Tennessee, Ole Miss Home Chalk in SEC Finales

Saturday, March 3, 2018 5:29 PM UTC

Saturday, Mar. 3, 2018 5:29 PM UTC

No. 16 Tennessee is tipping off for a SEC title as it spots Georgia 9.5 points in Knoxville Saturday, while Vanderbilt is catching 3.5 points at Ole Miss—both teams desperate for a win. Picks and previews here.

Georgia vs No. 16 Tennessee (-9.5)

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Free NCAA Basketball Picks: Georgia +5Best Line Offered: at Heritage

Tennessee (22-7 SU, 17-10 ATS) has a lot to play for Saturday. It can clinch an SEC title with a win, it’s senior day for outgoing James Daniel III, and it’s the Vols’ final home game of a memorable campaign. A victory will assure at least a share of the SEC crown for the first time since the 2007-08 season. An Auburn loss at South Carolina, and its Tennessee’s outright. “We’re not going to change our approach to what we do,” head coach Rick Barnes said in preparation of Georgia (16-13 SU, 13-13 ATS). “The guys know what they’re playing for.”

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🏀🏀 IT'S MARCH 🏀🏀 pic.twitter.com/wOaJmvQheF

— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) March 1, 2018

The Vols’ defense, ranked fourth in the country in KenPom’s efficiency ratings, is smothering SEC foes. In their last 13 games, just two have cracked 67 points. At Thompson-Boling Arena, Tennessee yields a 39.6 opponent field goal rate. The unit particularly excels at defending the break. Barnes is determined to see his troops hold the line in transition, compiling a 48.8 effective field goal rate defending the play. This ranks 22nd lowest nationally. The Division I average is 55.1 percent.

The Bulldogs are slow and steady in attack, ranking 321 out of 351 in tempo. It’s a great strategy to stay competitive in games, but teams have to play efficient on offense and drain limited shot opportunities for the scheme to work. Georgia’s offense is proving too weak to do so in the SEC. It is shooting 40.5 percent from the floor in conference play, putting up 66.1 points per game. Versus those holding opponents to fewer than 41 percent shootinh, the numbers dip to 37.9 and 59.8 respectively. Tennessee enters with a 40.8 rate, 19th lowest in the country.

Barnes is winless against the Bulldogs since taking over in Knoxville, going 0-4 SU and ATS overall. Twice the Vols have fallen as favorites, including a 73-62 defeat in Athens two weeks ago as 2.5-point chalk. The Bulldogs are holding Tennessee to 36.9 percent shooting, forcing Barnes’ men outside where they are weakest. Tennessee is hitting just 28.7 percent from beyond the arc. The Vols pull away late for a 69-60 win, but UGA hangs tough for much of the matchup. Take the points with the Bulldogs in the first half for your best bet.

Vanderbilt vs Ole Miss (-3.5)

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Free NCAA Basketball Picks: OverBest Line Offered: at Heritage

Ole Miss (12-18 SU, 10-19 ATS) has picked up the pace considerably in three games since Andy Kennedy resigned following a 79-62 rout at rivals Mississippi State on February 17. The Rebels average 82.1 possessions in this span, fifth most nationally and 8.2 more than their 73.9 season rate. Points per game are up to 77.7 from 69.1 against SEC foes, despite poorer shooting from the floor (39.1 percent) and behind the arc (24.7 percent).

Vanderbilt (11-19 SU, 7-20 ATS), meanwhile, is 0-8 SU and 3-5 ATS in road conference play. It cannot slow anyone. Home teams average 79.4 points per game on 47.9 percent shooting. The perimeter defense is atrocious, allowing a 47.2 percent opponent 3-pointer rate. This is a bad matchup against a Rebels team attempting 39.9 percent of possessions from long range.

Vandy and Ole Miss own the two least efficient defenses in the SEC. The Commodores surrender 108.1 points per 100 possessions, while the Rebels yield 104.8. Couple this with the quickened pace under Ole Miss interim head coach Tony Madlock, and it is a recipe for the ‘over.’ The 150.5 opening total on the college basketball odds board suggest a race to 80 points will determine the winner. Look for it to be a sprint to 90 instead. Bet accordingly.

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