Ranked 4th nationally, Rick Barnes and the Tennessee Volunteers host Bruce Pearl’s Auburn Tigers in this massive SEC matchup. Below we will continue our college basketball odds series with an Auburn-Tennessee prediction and pick.

Bruce Pearl’s Tigers responded well after the Kentucky loss and Jaylin Williams injury. Chad Baker-Mazara scored a season-high 25 points and Aden Holloway had his best game since early December. Reports say Williams is traveling with the team to Knoxville and is officially listed as questionable. With the only other road game on the schedule being Missouri, this is undeniably the toughest game remaining on Auburn’s schedule. 

Tennessee did not take kindly to the 16-point loss in College Station a few weeks ago. Coming off an 86-51 revenge win over the Aggies, Tennessee has massive opportunities in front of them. The Volunteers have the hardest remaining schedule in the SEC with all four games coming against top-half teams. It may seem on the surface like the Vols do not have much to play for, but they are still in play for the final one-seed joining Houston, Purdue, and Connecticut.

Here are the college basketball odds, courtesy of FanDuel. 

College Basketball Odds: Auburn-Tennessee Odds

Auburn: +5.5 (-104)

Moneyline: +198

Tennessee: -5.5 (-118)

Moneyline: -245

Over: 150.5 (-115)

Under: 150.5 (-105)

How to Watch Auburn vs. Tennessee

Time: 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT


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Why Auburn Will Cover The Spread/Win

First, Auburn’s defensive efficiency in conference play has not received enough credit. They are not separated by much, but Auburn ranks first and Tennessee second in conference-only defensive efficiency. Where Tennessee does a better job at defending without fouling, Auburn defends the perimeter a bit tighter. The style of defense Auburn plays could spell trouble for an offense like Tennessee’s which tends to go through droughts. 

In terms of point distribution, Auburn allows the highest percentage of points from free throws giving up 26.1% of their total points conceded from the stripe. Thankfully, Tennessee only gets 18.1% of its points from free throws and has a free throw rate ranking in the bottom half of the SEC. Tennessee has not been a team this year that has crushed teams at the line. 

Surprisingly, it was South Carolina who took down Tennessee in their place. Zakai Zeigler and Josiah-Jordan James combined for four points and went 0-6 from three. In SEC play, Auburn has a defensive tempo ranking 10th with an average possession length of 17.7 seconds. Similarly, South Carolina has a defensive tempo ranking 7th in the conference with an average possession length of 17.4 seconds. Once again, another stat supports the idea that Auburn’s defensive style can cause trouble for the Tennessee offense.  

Why Tennessee Will Cover The Spread/Win

Initially, it will be near impossible for Auburn to recreate the performance from Saturday against Georgia. The Tigers rallied around their injured teammate and received outstanding games from support guys like Chad Baker-Mazara and Aden Holloway. Also, Holloway will be guarded by Zakai Zeigler this time around. The likelihood is that Jaylin Williams will not be good to go, which puts a huge portion of the offensive production on the shoulders of Johni Broome. The offensive responsibility that will be on the shoulders of not only Johni Broome but also Chad Baker-Mazara is frightening. With Williams out, the margin of error for an Auburn offense that already struggles on the road decreases. 

Tennessee’s defense at home has been nothing short of a fortress. In seven home conference games, the Vols have allowed over 70 points just once, in a 91-71 blowout of Alabama. In Auburn’s four SEC losses, they have scored 59, 65, 58, and 75 points.  Despite KenPom predicting Auburn to score 73 points, Auburn’s path to 70 points seems far-fetched here. 

Finally, the emergence of Tobe Awaka has been game-changing. Against one of the toughest frontcourts in the nation (Texas A&M), Awaka put up 12 points and 6 rebounds in only 17 minutes. Tennessee’s ability to interchange at the five between Jonas Aidoo and Tobe Awaka without a drop off in production is massive in a game against Auburn. The duo of Johni Broome and Dylan Cardwell alone has been enough to win Auburn games this year. Tennessee’s ability to match Auburn physically will force them to require a good shooting night. 

Final Auburn-Tennessee Prediction & Pick

Initially, the expected absence of Jaylin Williams pointed me in the direction of Tennessee. But after analyzing how the Auburn defense may still cause the Volunteers issues, the total became my focus. 

First, Jaylin Williams has the best offensive rating of any player on Auburn. His absence takes more away from the offense than it does the defense. Secondly, the matchup of Zakai Zeigler on Aden Holloway will be massive. Zeigler should be all over Holloway especially with Holloway coming off his best game in weeks. Lastly, Auburn defensively plays the same tempo as South Carolina, another team that gave Tennessee’s offense issues. Give me the under in a classic Knoxville defensive battle.

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Final Auburn-Tennessee Prediction & Pick: Under 150.5 (-105)