the gap to win with less than five minutes to go, but Tennessee closed the game discerningly – a quality that top teams possess.
It all starts on the defensive side for Rick Barnes. The Vols are second in defensive efficiency and 12th in points per possession allowed.
Tennessee is incredibly active on the interior. The Vols are in the top 25 in 2-point defense (43.7%) and the top 15 in defensive turnover rate (25.1%) – the latter being 11th in block rate and sixth in steal rate.
Against Tennessee, you can’t cut (.908 DPI allowed, 95th percentile), you can’t transfer (.429 DPI allowed, 96th percentile), you can’t post-up (.696 DPI allowed, 83rd percentile) ), and you cannot perform the pick-and-roll (0.643 DPI allowed, 76th percentile).
Really, the only way to beat Tennessee is to shoot. They are a little more average in the spot-up and 3-point defense situations, but still above average.
Offensively, rookie Kennedy Chandler has propelled this team to new heights. He averages 14 points per game and distributes over five assists per game, but has really given the Vols a consistent offensive presence that Barnes lacked last season.
The hesitation at the start of the drive… the finish with the fault… absolutely gorgeous stuff from Kennedy Chandler.pic.twitter.com/CdUoQwduwN
– Poliseli (@BasketScoutBR) December 28, 2021
Crimson tide ratings in Alabama
Alabama’s losses are not anomalies. Rather, these types of losses are built into the Nate Oats system.
Alabama is the college basketball team with the greatest variance. Oats is an analytical coach who teaches his team to avoid mid-range shots at all costs. As a result, the Crimson Tide leads the league in rim rate and 3 (95%) while also placing in the top 30 in 3 point rate (46.8%).
When the Crimson Tide has a deep shooting night, things can quickly escalate. When they lost to Iona they only went 5 for 17 deep. In losses to Memphis and Davidson, they only managed 22 of their 70 combined 3-point attempts.
However, Alabama is consistent in some areas of the game.
– The Crimson Tide are one of the best 2-point shooting teams in the country (58.6%, fifth).
– Alabama are playing solid defensively, especially on the perimeter.
– The backcourt quartet of Jaden Shackelford, Jahvon Quinerly, JD Davison and Keon Ellis combine for more than 50 points per game on more than 45% of the field and more than 30% of 3.
However, the Tide’s inner presence has been more fragile than in the past. In addition, the team can often be too dependent on the four players mentioned.
Having Herb Jones around would likely raise that team’s ceiling even more. However, there is no reason to doubt that Alabama will compete for the SEC title in March.
Tennessee vs Alabama Prediction and Pick
My choice: Less than 148.5 (-110 at PointsBet)
Believe it or not, the last five straight meetings between these two have failed.
But it may be obvious. These are two long, physical and uncompromising defensive teams that make their money there.
The key to that choice will be Alabama’s shooting performance. The Crimson Tide can get hot quickly, and they can tap the only area of Tennessee’s defense that is weak.
But while the Alabama shoots even on average beyond the arc, there is no other area where buckets can be generated. Tennessee will shut down everything else.
On the other side, Alabama will have to contain Kennedy Chandler. The Crimson Tide’s backcourt is athletic and long, and I feel good with the Crimson Tide containing Chandler in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama are 8-4 above this season. But Tennessee has kept the underlying teams going through their hot streak, falling foul in four of the last five games. If the Vols play well, they will dictate where that number falls.
I expect Tennessee to do this, and I expect this game to end in the ’70s.