Mississippi State Bulldogs (23-9) @ Tennessee Volunteers (27-4)
NCAA BB: Friday, March 15, 2019 at 9:30 pm ET (Bridgestone Arena)
Line: Tennessee -5.5, O/U 144.5
ESPN NCAA BB Picks Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Tennessee Volunteers
Friday night in Nashville, the Mississippi State Bulldogs take on the #8 ranked Tennessee Volunteers in the SEC Tournament. Mississippi State, the #6 seed lost in a 71-54 blowout to Tennessee the last time these teams met on March 5, while The third seed Tennessee is 15-3 in SEC conference play this season.
The Tennessee Volunteers have had an up and down season, for a time reigning as the top-ranked team in the country. Tennessee only has one loss all season to an unranked team, against Auburn in the last regular season game of the season. The Volunteer’s success this season can be attributed to its offense, which averages over 82 points per game. In all of 2019, Tennessee’s field goal percentage has not dropped below 40% in a single game. In fact, the Volunteers are shooting 49.9% on the year, making them the 6th best shooting team in the country. Junior forward Grant Williams leads the team in points at 19.3 per game, and also leads the team in shooting, hitting 56.9% of his shots on 343 attempts this season. That being said, this Tennessee team has not been as convincing on the other side of the ball. Their 67 points allowed per game is respectable, but the Volunteers have struggled to keep down ranked opponents, who are responsible for 3 of their 4 losses. Against ranked teams, this Tennessee will need to be cautious against a Mississippi State team that has hung just outside of the top 25 bubble and is looking for ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
The Mississippi State Bulldogs are coming off two straight double-digits victories, both against Texas A&M. Mississippi State, like Tennessee, has proven its strength on offense this season with 77 points per game, and also finds itself giving up just under 70 points per game. While Mississippi State couldn’t reach the top 25 by the end of the season, the Bulldogs, they ended the season on a high note, taking an already impressive 14-7 record and turning it into 23-9, winning 7 of their last 9 games. Mississippi’s shooting, while not as stellar as the Volunteers’, has been pretty good this year. Mississippi State has only failed to make 40% of its field goals once since only shooting 31.31% on January 22 against the #4 Kentucky Wildcats; the other time was against this Tennessee team, which held the Bulldogs to just 33.3%. It definitely helps that Mississippi State can put up as many points as Tennessee on any given day, and while these teams are evenly matched on defense, Tennessee has owned the Bulldogs in their last three matchups. Mississippi State’s leading scorer, senior Quinndary Weatherspoon, only put up 7 points against the Volunteers on March 5. Mississippi State desperately needs a win tonight if they want a decent shot at the NCAA Tournament and a respectable seed, but they’ll need to avoid being stagnant on offense. Tennessee isn’t known for its tight defense, but it’s good enough where they should be able to push around a weaker, unranked opponent in big games if they get too much momentum, especially since Mississippi State won’t have a home crowd to fall back on.
Cover the Spread 365 Betting Trends
Mississippi State is 7-3 ATS revenging a loss to opponents
Mississippi State is 7-2 SU in its last 9 games
The UNDER is 1-3 in Mississippi State games played on a neutral court
Tennessee is 2-6 ATS in its last 8 games
Tennessee is 3-0 SU in its last 3 games against Mississippi State
The UNDER is 4-2 in Tennessee’s last 6 games
ESPN NCAA BB Picks Tennessee Volunteers vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs
While Mississippi State may be desperate for a win tonight, by no means will this Tennessee team be unmotivated. Tennessee has fallen short of expectations since falling from the #1 spot earlier this season, losing in three of its biggest games this season. An early loss in the SEC Tournament could knock the Volunteers down to a much lower seed than if they were to finish at least in the top 4 of the conference tournament, if not win the whole thing. This game is clearly going to come down to who can be more productive on offense. Tennessee has been incredibly efficient in shooting, but doesn’t take enough three-pointers to let them pull ahead early. The key for Mississippi State will be to force turnovers to gain some momentum and keep them in what will likely be a high-scoring affair. Unfortunately for them, Tennessee has been very careful with the ball this year, and even if the Bulldogs manage to lock down Grant Williams, the Volunteers have two other offensive studs in guards Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone to back him up. I’ll take a more experienced and reliable Tennessee offense to pull away enough in the final minutes over the Bulldogs, but expect this one to be close early.