SEC College Basketball Picks: Tennessee Volunteers at LSU Tigers

Tennessee Volunteers at LSU Tigers
Pete Maravich Assembly Center – Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tuesday, January 7, 2014, 7:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: LSU -3
Current Line: LSU -2 1/2
Opening Total: 138 1/2
Current Total: 138 1/2
Opening Money Line: LSU -135 / Tennessee +115
Current Money Line: LSU -140 / Tennessee +120

LSU is a 2.5 point home favorite over Tennessee Tuesday in the SEC opener for both schools.
LSU is a 2.5 point home favorite over Tennessee Tuesday in the SEC opener for both schools.

After what many considered to be a down year last season, the SEC has done well in the non-conference season. Eleven of the conference’s fourteen teams have at least 8 wins. Two of those schools meet Tuesday, as the 9-4 Tennessee Volunteers travel to the 9-3 LSU Tigers. It is the conference opener for both schools.

Tennessee leads the series against LSU 61-43, but the series is tied 24-24 in Baton Rouge. The Volunteers have won 5 straight games in the series including an 82-72 win last season in Knoxville. This is the only scheduled meeting between the schools unless they meet in the SEC Tournament.

Tennessee is coached by Cuonzo Martin. The Volunteers have losses at Xavier, and Wichita State, a loss to UTEP in a tournament in the Bahamas, and a home loss to North Carolina State. All four losses are by single digits to likely NCAA tournament teams. Tennessee has won three straight games since the NC State loss. The Volunteers have key wins over Xavier and Wake Forest in the Bahamas, and at home against Virginia. On Saturday, Tennessee crushed a Division II school called Tusculum 98-51. The Volunteers are  6-5 ATS and the total is 5-6 this season.

The Volunteers are outscoring teams 77-63 this season. Tennessee is #31 nationally in points allowed. The Volunteers are shooting 45.5% from the field including 35.7% from 3 point range. Tennessee makes 69.1% of their free throws. Volunteer opponents  are shooting 42% from the field including 35.1% from 3 point range. Tennessee averages 39.4 rebounds a game and opponents average 27.5 per game. Tennessee is #53 in rebounds nationally and #24 in rebounds allowed.  The Volunteers average 13 assists, 6 steals, 5 blocks and 9 turnovers a game. Opponents average 10 assists, 4 steals, 4 blocks, and 12 turnovers a game.

Guard Jordan McRae averages 18.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. Forward Jarnell Stokes averages 13.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game. Forward Jeronne Maymon averages 11.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 0.9 steals a game. Guard Josh Richardson averages 8.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. Guard Antonio Barton averages 8 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. Guard Derek Reese averages 7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 2 blocks a game. He has only played the last 3 games, but wasn’t injured or suspended. Guard Robert Hubbs III averages 5 points and 1.5 assists per game. He is probable with a shoulder injury. Guard Darius Thompson leads the team in assists at 2.9 per game and steals at 1.3 a game.

LSU is coached by Johnny Jones. The Tigers have losses at Massachusetts, to Memphis in a tournament in  Orlando, and Saturday at home against Rhose Island 74-70. The Rhode island loss snapped a 5 game winning streak for LSU. All three losses are by 7 points or less. The Tigers have key wins over  St. Joesph’s and Butler in Orlando, at Texas Tech, and at home against UAB. LSU is 3-5 ATS and the total is 3-4-1 this season.

LSU is outscoring teams 78-67 this season. The Tigers are shooting 45.9% from the field including 34.2% from 3 point range. LSU makes 66.8% of their free throws. LSU opponents are shooting 37.5% from the field including 30.5% from 3 point range. The Tigers are #10 nationally in opponents’ field goal percentage. LSU is averaging 42.2 rebounds per game and opponents average 32.8 per game. The Tigers are #12 nationally in rebounding. LSU averages 15 assists, 9 steals, 6 blocks, and 15 turnovers. Opponents average 11 assists,  7 steals, 3 blocks, and 14 turnovers per game.


Forward Johnny O’Bryant III averages 14.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1 block per game. Forward Jordan Mickey averages 14.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 3.6 blocks per game. Guard Andre Stringer averages 12.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Guard Anthony Hickey averages 9.3 points, 3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. Forward Shavon Coleman averages 8.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 0.9 steals per game. Forward Jarell Martin averages 8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Malik Morgan and Tim Quarterman will also get significant time in the rotation.

Tennessee is 9-2 ATS vs SEC teams, 4-1 after scoring more than 90 points, 5-2-1 in road game after 3 or more straight home games, 5-2 overall, 7-3-1 after a straight up win of 20 points or more, 11-5 after a straight up win, and 1-4 against teams with winning home records. The underdog is 7-2 ATS in this series recently.

LSU is 6-1 ATS after a straight up loss, 8-3 in SEC games, 1-4 at home and against teams with a winning percentage over.600, 1-5 against teams with winning records, and overall. The Tigers are 7-3 ATS in the last 10 against the Volunteers.

Both of these teams have a couple of impressive wins in tournaments, but they also have some puzzling losses. Tennessee has dominated the series against LSU winning 5 consecutive  games straight up. Tennessee is slightly better in scoring defense but LSU is #10 in opponent’s field goal percentage. The Tigers also have a decided edge in rebounding. I like LSU to win a close game at home.

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