IHTIT: Tennessee Vols vs. Auburn Tigers Basketball Preview (2/28/24)

It's Hoops Time in Tennessee: With the "easy" part of the schedule behind them, Tennessee (#4, 21-6, 11-3 SEC, 11-6 vs. Quad 1&2) faces a murderer's row of quadrant 1 games to finish the regular season. First up, Auburn (#11, 21-6, 10-4 SEC, 9-6 vs. Quad 1&2) visits Knoxville in a game that will go a long way in deciding the SEC regular-season title and NCAA seeding. 

Tennessee has a hefty 80-45 lead in the all-time series, including a 50-9 record in Knoxville. But the recent series has told a different story, with Auburn winning 7 of the last 10 meetings. 

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

  • Zakai Zeigler has added the Burglar Flair! this week, being top five in the SEC in steals, steals/game, and steal %.
  • Johni Broome is the Flair! leader for Auburn--an SEC POY candidate and equally dangerous on both ends of the floor. 
  • Jaylin Williams' 134.8 offensive rating is the best in the SEC. However, Williams didn't play last weekend against UGA, and he's "questionable" for Wednesday. 
  • If Williams can't go, his offensive load will likely fall to Chad Baker-Mazara, whose 133.3 offensive rating is... checks notes... second-best in the SEC. Well crap. 
You'd be hard-pressed to find two more evenly-matched teams in America than Tennessee and Auburn. The "Four Factors" are almost dead-even. Auburn gets to the line a little more as percentage of their offense. Otherwise, the two teams are within 1.1% of each other in each category. According to KenPom's adjusted efficiency, Auburn has the #15 offense and the #5 defense. Tennessee has the #21 offense and #2 defense. Dalton Knecht is #8 in the KenPom player of the year standings. Johni Broome is #4. 

If you're looking for an edge in this game, it's hard to come up with one. The best I can find is Tennessee being the #1 team in SEC play at stealing the ball, and Auburn being in the bottom-third in league play at preventing steals. If ZZ and the boys can generate a couple of extra possessions, could it be the winning edge? For me, I'm going to rely on the value of home court. If the game was on the plains, I'd take the Tigers. With the game in Knoxville, I'll take the Vols. 

Prediction: Tennessee 79, Auburn 75
Mediocre Betting Advice: Tennessee is a 5.5 point favorite. KenPom has the Vols winning by 3. I would not put real-life money on this game without knowing the status of Jaylin Williams. Without him, Auburn's offense has to come from somewhere else, and while the Tigers have options, on the road against one of the nation's top defenses is already a tall order. If you're really itching to bet on this game you're probably better off seeing Williams' status and making in-game bets. For the sake of the record, and assuming Williams plays, I'll take Auburn +5.5 and Over 150.5 (the over has hit in 8 of the last 10 between these teams BTW). 
Prediction Record YTD: 10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS, 6-5-1 O/U


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