College Basketball Picks: Tennessee vs. Alabama

Willie Bee

Friday, March 15, 2013 1:05 PM GMT

Hated rivals collide this afternoon in the SEC Tournament where the Alabama Crimson Tide and Tennessee Volunteers meet in the conference quarterfinals. Where should NCAA Basketball bettors look for value?

The schools always make for good theatre whether it's on the gridiron or hardwood, but today's matchup should be especially intense with a possible berth in March Madness on the line.

Based on the current offerings on most NCAA Basketball odds boards. Tennessee is favored by a bucket following its 69-53 win Thursday over Mississippi State. The contest will serve as the rubber match for the season series after the Tide and Vols split their two previous contests this year.

Tip-off at Bridgestone Arena should come about 3:30 PM (ET) with ESPNU providing the telecast. 5Dimes opened with a 117.5 point total.

Let SBR be your 2013 NCAA Tournament betting headquarters.

A Battle Of Bubble Teams

Pop goes the bubble might be a good subtitle for this clash. ESPN's Joe Lunardi currently has the Volunteers among his 'last four in' for the NCAA Tournament, and projects them to be among the play-in squads next week in Kansas City.

Alabama is on Lunardi's list of teams that will be disappointed a couple of days from now when the field of 68 comes into focus on Selection Sunday. The Crimson Tide could push their way into contention and knock Tennessee out with a victory.

A few weeks ago, everything looked different with Alabama on the good side of the bubble and the Volunteers well out of the discussion. That was before the Crimson Tide dropped three games in a 10-day span, however, before just barely making it to the SEC Tournament as the 4-seed with a narrow victory against Georgia in the regular season finale.

Meanwhile over in Knoxville, Tennessee heated up down the stretch with eight victories in its final nine regular season tilts. The Vols sat 11-10 on the campaign following a home setback to Georgia on Feb. 6 before hitting their stride. Wins over Kentucky and Florida got their name back in the discussion, and the Volunteers then closed out the regular season with a 64-62 upset vs. Missouri as small underdogs at home.

It took a while for Tennessee to adjust to life without Jeronne Maymon who has missed the entire season due to a knee injury. Early on, it appeared the Vols were just hanging around waiting for Maymon's return, and there were some embarrassing efforts along the way such as a 37-36 loss to Georgetown and ensuing 46-38 debacle vs. Virginia.

Tennessee eventually found a way to score with Jordan McRae leading the team (16.2 ppg) and averaging nearly 21 per game during the team's recent 9-1 stretch. Trae Golden (12.2 ppg) has also upped his contributions after missing a couple of games with a hamstring issue. The junior is averaging 16.4 PPG since returning to action. 

Home Team Grabs Wins, But Road Squad Covers

Both meetings between the Tide and Vols this season were hard-fought affairs that ended with a grand total of four points separating the squads. Alabama won the first matchup in Tuscaloosa, 68-65, where Tennessee was getting six, and the Vols returned the favor with a 54-53 win in Knoxville two weeks later when the Crimson Tide was getting three.

The series has been split down the middle in the last 10 meetings, with Alabama covering three of the last four. Six of the last seven have failed to reach the scoreboard hurdle, but I'm going to buck that trend with an OVER play for my free pick.

My NCAA Basketball Pick: Alabama-Tennessee Over 117.5

Season: 42-35 ($3.50)

Also check out my NCAA Basketball Picks: Florida vs. LSU for more insight on today's SEC Tournament.