SEC Basketball Preview: Tennessee Volunteers vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Tennessee Volunteers at No. 20 Mississippi State Bulldogs
Thursday, 1/12/12, 9:00 PM EST, TV:  ESPN2
Opening Point Spread:  Mississippi State -7.5
Current Betting Line:  Mississippi State -7.5
Opening Total:  139
Current Total:  138
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

The Mississippi State Bulldogs welcome in the Tennessee Volunteers Thursday night

Tennessee is in the midst of playing a challenging January schedule that features five teams against opponents that are currently among the top 20 in the country.  The Volunteers are coming off a 67-56 upset win over the Florida Gators as 7.5-point home underdogs on Saturday.  “They are very good,” commented Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury.  “Anytime you do to Florida what they did to Florida, you know they are very good.”  The squad got a huge lift from its bench in that contest, with forward Kenny Hall and guard Jordan McRae combining to score 23 points.  Tennessee is 1-2 ATS as a road underdog of 6.5 to 9 points the last two-plus years.

The Volunteers have two starters that average double digits in scoring, with sophomore guard Trae Golden leading the way in scoring 14.6 points a contest.  Tennessee has won six of the last eight meetings in this particular series, including a 75-59 decision in its last trip to Starksville on Senior Day as 3.5-point underdogs.  It’s important to note that 15 of the last 20 meetings have been decided by eight points or less.

Mississippi State has lost three straight games at Humphrey Coliseum against Tennessee, as the program looks to win back-to-back games in this series for the first time since 1999.  The Bulldogs are 11-2 under Stansbury’s watch in SEC home openers.  The program has split its last four games and will look to bounce back from a disappointing 98-88 loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks as one-point road underdogs last time out.  Mississippi State is 1-5 ATS as a home favorite of 6.5 to 9 points the last two-plus campaigns.

The Bulldogs have four starters that average double figures and the biggest force on the floor will certainly be junior forward Arnett Moultrie, who is leading the SEC in rebounding and second with eight double-doubles.  He is joined by senior guard Dee Bost as one of the conference’s top five scorers heading into tonight.  Mississippi State hasn’t started the season 0-2 in SEC play since the 2003 campaign.  The Bulldogs are just 52-46 in the month of January during the Stansbury era, which is a far cry from the team’s 154-51 mark versus non-conference foes.

Bettors will likely back the Volunteers due to their 5-1 ATS mark on this court, while the favorite is 0-5 ATS in the last five meetings.

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