IHTIT: Tennessee Vols at Missouri Tigers Basketball Preview (2/20/24)

It's Hoops Time in Tennessee: After steamrolling Vanderbilt Saturday night, Tennessee (19-6, 9-3 SEC, 9-6 vs. Quad. 1&2) goes on the road to face Missouri (8-17, 0-12, 2-12 vs Quad. 1&2). The Tigers have been bad this season, winless in conference play--meaning they also haven't won since the calendar flipped to 2024. Eight of those 12 losses were by single digits, but Mizzou also lost to Vanderbilt in the race to the bottom of the conference. 

Tennessee has a one-game lead in the all-time series against Missouri (11-10), but has only beaten the Tigers once in the last four meetings (that one win coming in Columbia in 2022). 

Preview Graphic: See the basketball glossary for more information. Click for larger version. 

  • Sean East and Tamar Bates are two of the best scorers in the SEC, to the point where you wonder how this team hasn't won a single conference game this season when some teams don't have one scoring option as good as either of these guys
  • East shoots over 50% from the field and is 9th in scoring avg. (16 ppg) and 3rd in assists (4.2)
  • Bates has an eFG% of 57.7% and nearly 93% from the free-throw line, by far the best in the SEC
So why, with these great scoring options, does Mizzou have no conference wins and only four wins since Thanksgiving Day? For one, a rash of injuries hasn't helped, as eight Tigers have missed at least two games with injuries this season. Senior guard Caleb Grill went out with a wrist injury in December, and Mizzou's gone 1-15 since. Also, despite Tamar Bates' fantastic FT%, they don't get to the line much. 

But probably bigger than that, they are an abysmal rebounding team, especially on the offensive glass. To understand how big a deal that is, consider how Tennessee struggled at Texas A&M, a great rebounding team, and how the Vols cruised at Arkansas, another team that ranks in the bottom-third nationally in offensive rebounding just like Mizzou. In projecting how tonight's game might go, the Arkansas game is your most accurate comp. 

Prediction: Tennessee 81, Missouri 63
Mediocre Betting Advice: Tennessee is 6-4 ATS in their last 10, Mizzou is 2-8. KenPom has UT as 14-point favorites. This game opened at Vols -12.5 and has moved to -11.5. I liked them at 12.5 so I would certainly take Tennessee -11.5. The O/U is at 147.5 and that's higher than my guess and the KenPom guess, so I will pick Under 147.5--but remember that Mizzou has two good scorers and could make this a shootout if they get hot. 
Predictions YTD: 8-3 SU, 7-4 ATS, 5-4-1 O/U


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