IHTIT: Tennessee Vols vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Basketball Preview (1/10/24)

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Words this time: 

  • Dalton Knecht is justbarely keeping his Scoring Specialist flair. He hasn't seemed the same since turning his ankle against UNC, and he has certainly been a focus of opposing defenses.
  • It's been fun to watch ZZ's numbers improve game-by-game. If you go back to earlier versions of this graphic, there was a lot of red next to Zakai's name when he broke back into the starting five, but it's barely medium-well at this point. 
  • Tobe Awaka's 88.8 defensive rating leads the team, just ahead of Jonas Aidoo's 89.3. Meet you at the rim, if you dare. 
  • Speaking of defense, State has two players that earn Super Defender flair for this game...
  • Jimmy Bell, the West Virginia transfer via St. Louis U., is one of the SEC's top rebounders and has a defensive rating a smidge higher than Awaka's and Aidoo's
  • Cameron Matthews actually leads the SEC in defensive rating at 83.5 while also leading the league in defensive win shares and steals.
  • For offense, MSU freshman Josh Hubbard is one of the SEC's top 3-point shooters and leads the Bulldogs in offensive win shares and win shares per 40 minutes. And he does it off the bench. 
The line at time of publishing is Vols -2. Road wins in the SEC are daggum hard to come by, but the Vols should be able to take this one... however, if Hubbard is filling it up while MSU's defense stymies Tennessee, then it could be a tough night. I'd still pick Tennessee to win (and it's basically a pick 'em so they should cover too) but considering four of the five highest rated defenders in the SEC will likely be on the floor at any one time, your best be might be the under 139.5--but even that is risky considering UT has scored 80+ eight times already this season. 


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