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Tennessee volunteering to tame defensive-minded LSU

Louisiana State looks to remain undefeated at home

The Louisiana State Tigers are one of six SEC teams who are undefeated at home but that perfect mark could be tested by visiting Tennessee in a matchup of nationally-ranked teams,

Tennessee had won eight of nine games against LSU but the Tigers have emerged victorious in five of the last six and covered in all five of those victories.

Trendon Watford claps Tennessee vs LSU Picks
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images/AFP

Tennessee is 2-2 in games decided by less than 10 points while LSU is 3-0 in games decided by nine points or less.

These were two of the teams to take the biggest falls in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll. The Volunteers fell four spots to No. 18 while the Tigers went from 16th to 21st following their first loss of the season.

Tennessee (+450) came into the season with the second-best odds to win the SEC title while five teams including the Volunteers were ahead of LSU (+800).

Game: Tennessee (10-3) at Louisiana State (13-1)

Location: Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Day/Time: Saturday, January 8, 6 p.m. ET

Television: ESPN2

Tennessee Volunteers at Louisiana State Tigers

Tennessee looking to break out of shooting slump

Things looked so easy for the Tennessee Volunteers when they were handing out a season-high 28 assists and connecting on 54% of their shots in a surprisingly easy win at North Carolina. The hot streak continued when Tennessee shot better than 50% in wins against Tennessee Tech and Presbyterian. However, the offense has been in a bit of a funk recently.

A four-point win over Arizona began a stretch when Tennessee shot less than 40% from the field and under 30% from 3-point range. The shooting woes caught up to the Volunteers with a five-point loss at Alabama in the final game of 2021 and Tennessee needed overtime against Ole Miss before picking up their first SEC win of the season.

Leading scorer Santiago Vescovi has missed more shots than he has made in each of his last four games although some of that can be attributed to the fact that 34 of his last 45 field-goal attempts have come from 3-point range.

A bigger concern is the shooting struggles of freshman Kennedy Chandler who has been held under 10 points in four of his last five games. He is shooting 31% over those five games and has missed 16 of his last 21 3-pointers.

LSU isn’t an ideal team to break out of a shooting slump against since the Tigers are tied for fourth nationally in scoring defense allowing 55.6 points per game.

Tennessee has covered against the college basketball spreads in six of the last eight games

LSU hopes to build on recent win over Kentucky

It is fair to say that 2021 didn’t end quite the way the Louisiana State Tigers would have hoped it would.

One of the best defensive teams in the country struggled in stretches to slow down Auburn in a late December showdown of nationally ranked teams.

Auburn’s combined 24 steals and blocked shots compared to just 11 for LSU which is not a ratio the aggressive Tigers are accustomed to. Things were not going to get any easier after the 15-point loss, the first of the season for LSU.

LSU opened 2022 by playing host to No. 16 Kentucky. The Tigers held Kentucky under 40% from the field and to 33.3% on 3-pointers to hold on for the 65-60 win.

It is the type of hard-earned victory that could send LSU in the right direction as SEC play heats up.

LSU’s defensive numbers are rather impressive as opponents are shooting less than 35% which happens to be the best mark among Division I programs this season. Their 26.7 3-point percentage ranked 10th nationally. They have also recorded 80 more steals than their opponents. Five LSU players already have at least 20 steals led by Xavier Pinson’s 30.

LSU had covered against the Las Vegas odds in nine of 11 games dating back to last season but are just 2-2 against the spread in the last four.

Defenses could dominate when Tennessee meets LSU

Tennessee features two of the SEC’s leaders in steals as Kennedy Chandler and Santiago Vescvi each average 2.2 steals per game but it is LSU that leads the SEC with an average of 12.4 steals per contest.

Five straight games in the series went over the total before the last meeting won by LSU 78-65 went under the total

Something to consider for those who bet online, LSU has won the last six games against Tennessee when scoring at least 70 points

Tennessee has won 10 of its last 11 games when listed as the favorite

It should be noted that 11 of LSU’s last 12 games went under the total and that is the way this game is trending.

Pick: Under 133½

Pick: Tennessee +2 (-110)

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