IHTIT: Tennessee Vols vs. LSU Tigers Basketball Preview (2/7/24)

It's Hoops Time in Tennessee: If I had told you a week ago that Tennessee (16-5, 6-2 vs SEC, 9-5 vs quadrant 1&2) would go 1-1 in games against South Carolina and Kentucky, you'd probably be a little disappointed about the loss at Rupp, but overall not too surprised. Of course, the Vols' week went the other way around, with results against the Cocks and Cats that were equally stunning for opposite reasons. For myself, I'll trade a stinker at home for a dominant win in Rupp Arena anytime. 

Meanwhile, LSU (12-9, 4-4 SEC, 4-7 Q2+) ended a three-game skid with a win against an utterly dysfunctional Arkansas team. 

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

  • Jalen Cook was benched for Tre Hamilton to start the Arkansas game, and while it didn't make much difference in the stat line for either player, coach Matt McMahon liked the dynamic brought by shaking up the lineup. 
  • Speaking of McMahon, he's an Oak Ridge native and coached Ja Morant at Murray State, wining a pair of NCAA tournament games in his time with the Racers, and consuming an unknown number of bean rolls at the Big Apple. 
  • Something to track early in the game: LSU turns the ball over. A lot. 18.3% of LSU's possessions end with a turnover, including 11.2% of their possessions where the ball gets stolen (according to Kenpom). These numbers are not just near the bottom of the SEC, they're among the worst nationally. But LSU does shoot well, and if they are taking care of the ball early, could make things difficult for the Vols. 
Tennessee's Jekyll & Hyde performances last week make predicting games feel like a crapshoot. All one can do is look at the data and try to trust it, and the data says the Vols should win comfortably. Kenpom has UT as 15-point favorites with a 91% win probability. LSU, for the most part, wins the games you'd think they should win and loses the ones you'd expect, too. I'd like to say the Tigers have been competitive in their conference losses, but a 21-point loss at Alabama last week hampers that narrative. There's no reason not to follow the data and expect the Vols to pull away in this one by a comfortable margin. 

Prediction: Tennessee 85, LSU 69
Mediocre Betting Advice: Tennessee -14.5 (I've been decent at picking these ) and over 152.5 (I've been awful at picking these).
Prediction Totals YTD: 5-2 SU, 4-3 ATS, 1-4-1 O/U


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